Hard to believe how rapidly computers and cell phones have become globally indispensable.
When I first started writing, things were much different. Research was a major chore, checking out an armload of books from the library, searching through them at home while taking longhand notes, returning them and checking out more volumes, or waiting until the books I needed came back from being loaned out elsewhere.
I did the first draft or two of an article or short story in barely legible longhand on lined yellow legal pads. Then I typed subsequent drafts with an electric typewriter. (At least I had that. In my Mom’s newspaper reporting days she had to bang out copy on a hulking noisy mechanical monster. She was so fast and accurate, though, she could actually take dictation while typing. She sounded like a machine gun.) If I wanted to move a paragraph or fix typos or change a character’s name it meant laborious re-typing, over and over. It was a hell of a lot of work.
These days I research, compose, and type on a late-model computer. I have access to a whole planet-full of information on the Net, and can zoom in on any place in the world through Google Earth to study locations for my fiction. Making copy corrections or changes is stupid simple. I can even submit a short story to a contest or a magazine article to an editor, or publish an entire novel online without ever leaving my office chair.
Taking photos to illustrate my magazine articles was also laborious. Carrying enough color film in several speeds along with black-and-white rolls, having to stop to rewind and reload each roll, bracketing critical shots, guessing at exposures, never knowing if I had the shots I needed until the prints came back from the lab, processing my own black-and-white prints in my darkroom, selecting and packaging color slides to submit to an editor.
Now my Canon camera is much smarter than I am. I can take several hundred high-resolution shots for a magazine piece, immediately see each shot, and simply delete the ones I don’t want at no cost, e-mail selected ones to an editor on the spot, shoot high-quality video, even do slow-motion. The camera recognizes faces and I can trigger a selfie with a wink. I can choose depth of field after I’ve taken a shot. Auto focus. Auto exposure.
I can’t imagine having to return to those old ways.
You young ’uns have no idea how good you’ve got it.