THE TOUCH OF A MOUSE BRINGS HOME THE GOODS
The internet is a wonderful invention and possibly the finest contribution to the human race in communication since Caxton’s first printed pages were taken from the press. I would disagree it will entirely replace the pleasure of dipping into the hard-copy pages of a newspaper, book or magazine. But then who can foretell what the future will bring. Let us pray it will not destroy the written record, otherwise much of day to day life as we know it now will be lost. Every home has a clutch of treasured photographs of family, friends, events, holidays and the like. Yet (answer honestly) how many have printed off the dozens, probably hundreds, if not thousands, of photos from “snapping” on digital cameras and increasingly highly sophisticated phones. Even in a household of media professionals, I doubt if I can find more than several dozen pictures from recent times kept for the record. I still remember with horror the day I pitched a cup of tea over a laptop and wiped out an entire archive of photos!
The happy note is that I’m long enough in the tooth to remember when the age of the paperless office was declared. Yes, it still doesn’t exist, if my experience of the corporate world is anything to judge. Fortunately for future historians there is still within us something of a distrust of anything hi-tech coupled with the squirrel effect on our brain.
Where the internet poses the greatest threat is in the High Street. Even among those ranks of multiple giants that dominate centres, often in the smallest of country towns, some may depart as rapidly as they came to a website domain. God forbid towns will become the sole territory of the coffee society and swanky restaurants, but the most endangered species, the pub, might yet be saved for our continued pleasure and community spirit.
Ironically, individual shopkeepers brushed aside by a tide of must-look-alike-Britain may have their day again because of the internet. The trend is already out there as the wheel turns full circle. Without exception serious outlets have online services and now local shops have a chance to compete given a presence on the web. Something that came home this week when goods ordered online arrived the next day from a trader with a shop in a small town. And they cost less than the identical items from a major supplier with nationwide outlets and a massive website.
I guess supermarkets will continue unabated. But even there who knows, in an era of more leisure, food shopping for pleasure – if you can call it that – may fall to growing popularity for door-to-door deliveries and higher fuel costs to reach fringe town sites. In that there is nothing new – the railway and combustion engine brought the decline of the horse-drawn carrier leisurely travelling between towns and villages taking goods and passengers. Now the age of the carrier is back – simply at the touch of a mouse!