Monday, December 27, 2010

Not quite Luddites

We don’t think of ourselves as Luddites, the weavers who destroyed mechanized looms in England in the early 1800’s because they had lost their jobs to mechanization. In fact, we don’t destroy machinery at all – Dave actually spends a lot of time fixing it. I guess I have been guilty of occasional destruction. The hay chopper comes to mind, (see, June 20 2010), but that wasn’t willful, and certainly wasn’t related to fears of unemployment. I actually wanted to use it to make my job as a farmer easier.

We don’t hold technological improvements in disdain. We both did our Masters research with some of the first computers, back in the early 1970’s when a computer took up the entire floor of a building and both the programming and the data entry were done with 3” X 7” cards punched with little holes. Interestingly, the Jacquard loom was developed in 1801 and it used cards with holes punched in them to create many different weaving patterns on a single warp. This made complex weaving a job suitable for an unskilled low wage person, not just a master weaver. It is ironic that one of the looms that created the Luddite movement, is an ancestor of the computer we use so gratefully today. Dave and I have had a personal computer since the first Apple II and we both use them daily for our work.

But the newest technologies seem to proliferate and become extinct so rapidly, that we have made it a policy to buy only what we absolutely need until forced into the next step up on the technology merry –go – round. We have a desk top and a lap top and use all the programs easily. We have a land line phone and FM radio. Since the television went digital, we haven’t had television reception because we live in one of those third world rural areas that was left out. We have DSL internet access and that keeps us connected with the world and its libraries. We’ve been perfectly happy without cell phones, Ipads or touches, Facebook, texting or tweeting.

We practice old fashioned farming. We don’t do pregnancy testing or computer assisted shearing. We don’t have a video camera in the barn to check up on the sheep at night during lambing. We don’t use a GPS system to plow the fields or aerial photography to spread fertilizer or herbicides. In many ways, we farm like Dave’s Grandpa Roy farmed fifty years ago.

Finally this fall we succumbed to the cell phone craze. With a six month old grandson and a second on the way, we wanted to be able to talk to our kids and our grandkids whenever they called. I have to admit that the cell phone has turned out to be an asset. However, the learning curve was tortuous. I still announce the obvious to the world in general when my cell phone rings;. I haven’t figured out how to turn it off yet, so it rings in places it oughtn’t; and I wander around the house to find the best signal. I still feel very obvious when I answer the phone, and am pleasantly surprised when a call actually goes through.

With lambing fast approaching, I have considered going digital.. I can carry my cell phone in my coveralls pocket and if I need Dave’s help, instead of trudging back into the house, I can press menu, people, contacts, Dave and he’ll answer. Isn’t progress amazing? Guess we really aren’t Luddites at all.

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