Much nostalgia to be found here in the charming recollections. My mother was an author and our house was always full of books. We had an Encyclopaedia Britannica (perhaps the only time I can remember that Dad gratuitously spent money) occupying two full shelves on the bookshelf. I always had my nose in the Britannica and was especially enamoured with the see-through, layered anatomical pictures layering skeleton, muscles and organs.
It all reminds me of conversations with other musos comparing vinyl LPs to MP3s. The artwork and blurb, the physical presence - it all seemed rather more dignified than cassettes, then CDs, then MP3s.
The thing is, we humans with our extra dimension of consciousness are becoming ever more cerebral and less physical. We have long been unathletic laggards compared with other animals and this trend is increasing. Still, we hold dear our physical animal origins, still joyously hoeing into food, sex and sport. We value books, LPs and all manner of physical artefacts. We consider hardcopy books superior to ebooks, MP3s inferior to vinyl. We marvel at physical skills of musicians and consider them more talented than electronic musicians. People marvel at sporting achievements and (present company and peers excluded) value and respect them over the mental callisthenics of scientists. We value hand painting to digital art. Old ornate buildings to modern box-like structures.
However, we are moving on, as we must. Older generations may feel nostalgic sadness at the shift from the physical to the cerebral - including many highly cerebral people like your goodselves. Part of me misses those things too because am of an older generation, but I love the advantages of the digital / information age.
I gave away all my LPs many years ago and have amassed a good MP3 collection. They take up no space, don't scratch and crackle, can be replicated and transported and it's much easier to find a place. I have actually lost little because the essence - the music - is still there.
I also sold most of my books and bought an ereader; now it's all on my smartphone. Apart from making my bag less heavy, I have freed up lots of extra space in my home, and in this increasingly crowded world space is at a premium. There is also less material / environmental cost. It's more physically comfortable and convenient to read hardcopy books and, as Scapps noted, context is a little easier. Still, it's early days yet.
As for the Encyclopaedia Britannica, I kept it (along with everything else) as I looked after Dad in his final months because he needed familiar things around him, but when he died I got rid of them. Bulky, musty, dusty and hopelessly out of date; Wikis and Google are infinitely better.
Our kids may well one day fondly reminisce about the old Web 3.0, perhaps in the same way as pre-Gutenberg Press people would have decried the impersonal vibe of printed books as compared with handwritten manuscripts. Just as those who started writing would have been decried by those who felt something was lost from the oral tradition ...
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