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December 95 - Editor's Note

EDITOR'S NOTE

CAROLINE ROSE

I was visiting my friends Helen and John one night when Helen started telling me how excited about the World Wide Web John had become. He said, "Ask me anything at all, and I can find the answer for you." I asked what the new U.S. postal rate for international air mail was, knowing it had recently gone up from $.50. He delighted over finding a Web page for the Postal Service, and quickly found the rate: $.50. Wrong.

Later John showed me a spiffy magazine called NewMedia, and in it an article by longtime hypertext proponent Ted Nelson. Nelson expressed his joy that, with HTML and the Web, hypertext's time has finally come; we can now leave the insanity of "paper simulation" behind and write in a way that lets information take on its truer, interconnected form.

I found the article, and John's enthusiasm over the Web, a bit disconcerting. The Web is indeed a boon to humankind, but I don't see it entirely replacing what came before. The world's love affair with the Web reminds me of the early days of TV (so I'm told), when many people were sure that radio was dead. Out with the old, in with the new. But in fact the old still had its place in the world. The virtues of the Web don't mean we no longer need to get information from flesh and blood people sometimes, or from books and other media that we can hold in our hands. This may seem obvious, but from the near hysteria surrounding the Web these days, I'm not sure it is.

A few days after my visit with Helen and John, with John still smarting from his failed demonstration of the wonderfulness of the Web, Helen called and mentioned that she needed the lyrics to "House of the Rising Sun." I could hear John in the background, tapping away as he searched for them online. I said I'd use old technology and call back with them soon. The race was on.

After looking through my looseleaf binders full of song lyrics and a couple of big songbooks, I dug through my tapes and found an ancient recording of Woody Guthrie singing the song. After lots of rewinding and transcribing, I had more verses than Helen ever dreamed existed. When I triumphantly called back, John (several levels down in the Library of Congress) was mortified.

While old technology will typically not beat Web browsers in the search for nuggets of information, it will not die, and it deserves proper respect. There are some things we'll learn only through person-to-person contact. And there are emotions we'll experience only from hearing or reading good old-fashioned sequential deliveries. The World Wide Web is a valuable resource, but it is not, after all, the world.

Caroline Rose Editor

CAROLINE ROSE (AppleLink CROSE) enjoys editing develop so much that she fears she may for get to retire someday. She started out in technical writing and editing eons ago, eventually moving on to programming and even management before returning to her original calling. What seems to be calling her now is the sea: Her last vacation took her up to Puget Sound (stalking wild elk on the Olympic Peninsula on the way), and her next will be in a sailboat in the Bahamas. She may even have the opportunity to cruise the Pacific in a few years but she's not sure she' ll be ready to leave develop, her cat, or terra firma. *

 

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