9 Jun 2007

Old is gold?

Shoba Narayan writes in the Mint on the virtues of the fountain pen. She defends them claiming that “Ballpoint pens…. lack history”. Later she says when she opens a fountain pen and writes, it connects her back to the Romans and Chinese.

My memories of the fountain pen are inky fingers and stains on the shirt pocket. I stopped using them as soon as our teachers allowed us to switch to ball point pens. What is this about us that we are always willing to cling onto things that have become outdated?

The idea that a technology with history must be preserved is a tricky one. For a 70 year old an Ambassador may have historical importance but for a 15 year old the Maruti might carry memories 40 years later. However an Ambassador is not a useful car today just as the Maruti will not be 20 years later.

As a filmmaker I have often debated the relevance of film over video and now digital technology. In film school we used to argue that something shot on 35mm film looks “more real”. According to this theory video and digital technologies do not have that kind of an effect. However, the latest films shot on digital video are coming closer to the 35mm effect. Kids today have grown up on a diet of digital images do not even think that film is “better” than video.

The other argument is to do with audio systems. I used to have a LP player with a decent LP collection. Again I resisted switching to a digital (CD) player for a long time thinking that LP gives a “better” sound. But the Bose CD player I have now gives the best sound output I have heard in a long time.

When new technologies replace older ones they are generally an improvement on them.

All progress (and technology) may not be good but every technology may also not be worth preserving.

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