March 25th, 2014

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#863 – Dick Bernard: An unintended re-learning about something I already knew: the Rapid Change in How We Communicate in Contemporary Society

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

POSTNOTE: The “work in progress” referred to below is complete as of April 13, 2014.

During the past few days I have been involved in a “headache” assignment, self-imposed, but still a headache.

For years I’ve had a very large notebook including 145 newsletters from a small, very low budget, but vibrant organization I was part of for over 20 years. The newsletters began in 1980, and ended at the end of 2001. I was editor of near 100 of the mostly 6 to 8 page documents, from 1985 till we decided to close down.

Last week, I spent a lot of hours converting about 1000 pages of content into pdf files at 96 dpi. Briefly, I re-saw over 20 years of a small organization as reflected in every one of its newsletter pages. It was exhausting, but very interesting. These newsletters are now on-line, but quietly, here, planned as an addendum to a future post “in progress”.

My involvement with newsletters goes back to being student editor of my college newspaper in 1960-61, and subsequent amateur newsletters for assorted groups.

Newsletter production by small groups of amateurs is no mystery to me.

What struck me with this batch of newsletters from 1980-2001 was how change in technology affected us. These were newsletters laid out by volunteers. All the printer did was print the copy (we had to use a real human print shop: this was before sophisticated copy machines).

For most of the history, the format was the old traditional “cut and paste” with typewritten text, typed on someones typewriter, perhaps adorned with some rudimentary art and press on lettering for headlines. (P. 5 CN 1-26001.) It wasn’t fancy, and it was time consuming.

In the end, for all of these years, the product was mailed to each members U.S. mailbox. It was read, and often saved. For a long while we had a sufficiently large circulation to send bulk rate, which saved on postage, but slowed receipt of the newsletters – just like today. But money was money then.

We were very limited in what we could do, then. In March 1982 the editor used a photograph, but it takes a close look to make out that what the photograph showed. (p. 52 CN 52-78003)

In May, 1985, came the first newsletter that utilized one of early versions of word processors, probably an early Apple. (p. 154 CN 140-170006)

It wasn’t until the 1990s that things like columns, and borders, and shading and the different sizes of type were first used, and they rapidly expanded.

It wasn’t until Jan-Feb 1999 that an e-mail address appeared in the newsletter.

We tend to forget how recent that now almost obsolete innovation came to the common folks.

In Jan-Feb 2000 a website was referred to for the first time. (p. 828 CN 792-829028.)

Of course, most of our readers did not do e-mail, even at the end, and relied on pieces of paper transmitted by U.S. mail to individual mailboxes.

Oh, what a change. Back then, I venture, none of us could have visualized todays cacophony of communication media. And this was not that long ago.

We’ve all experienced this.

I wonder what’s ahead in the next generation. We always think that things will be even better. There is a downside as well.

Someday, we might consider the good old cut and paste days to be something we wish we had again.`

* – If you wish to see these newsletters, go back to the March 24 post, the “Work in Progress” [now completed as “1000 pages…”]. All those pdf’s are there. The content that goes with them is still in preparation, for later.

POSTNOTE: Our newsletter died at the end of 2001, when we were doing our best work, utilizing better technology. Members were dying and in other ways just leaving. People we had relied on as readers were not computer literate and had no intention of becoming so. In a way, we represented the dilemma of contemporary society. We have not figured out how to bridge between the old and the new, and it is hurting us.