The Richmond Review, Wednesday, June 3, 1981

by Graeme Elliott

The scenario writers are at it again, predicting the demise of newspapers. This time the death knell is to be sounded by Telidon, a Canadian-designed information retrieval system for in-home use.
The writers envision a two-way computer terminal plugged into a central computing system, and entire families sitting at home using the system, and their charge cards, to make purchases, book airline tickets, reserve tickets to football games, check stock market quotations, do their banking, send messages to friends, gain access to the libraries of the world, and to catch up on the daily news.
Regrettably, this latter use spells the end for newspapers, say the writers.
Nonsense. Newspapers have survived the advent of radio and television. and they will survive Telidon for the same reasons.
You cannot wrap fish in a terminal. You can't line the canary cage with one. You can neither wash windows nor start a fire with one, unless the circuits overload.
Newspapers are safe. What of this other stuff?
Detractors say the only reason plain folks will be sitting at home using the system is because it and its sister technologies put them out of work.
Despite these detractors, the system will be implemented, because AT&T, a U.S.-based telecommuncations giant, and the charge card companies want it.
How do you protect yourself from the threat of losing your job to the system?
By learning to beat the system, from within; by becoming a latter-day Luddite.
Learn to type. Learn to take shorthand. Buy a good sturdy bicycle with a large carrier. These are the survival tools of the latter part of the century.
People who are unable to type will not be able to use the terminals keyboards to tell the machine what they want done. These people will gladly pay you exhorbitant fees to type in their instructions so they can use the machine, so they can justify the expense of buying it.
Telidon displays its information on a video screen, and the only way to put it on paper is to buy an expensive printing device, or manually transcribe it.
Offer to your neighbours your services as a shorthand expert, and they will beat a path through your garden.
People lazy enough to sit at home and do their shopping will require delivery services to get the product from the store to their home. Send messages to their terminals, advertising your bicycle delivery service and your rates, and you will always have a steady income.
People will begin copying your ideas and competition will get heavy.
You can give them jobs as typists and stenos and riders and just stay ahead of the competition, or you can leap ahead, by learning the next level of survival skills.
As you learn to gain access to other people's private information, you will be much in demand at dinner parties. People will forever be taking you aside, and quietly asking how much their neighbours earn, or "did they really buy that car outright?"
You will be merely applying the latest information technologies to the oldest communication form, gossip.
And gossip is still the information system people like best.
A little byte told me.

Scanned from original newsprint or photocopies using OCR, Epson Perfection 2450 Photo scanner. © GE

Last updated: Sunday, 15-Feb-2009 02:21:32 EST