I’m 47 years old–the “wedge” generation just after the Baby Boom, and just before Generation X. I’m old enough to have owned a black-and-white TV (13″; it was my high school graduation gift!), had rotary dial phones (Michael just talked about these the other day!), one phone company for the whole country (Ma Bell!), three TV channels, and read the newspaper for news.
I don’t delve into this nostalgically–I love all my modern gear. I have an iPad, iPhone, Lenovo Thinkpad T61, DVR, DVD player, a 1 Terabyte drive for storage (it’s nearly full), and all the software anyone could want. I wouldn’t go back to the era of cars breaking down and getting flats all the time, phones that were attached to the wall, and no desktop computers (let alone laptops) for anything. Only able to get cash money from a physical, human teller at a bank during banking hours? I mean, c’mon! (Let’s not even get into the imminent threat of nuclear annihilation.)
No, I mention it to give you a feel for how big the change I’m describing to you is.
Growing up, I had The Washington Post for news. And I grew up into the kind of guy who, as soon as he moved someplace new, immediately after getting the phone turned on and the stereo up and running, subscribed to the local paper. Reading the paper every day was my thing, like it was for a lot of people. From the comics to the sports to (as I got a little older) the front page and editorials. I couldn’t do without it.
Okay, then came the Web. That was a start, yeah; I got some news online. But as many people put it, you can’t take your computer into the john. Heck, it’s tough even with a laptop. Besides which, Web sites really didn’t get feally-featured until Flash became ubiquitous, and some general navigation rules came to be the accepted norm. Porn helped legitimize (if that’s the right word) credit card transactions, and Amazon and PayPal and eBay were of course huge in that area.
But the news lagged behind. Up until even 5 years ago, I was still reading a newspaper. A dead-tree edition delivered by a real, live human being to my doorstep every morning. (Well, my driveway, but you get the picture.)
I haven’t read a newspaper now in about 3 years.
Funny thing is, I still read the NY Times, and the Post, and the Wall Street Journal. I read a ton of news; probably more than I did when I was reading newspapers. The difference is, it’s all online, and most of it is via tweets from various columnists and news folks that I like and trust (like Alex Pareene, Joan Walsh, and Glenn Greenwald at Salon; Ari Melber and Chris Hayes at The Nation; digby for her blog Hullabaloo; Josh Marshall at TPM Media; our crew here at Gear Diary; and a few others). The tweets point me to articles, I tap the link on my iPad, I read the articles.
Sometimes it’s a bit different; maybe I’m online at my desk. Then I tap the “Read Later” link, and catch up on stuff via the excellent and highly recommended app Instapaper.
Some newspapers and magazines have finally stepped up to the plate, and they get some of my precious eyeball space as well. Our own Carly Z pointed me to the Business Week app, for example, and I think The New York Times iPad app is one of the first true “online newspapers”; it’s rough, it’s early, and I’m sure we’ll see a lot of innovations from other “content providers” (remember that phrase?), but this is still a good one, in my view.
The bottom line, though, is that RSS feeds, the web, my iPhone, Twitter, and lots of other innovations, by themselves, could not change my reading (deeply ingrained) reading habits. But stir them together, add a great iPad iteration of Twitter and the iPad itself, and I don’t read dead-tree anything any more. Books, magazine, blog posts, and above all, newspaper articles, are where I want them, when I want them.
And this isn’t even counting “experimental” reading software, like Neal Stephenson and Greg Bear’s Mongoliad.
So you see, I don’t miss the 60s and 70s at all. Except the music; the music rocked.
(17! He was flippin’ 17 when he wrote that!)
How has the advent of tablets (and netbooks and smartphones), RSS feeds, software like Instapaper, and all the rest changed your news reading habits? Let us know below!