I was listening to a programme on Radio 4 yesterday and the slump in sale of photographic film was referred to. There was a conversation with a representative of one of the big photo development firms, who said that this is now a small part of their business – they had realised the writing was, not just on the wall, but on a large neon signboard in their path (this is my linguistic flight of fancy, he spoke sensible English) when one of the directors was in a fairly rural part of China a couple of years back and watched an elderly man clad in traditional clothes start to fish, using a traditional bamboo pole. He caught a large fish. Smiling broadly, he held it up with one hand, took a picture with his mobile phone with the other and sent it to a friend (or maybe his wife – ‘no need to go to the market, sweetie, I’m bringing dinner’). And the onlooking director realised that the whole world had truly changed.
This reminded me of a conversation with my late mother about five years ago. “What is this ‘digital’ stuff they keep talking about now?” she asked me. I wondered how to put my basic and scanty knowledge into a form that would not completely confuse her. “Well, you input data using, for example, binary numbers” I started. “Ah” she interrupted, “I know all about binary numbers, I understand now. Thank you darling.”
It was true too, that she had been on a course about 30 years before and come home talking with great interest about binary code – and that was enough. She was completely happy that now she understood digital technology. And furthermore, she thought that I did too.