The non-sarcastic version of the post below is: "progress isn't everything."

Granted, progress is good. For the most part, modern improvements come about because they're needed. (Or wanted, as we sometimes discover after we have them.) Not everyone can afford wholesome, natural food ingredients, for instance, much less a wooden sailboat. And no one wants or advocates a return to the horse as the primary means of human transportation.

Indeed, I've sung the praises of digital and all it can do. It enables photographers, and helps enable certain kinds of work. I'm not against it.

Still, in almost all of the "old ways" I mentioned, there is some sort of merit. Each has certain aspects that are distinct and unique, and therefore rewarding, or pleasurable.

Mainly, what the old ways have to offer is beauty. I mentioned the word only once in the post below, with respect to handmade furniture, but it goes for many of the other things I mentioned as well. If you haven't seen a few dozen examples of either platinum prints or dye transfers—well, you need to, that's all.

(I do think inkjet prints can be lovely, too. Just not in the same way.)

It's in this way that I already appreciate film. It will become a connoisseur's medium, a distinctive craft that can rise to the level of art in the right hands, much as handmade pottery or letterpress books or copperplate etchings are now. It makes no sense to depend on fine things for our happiness, but the appreciatipon of fine things can be nurturing and enriching. In times to come, few people might appreciate silver prints, and fewer will own one, and fewer still will make them. But they will continue to have a certain beauty to offer, the sort of beauty that can enrich us. The sort of beauty on which it makes no sense to turn our backs.

That's my take, for what it's worth.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON, in non-sarcastic mode

Featured Comment by Paul: Mike, it's time to introduce you to Allison's Law:

'You can be certain that a technology is truly dead when people start to pay good money just to experience it.'

Steam locomotives (more running now than in 1960) are the uber-example, but there are plenty more.

Particularly with something like film, which will never lose its marginal usefulness anymore that oil paints will, the afterlife of dead technologies may ultimately be more satisfying than their 'useful life.'

Featured Comment by Chris: I explained it to a friend this way: imagine that Gibson and Fender came out with digital stringless guitars. Sensors on the neck recorded every finger push, bend and slide, pressure perfect. Synths and effects on board. The notes were always in tune with each other. Sound quality was always constant and there were no strings to break. In ten years, every band in the world was playing and recording with these. You have to hunt for strings for your old guitars, they’re getting scarce. That collection of awesome vintage Stratocasters and Les Pauls you have, you might get half of what you paid for it on eBay. No one has the patience for anything you have to stop and tune anymore. That, I said, is how it feels sometimes….

Featured Comment by Jeremy: You have to give it time. It takes many decades, sometimes centuries, for a technology to reach a level that satisfies viscerally. Using Maslow's pyramid to imagine how technologies develop is useful. Manufacturers have to keep addding value to their products. Once they've covered the left-brain attributes they'll move to tackle the right brain ones.

Take for instance the early days of computerised typography and typesetting ('70s–'80s). They mimicked the typewriter! Awful. Scientists everywhere were publishing their articles, very many even their textbooks in them. It took the disgusted Stanford professor Donald Knuth, who was old enough to remember the days when textbooks were objects to behold in and of themselves, 10 years of solitary work to "port" the glorious craft of typography and manual typesetting over to the computer. Thus was born TeX.

Now here's the sad news: Technologies today are replaced by new ones so quickly they may not have the time to go much beyond the convenient.


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