Words: The Uber Software

Flash. This just in. Western Union stops sending telegrams. So noted LiveScience.com in an article that added this explanation:

“The decline of telegram use goes back at least to the 1980s, when long-distance telephone service became cheap enough to offer a viable alternative in many if not most cases. Faxes didn’t help. Email could be counted as the final nail in the coffin.”

The article adds that Western Union has reinvented itself as a money-transfer firm. On the Western Union web site, the menu item marked “telegram” takes the visitor to a note that says the company’s founding service has been discontinued. What God hath wrought has been unwrought by newer technology. Perhaps the only surprise is that it you could have still sent a telegram until last week.

Media maelstron: An editor (thanks David) pointed me to a New York Times piece as an idea-generator for some new stuff I’ll be working on. The January 25 piece by the Times’ Saul Hansell was entitled, “Convergence: As Gadgets Get It Together, Media Makers Fall Behind.”

The article made a reference to Yahoo! roving journalist Kevin Sites, and his thoughts on different media types, that I will excerpt below. The excerpt begins with a quote from Sites and concludes with a paraphrase by Hansell:

“Did I need to shoot the entire thing with my video camera, transcribe it later, and take notes off of it?” he (Sites) said in an interview (with Hansell) by satellite phone from Iran. “Or did I need to put the camera down and take copious notes?” … Ultimately he focused on the text, which he found conveyed the most information, leaving the video to do what only television can – show the viewer what it is like to be in a place or talk to a person.”

What a thought. And perhaps it’s just because I’m a word guy like Hansell, not so high in the pecking order, but nevertheless convinced that the ultimate information aggregator is human thought expressed in its most concentrated form: words. Let’s hope that, in this age of multimedia, they don’t go the way of the telegram. Not for the sake of the wordsmiths who’d be tossed out of work. That’s their problem. Rather there is no substitute for thinking through a thing, and no better way to share the results.

Tom Abate
‘Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media