Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Evolving Communications Technologies and History

One of the technologies that made it possible to have countries spanning continents, and a British Empire upon which the sun never set, was not actually a technology at all, but a method for doing something - most of the major technologies that shaped the world were precisely that sort of thing; less physical than technical. It was the modern model of a postal service, the idea that it should be possible to gather up all manner of objects from parcels to letters and deliver them to destinations, for set rates and with regularity of service.

I rather enjoy the mail. For one thing, there are quite a few items, the entire computer on which I am writing included, which are difficult or unduly expensive to purchase in person, even in a city of this size. I do a lot of business online, accordingly - everything from supplies for work to exotic kitchen utensils to computer parts. I've even ordered a fish once, though that's a tale for another time. The idea of postal systems changed the world, and they are now ubiquitous in the developed world.

For the most part, my mailings-out consist almost entirely of letters and cards. In Canada, the going rate for letters and documents up to 30 grams is $0.61. For the longest time, the annual postage rate hike was a true annoyance - then Canada Post introduced the "permanent" line of stamp issues, which have been the standard domestic stamp basically since I left high school. These stamps hold their value indefinitely, and are adjusted for the rate hike. A very useful feature indeed.

In any respect, every now and then a friend or two (usually younger), watches me drop a couple of letters into a mailbox, and I invariably get asked why. Nowadays, anything from your income tax return to all of your bills can be processed online - the physical mail has mostly become a convenient delivery service for printed ads. Paying to send short messages, which take longer to get where they are going, and are usually harder to generate (I don't have a printer), all seems to be counter-intuitive... and it is.

But the thing is, I just like the mail. It's no replacement for emails - if I need an answer on something, I pull a keyboard or pick up the phone - but for casual correspondence, it's actually a fun thing to do. I like getting mail a lot more than getting email. And frankly, I enjoy the sending almost as much.

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