Headed for Extinction?


Ron Nethercutt, ROTI (Rotarians on the Internet) past-chair (2007-09), Philippines

I suspect that a large number of our readers have seen many changes in their lifetime. Some of these include airplane travel moving from propeller to jet engines, the development of credit cards, digital watches replacing analog ones, movement from 78 rpm records to 45, and 33 rpm, 8-track tapes to cassette, to mini disc, to CD, to mp3 players, iPods, iPhones, iPads, and non-Jobs cellular phones. I’m sure you and I can name many more, but the purpose of today’s article is to provide a glimpse of changes that lie ahead. It will be up to you to decide if they are for the good or bad, but as Bob Dylan said: “The Times They Are A-Changing.”

Here are but a few for you to watch.

The Post Office. Can you imagine a world without post offices? Many countries are now preparing for just such an event. Many are in such financial trouble that it may be impossible to continue at the downward spiral. FedEx, UPS, DHL, and other carriers have hit heavily on the postal delivery system. E-mail is much faster for written communication, and the E-greeting cards offer animation and personal involvement that Hallmark and other printed cards can’t match. Much of what we now receive in the conventional mail delivery is bills and junk advertisements. I am now receiving both of these on my cellular phone and computer.

People may ask why they can’t just close the post offices, but the answer in the US is simply ‘politics.’ There are more than 2,000 post offices that serve less than 100 people, but each of these is in someone’s congressional district. In England, http://www.parliment.uk found that “The local post office is trusted and loved, with many depending on it as a community hub.” Some have suggested that the postal service there expand their activities to include the payment of bills, and offer some banking services. Maybe you might check out a book when you check your mail?

The Land-Line Telephone. Young people don’t feel the need to have old-fashioned telephones that are tethered to a house via a wire. Communication must be portable, and instantaneous; why wait to go home to make or receive calls. Newsweek, asked residents of a sorority house on a university campus, “Do you have a land line phone?” The few who did have home phones used Skype. One had a phone at home that was part of a triple-play offering (cable TV, internet, and phone) said “Nobody uses the phone.”

One article I read said “Unless you have a large family and make a lot of local calls, you don’t need it anymore. Most people keep it simply because they’re always had it.” This writer still maintains a land-line phone, but it is mostly used to receive faxes of Rotary grants, applications, receipts, etc. These could be done with a computer, but many still have a fax machine and prefer that method of transmitting documents.

The Book. Those that have seen me at a restaurant, the mall, the bank, etc., will realize I am rarely seen without a book. The time spent waiting for pay a bill, make a bank deposit or other activity, can best be spent enjoying a few pages of a novel. My wife and I are both voracious readers, and most thankful for used books stores. But as Dylan said in the opening paragraph, “the times they are a-changing.” It will be hard to give up that small paperback for a digital device. Those that read my recent story about the iPad realize it is a good product for reading books, newspapers, and searching website; but a bit awkward to put in your pocket.

I just bought a Kindle and it was wonderful on my airplane journey recently between the Philippines and the US.

The Economist said that “Most stories will never find a better medium than the paperbound novel. That is because readers immersed in a plot do not to be interrupted.” Those of you that do much work at a computer frequently are reminded “you’ve got mail,” or an invitation for a friend to chat. This would be a significant disruption if you were reading the latest Grisham novel.

However, Google is now involved a massive digitizing of books. Google, Inc. has undertaken in partnership with more than forty major research libraries and thirty thousand publishers. Google has already scanned and digitized the contents of more than ten million books. This is the most significant development in the history of books, as well perhaps in the history of copyright.

And in regard to the print media, how many of you are reading a newspaper on your computer?  It is a great way for me to keep up with events throughout the Philippines, the US, and the world.  All the ones I am presently using are available free on the internet, but I am considering subscribing to one or two paid newspapers for my Kindle.  Personally I prefer the size of the Kindle, or my wife’s Samsung Tab 7 instead of the larger tablets which are more burdensome to carry.


About John Borst

John Borst’s career in education spans the years 1960 to 1996. During those 36 years, he spent an equal amount of time working int he English language, Public and Catholic school boards. Borst taught in both elementary and high school environments. Positions of responsibilities held included department head in Geography, curriculum coordinator of Social and Environmental Studies, Principal, Education Officer with the Ministry of Education, Superintendent of Schools, and Superintendent of Student Services. Borst retired in 1996 as Director of Education for the legacy Dryden Board of Education. During this time, Borst has lived in the Ontario communities of Brampton, Toronto, Newmarket, Thunder Bay, Aurora and Dryden. Currently, Borst splits his time between Dryden and Toronto. Since retirement, Borst has served as a Supervisory Officer with a remote School Authority; been a freelance writer of articles on education in particular for Education Today, the magazine of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA); founded and edited from 2006 - 2010 the Education blog Tomorrow’s Trust: A Review of Catholic Education; and from 2003-2010 was a trustee of the Northwest Catholic District School Board.
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