A while ago I had written about how the evolution of our technology could let us look at mythology a bit differently. For example, a mythological story about someone who waved a magic necklace at a door causing it to melt into the walls. To someone in the 1800s, or whatever, it would be perfectly reasonable for them to assume that it was a magic necklace and that the walls had literally absorbed a door into them. You know, because it’s magic. With new-fangled inventions, though, it could be looked at as someone waving a key card and the door just slid into the wall. Kind of like we might see every day now.
Thinking about that sent me on another track of thought. In this case, way back in the early days of civilization, people used to write on clay tablets with a stylus. There are problems with clay tablets, though: they break when dropped, glyphs can be erased if the clay is too soft or too wet, they were kind of hard to store, and stuff like that.
Eventually papyrus was used. It was easier to store and you didn’t have to worry about writing quickly before it dried out. On the other hand, you had to worry about it getting wet and it tended to not last very long.
Paper made an appearance. I suppose it could be considered a slightly more durable version of papyrus. Technology wore on, though, and things got better and paper stuck around for a very long time.
Then computers came around and paper was used for archiving purposes, mostly (actually, that’s not entirely true as paper usage went up when computers and printers hit the scene). Paper archives gave way to digital archives (presumably; I haven’t checked the stats lately).
But, people wanted something they could bring with them. The Osbornes weren’t quite light enough and didn’t have a battery. Laptops arrived and people rejoiced. It didn’t take too long, though, before those were too large and unwieldily.
This brought us the PDA. A small hand-held device that could be taken nearly anywhere. The early ones used a stylus to make glyphs directly on the screen, which would then be translated into a readable character.
And so, we had come full circle. We ditched the primitive clay and stylus and worked our way all the way around to a digital tablet and a plastic stylus. That still wasn’t enough for us, though, and that brought about the touch-sensitive screen. Because you could lose those.
We’ve improved on the tablet, of course. Now it’s in color and covered in Gorilla Glass. I have to wonder if they’ll be as durable as a clay tablet when it comes time for future generations to try and figure out what we were doing, here in the 20th and 21st centuries. I reckon they’ll be surprised when they find out we liked to fling birds at pigs. In a best case scenario future archeologists will think we were all very interested in physics. And animal abuse. But mostly physics.
They’ll also probably think we all worshipped cats, what with the proliferation of captioned cat photos.