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The Offline Age

Do you remember life before the internet?

Do you remember life before the internet? At the hazard of dating myself, I do. Yes, dear reader, there once was a time when specifications and feature lists for a product had to come from printed literature. There once was a time when reference material was in the form of books. There once was a time when you saved every magazine that came your way for future revisits.

That sounds a lot like the stories your grandparents tell of when they had to walk miles to school, in the snow, uphill both ways (it wasn’t so hilly by the time I trudged to elementary school, though I never rode a school bus until high school). That said, the offline age probably seems to our younger readers as just as quaint a tale.

I was reminded of the “the old days” (I won’t call them the “good old days”) pre-internet while reading the proofs of this issue. A description of a product feature caught my eye as seeming a little unusual, or perhaps poorly described, so I looked it up online.

No digging through a file cabinet full of literature (or for recent products, digging through the pile of brochures brought back from the most recent trade show). I can pull up press releases online or from the e-mails that flood my in-box (extensive use of e-mail is another way to nail my age — friends working in pro audio education report that they have a difficult time getting today’s students to even check their e-mail: “Professor, aren’t you on FaceBook? Can’t I just follow you on Twitter?”). I don’t even have a file cabinet in my office now, and the reference books I still own (these days serving as rear-wall diffusor elements) largely stay untouched when I can look up multiple sources with a Google search.

When I first started in pro audio journalism, layouts were proofed on laser printouts. We sent four-color film to the printer (four overlaying sheets for each printed page). The final proofing was done on “bluelines,” quick monotone prints of each page. Today, the proofs I see are in the form of PDFs, edited and marked up onscreen. A high-resolution PDF is what’s sent to the printer. Final proofs are viewed online from the printer’s website.

We often note how technology has changed the audio industry irrevocably, and of course, we know it’s true for the world at large and for each of us individually. With a little reflection on where we once were, most of us wouldn’t want to live without today’s technology. Ask a teenager to give up their cell phone if you need a modern perspective on technological addiction.