A few weeks ago, a flurry of unubstantiated hype about "the death of tech blogging" moved me to declare, facetiously, the death of declaring things dead. Since then I've been sporadically keeping track of just a small portion of the trends, ideas, and technologies that newspaper, magazine, and blog headlines declare dead every day.
But sometimes things really do die, and not just in the sense that they become somewhat less cool or experience a dip in popularity. To wit: India's state-owned telecom company is planning to shut down what is considered the world's last telegraph service, citing losses of over $23 million a year. The world's last telegram will be sent on July 14.
We in the media kill things off so readily these days that it's easy to forget how long it actually takes a once-prevalent technology to vanish altogether. The telegram should serve as a reminder: It often takes a really, really long time. Had there been a TechCrunch or a Forbes.com a century ago, some scribe would have no doubt declared the telegram defunct even then, done in by the rise of the landline telephone (itself the frequent subject of exaggerated death reports these days). In fact, though, the telegraph's use in India peaked as recently as 1985, and it continues even now to play a role in the lives of some portion of the 74 percent of Indians who do not have mobile phones.
Asked how he manages to make such accurate predictions in his books, the novelist William Gibson once explained, "The future is already here, it's just not very evenly distributed." The fact that telegraph service still exists in at least one corner of the Earth as of June 17, 2013, suggests a corrollary to Gibson's axiom: The past is still here, it's just not evenly distributed.
TODAY IN SLATE
False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.
Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.
No, New York Times, Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman”
The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B
How Will You Carry Around Your Huge New iPhone? Apple Pants!
The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola
The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.
The Other Huxtable Effect
Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.