Lighting A Fire Under The Bath Water Of Technological History
What are you going to be getting up to this evening? I don’t know about you but I might phone up The Lad in Sheffield and see what type of weekend he has had, FaceTime my mate Denis in Spain, fire a few e-mails off to friends near and far, check-out a few of my favourite blogs from around the world, take a nice hot bath and then settle down to watch Match of the Day 2. But there again, if all the electric and battery power suddenly disappeared, I suppose I would just go to bed and feel miserable. Or perhaps I would pop along to the fascinating lecture at the St George’ Hall in Bradford on “The Electric Telegraph, What It Is And What It Does”
Sadly, I can’t make it to the lecture as I seem to have missed it by the small margin of 155 years; the confusion can be put down to my habit of reading old newspapers. As I get older I find I get more and more depressed by so much of what is happening in the news and even more depressed by popular reactions to it. I find I can’t even walk past a brace of popular daily newspapers on a newsstand without my blood pressure climbing to dangerous heights and I am in receipt of a lifetime banning order – issued by the Good Lady Wife – stopping me watching Question Time and the Politics Show on television. I thus take refuge in old newspapers : it is difficult to get too worked up about mistakes that have already been made and at least you know how the story ends.
And that is how I came across the above notice from the Bradford Observer, advertising a lecture by Mr E Graves of the Electric Telegraph Company. Reading the list of marvels to be demonstrated, I can’t help thinking that it must have been a fascinating time to have been alive (given the proviso that you were also fortunate enough to be able to afford a carriage to collect you at 10.00pm and buy enough food to stop you from starving). Technological innovations were queuing up to with all the enthusiasm of bargain hunters at a Boxing Day Sale. Telegraphs, electricity, lights, printing, not forgetting my beloved photography; they were all falling headlong into common usage and transforming society in a way that is reminiscent of the digital revolution over the last thirty years. Like any list of things that will transform the world, they don’t all make it – I am not sure whether to be pleased or disappointed that the Mystery of Spirit Rapping never made it past the design stage.
But tonight, as I watch my TV, Facebook my friends and relax in a warm bath I will not be able to avoid thinking of that lecture I have missed and how fascinating it would have been to have shared the wonder and the marvel at the demonstrations of Mr Graves and his colleagues. Perhaps I will light a small fire beneath the bath water to celebrate.