Over the past few months I have been keeping an eye on who is living in the Information Age and who is not. I was surprised to find those who I thought wouldn't be are and those who I thought would be aren't.
Oh. The Information Age? We are living in it right now. Let me give you the Wikipedia definition: "The Information Age (also known as the Computer Age, Digital Age, or New Media Age) is a period in human history characterized by the shift from traditional industry that the industrial revolution brought through industrialization, to an economy based on information computerization. The onset of the Information Age is associated with the Digital Revolution, just as the Industrial Revolution marked the onset of the Industrial Age."
In other words, a tired city editor can sit in front of his flat-screen TV showing a digital image of his favorite baseball team playing a night game, and that image is delivered from Chicago via a satellite link to Quality Cablevision and sent through a cable into his home. While watching the game with one eye, he can type his blog/column on his iPad, which automatically checks his spelling and grammar, gives him a running word count and automatically saves the column so he doesn't have to worry about a glitch causing his words to evaporate.
Close at hand is his iPhone, which he messages periodically to a Goshen News staffer and his children. He is multi-tasking to the max to meet a deadline.
He is I of course and I have embraced the Information Age with gusto (but I still don't post to Facebook. No time to do it.)
In recent weeks I have found local mom and pop restaurants in downtown Goshen have added tablet technology for checking out customers. I have been surprised because very few small businesses around Goshen have changed to tablet cash registers.
For the past two weeks I have been filling in covering court proceedings. It's something I have been doing off and on since 1980. As I watched a group of attorneys walk into the courtroom with armloads of folders containing legal forms and case files I thought, "It still looks like 1980."
Why the legal system has not converted to a system where all attorneys and judges are on the same intranet system and junked the paper trail, I have no idea.
The best example of someone moving totally into the Information Age I have ever come across was during an interview at a local IT company. As I asked the first couple of questions I noticed something different about the man's office — there was no paper anywhere, nothing, not a scrap, not even a Post-it Note on his computer terminal.
"We're a paperless office," he told me after noticing my quizzical look.
"You can do that?" I asked, dreaming of how I too might be able to someday throw away my office trash can.
Without noticing it, many people are slowly dropping the use of paper. They sign up for online magazines, have their bills emailed to them, have their doctors send summaries of their ailments via the Web, and have even set up their smartphones to message the 9-1-1 center, just in case. Some of you may even be reading this on The Goshen News' e-edition.
The conclusion I have come to during my observations is that the movement toward a totally digital society is well underway and is unstoppable. The use of paper in homes and offices is fading. In another decade or two the shift to digitalization will be almost universal. Why? Because keystrokes are almost free where paper has a cost. Paper has to be stacked, sorted, stored, filed, secured and disposed of. Computers will do all that in a blink of an eye for digital records.
Don't think paper is headed toward the dustheap of history? Let me make you a wager on this. In 30 years I bet it will only take seconds to find this column online. For anyone who can find it in a real newspaper filed away, I will buy them dinner. See you then.