un connected

I heard this on the radio and was interested as it was something I have thought about, the changing landscape of fiction as technology alters the world. It traces the place of cell phones in movies: how once, screenwriters would sometimes have to come up with bizarre scenarios to allow a character to be believably locateable while travelling – a timing of clocks and placement of various phones, sort of thing, complex machinery that simply disappears once the cell phone comes on the scene. Then, in the early days of cell phones, the enormous bulking boxes are symbols of huge extravagance – only the super-rich and probably evil have them.

But the interesting part is that now, we’re stuck with them. Far too often, a plot can’t move forward because what would have been the conflict or problem or beginning of the story could be simply and easily resolved or never entered if someone just made a quick phone call. And doesn’t basically everyone have a phone in their pocket? So the author has to have cell phones die or get lost or the area not get service… which will surely get old.

I had thought about this because I had been working on a piece of novel-type-scenario set in the late ’90s (only because I started writing it in the late ’90s) and I noticed that the technology of the time was semi-internet but only in a very occasional, ‘it exists’ sort of way, while real newspapers & zines & CDs were still prominent and cell phones were basically not a factor. When I went back to work on it in the aughties or whatever this decade is, I kept not being sure what to do about the technology stuff, whether to have them use real phones, or was that weird? whether to have them read real papers, or go online? to keep it in the 90s where it was originally, or move it closer to the present… and how strange that so few years made so much of a difference. Then i wondered if I’d have to address political stuff too, so sort of decided to just leave it in the 90s… (well, eventually I just stopped working on it, so, whatever…) I was still surprised how much technological shift occurred over a decade though.

On the other hand – that much technological shift occurred for me. John McCain, for instance, still doesn’t use email. And I still have one friend with a landline and no cell phone (Hi S!). And I have other friends who haven’t given up their landlines, I think. Plenty of people read real papers instead of stuff online; I still get a couple magazines myself… There is a shift, but it might not be fair to say when exactly it has taken / takes place…

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