40. time-keeper


When the writing’s on the wall…

FREELY SPEAKING

December 2018


When the writing's on the wall…

Let’s start at the beginning: Digitus (Latin) meaning finger or toe begat digit, meaning finger or toe and from about the 14th century it also referred to a single number between 0 and 9. Digitisation, despite having the same etymological source, has nothing to do with fingers or toes; it is the conversion of data or information from analogue to digital - or, more simply put, it is the computerised archiving of anything from a person’s letters to newspapers, photographs and magazines.

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igitalisation on the other hand, mustn’t be confused with the archiving process because it is the administering of digitalis, a drug prepared from the dried leaves or seeds of the foxglove plant to a patient as a heart stimulant, which can occur when the owners of magazines discover the price of digitisation.

As you’ve already discovered in this issue of Europa Star, it is dedicated to digitisation which means that soon you will be able to delve into our archives and discover, for example, dozens of Freely Speaking and Lakin @ Large articles or better still, an article written in 1969 by Watchie, a dog, entitled ‘Watchie’s Barking Corner’. For those interested in such trivia ‘Barking’ in this case doesn’t refer to the woof woof a dog makes, but to the phrase ‘barking mad’ which in turn refers to a medieval insane asylum that existed in the London Borough of Barking. Londoners soon dropped the ’mad’ and simply referred to them as ‘barking’.

Europa Star Europe 5/1969
Europa Star Europe 5/1969

As I was saying before I went off on that educational tangent, Watchie, the far-sighted horological canine journalist, wrote about ‘Shnook, The watch for your life’ and how stupid it thinks the idea is of having one watch that will last a lifetime and how the factory will soon close down once everyone has a Shnook. If memory serves me correctly I believe Watchie changed his name and eventually found his appropriate kennel, sorry make that niche, at Swatch.

Shnooks apart, there is a more serious aspect to digitisation: what’s going to happen to the white cotton glove manufacturers? Now when you enter your favourite museum to research one of their delicate tomes of yore accompanied by the curator or his assistant the Lone Arranger, that unforgettable stale and musty odour of decaying paper will no longer reach your nostrils and worse, that pair of elegant white cotton gloves that made you look like a butler in Downton Abbey won’t be proffered. Instead you’ll be guided to a computer where you can scrutinise the digitised pages of that aforementioned tome to your heart’s content and in so doing have regular headaches and improve the sales figures for aspirin and spectacles.

Maybe the Neanderthals and the Ancient Egyptians had the right idea, they didn’t bother with archiving, they avoided filing and copying by writing and drawing on walls, tombs and pyramids. They were the forerunners of today’s grubby graffiti gringos.

So, when the writing’s on the wall, digitise.