Books. Paper notebooks. Printed pictures. Over the last two decades, each was declared to be dead or dying. Yet journalist David Sax noticed something unexpected on this road to digital everything: Not only are old technologies not dying, they’re thriving in many cases. In his book, “The Revenge of Analog,” Sax explores why the things we can touch, feel and experience with a combination of senses are still going strong.
What inspired you to write “The Revenge of Analog”?
About 10 years ago, when everybody I knew started to get smartphones, there was a noticeable change in the way people interacted. Suddenly, ignoring someone in the middle of a conversation to take a message became acceptable social behavior.
At about the same time, my roommate and I decided to upload our entire collection of 600 CDs to iTunes and get rid of the CDs. Our interest in music nearly disappeared overnight — because everything was out of sight, out of mind, on a hard drive. It just stopped being interesting.
What attracts us to analog things?
Anything that engages more of your senses is going to be more engaging, regardless of when you were born. There's this false hope and assumption that because digitizing books or other media is more efficient, we’ll get the most out of that media. But most efficient doesn't necessarily mean most effective. Yet those assumptions are often put ahead of what the evidence is.
Schools have rushed to put iPads in the hands of students, in many cases getting rid of textbooks because that's the way forward. Yet students are saying hold on, that doesn't work, and the test scores show it doesn't work and the research shows it doesn't work, but the school wants to look innovative.
How does this translate to printed images versus ones on a smartphone screen?
Printed photos are a moment of time captured and displayed in space. They evoke an emotional sense of wonder.
I have thousands of photographs on my hard drives or the cloud, but since I started taking digital photos all those years ago, I've printed eight. The ones that are on my walls, I walk by every day. And every time I look at them, I have an emotional reaction.
I get a similar sensation when I flip through photos of my kids or my family or the past on my phone, but it's an ephemeral glimpse of something that’s part of a moving stream — every photo you take almost buries the ones that are behind it.