I’m in the Irish Times magazine today. For once I’m not on about murders and mayhem, this time I’m bringing my low tech fixation to a wider audience. Anna Carey’s piece is looking at the pervasive use of obsolete equipment in the modern world. Radio star Ryan Tubridy still uses pencils, author Charlie Connelly prefers to let his fingers do the walking with phone books and I’m there extolling the many virtues of my beloved Esterbrooks.
I’ve written about these great little pens before on this blog and, apart from smart phone and netbook, they are the tools I rely on most on a day to day basis. Using a fountain pen has made my shorthand faster (handy for long legal digressions) and when I’m not court reporting the way the pen glides across the paper does seem to allow the ideas to flow more freely when the writing isn’t flowing as it should.
Mind you, if the truth be told, I’m a closet luddite in more than just my choice of writing equipment. While I love technology and everything it enables us to do, there are some times when making the switch from digital back to mechanical just seems the obvious thing to do. Apart from my little Esties I also collect old Russian film cameras. There’s something about working around their many eccentricities to take a decent photograph that can seem so much more rewarding than the cocksure precision of digital photography. Don’t get me wrong. Digital cameras are great and if I want to make sure I get the shot I want I’ll use one, but the alchemy of the film process seems to infuse the whole photograph with a kind of magic – or maybe that’s just what I say to myself to explain the stripes of the light leaks and the fuzz of my less than accurate manual focusing.
Using these old film cameras is a completely different experience to digital photography. When I bring out my 1953 Zorki 3M, people stop and ask about it. They don’t mind if I point it at them (I’m a purely amateur snapper I hasn’t to add but I’ve always enjoyed street photography) and the whole expedition turns into more of an adventure – even if the shots aren’t as good as the one’s I might bring back from digital outings.
Maybe my clinging to the manual and awkward has a little something to do with my 70s childhood. Some of my earliest memories revolve around brown outs and power cuts that swept across England in the mid 70s. It always seemed like a good idea to have access to equipment that didn’t require a power supply and could work in any environment. Apart from my cameras and my pens I have always kept a manual typewriter handy…well you never know!
Whether the attraction comes from paranoia or nostalgia or just plain practicality I’m not about to upgrade my old school equipment any time soon. There’s a time and place for technology and then there’s time to do things the old fashioned way. Quite frankly I wouldn’t want it any other way!