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FADE TO BLACK

January 20, 2017

THE FAX, ROLODEX AND TECHNOLOGICAL NOSTALGIA FOR THE "GREAT" PAST

 

This week I moved my fax machine and Rolodex out of my office.

 

 

 

I was filming a promotional video in my office and it was only in seeing them in the video footage--as if with another viewer's eyes--that made me realize what they are: relics.

 

Technology of a bygone era.

 

I hadn't used the fax machine in years; ditto the Rolodex, now the keeper of names and phone numbers of colleagues, mostly retired, moved, or dead.

 

There was a time when that home-office fax machine was quite an impressive "have".

 

I remember in the early 1990s, faxing a story pitch to an editor at the Globe and Mail, the same editor whose name was in the Rolodex, under "G".

 

Those were days when people eagerly bought paper newspapers six-days a week. When the newspaper was the news. When publishers understood and could predict, in their favour, the calculus of sales and advertising to costs.

 

Like my fax machine and Rolodex, those days are gone.

 

Case in point: a year ago Canada's PostMedia still paid for op-ed submissions; now to submit an op-ed to the near-bankrupt media organization is a voluntary contribution. I'll wager that the days of pay-to-say are near.

 

The past of fax machine, Rolodex and getting paid for newspaper freelance articles, well, in some ways, it was great.

 

I more clearly understood the economic lay of the land.

 

Now that once solid earth has become Google Earth--virtual terrain that seems to offer everything except solid footing.

 

 

I understand Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" appeal to rust-belt and heartland primarily white American adults.

 

The nebulous past evoked by his monikered red caps were the days when you could get a middle-class, salaried manufacturing job that would pay for house, Harley and family--all with only a high-school diploma.

 

These were exactly the post-war heydays of the Rolodex and fax machine.

 

 

The U.S. patent for the Rolodex, a rolling index, was issued in January 1956 to Danish-American engineer Hildaur Neilsen, the chief engineer of Zephyr American, a stationery manufacturer in New York.

 

In 1966 Xerox inaugurated the age of the ubiquitous office fax machine with its Manafax Telecopiers. At only 46-pounds, this facsimile reproduction machine could be connected to any telephone line and scan and electronically transmit a one-page letter in about...six-minutes.

 

Now these patented technologies, once the zenith of sophistication, are like the too-old-to retrain, too-young-to-retire former manufacturing workers: pushed to the side by new technologies and global capitalism.

 

And, here's the thing: the metaphoric days of fax and Rolodex are not coming back, no matter Trump's finger-waving America first rhetoric, spittle-laced verbal assaults, vindictive Tweets, or crony capitalism.

 

Just one fact as support: In about 2012, production from the General Motors plant in Oshawa, Canada near to where I grew-up, was moved to the community of Silao, near the industrial city of Leon, Mexico.

 

 

My family and I were living near Leon at the time and my daughter was friends with a girl whose father was a GM plant supervisor. He told us that in the new highly automated GM factory, the line workers made $125.....a week. That was about four hours salary for a unionized UAW worker at the time.

 

Trump's vision is a SAD retrograde illusion that he's sold snake-oil style to millions of Americans.

 

The industrial past he's touting is gone and it's not coming back, no more than the heyday of the fax machine or Rolodex.

 

And if by some inversion of time and space the days of the fax returned, it would be a bittersweet moment. The returned fax would be out of sync, a dinosaur in a world that couldn't support it.

 

I'd snap a pic with my iPhone and post it to FB, incredulous:

 

We don't even have a phone land line in the house anymore!

 

 

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