Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Life on a 3 x 6 Inch Screen

This is a slightly reduced / edited version of a commentary piece prepared for the current issue of the Ontario Artisan Blacksmith Association quarterly newsletter, the Iron Trillium.
If you have not done so, also read the background piece in the previous blog posting.

' Life via a 3 x 6 inch screen '

That the culture that surrounds us changes with time is a truth we all live with. 

The impact of this constantly accelerating rate of change was expounded by Alvin Toffler in 1970 (!) under the term ‘Future Shock’. (A) Another significant element described by Toffler was accelerating ‘information overload’. This in the year IBM introduced the first computer using semiconductor memory (instead of large magnetic tapes). A computer that still pretty much filled a room (and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars). (1)
As Marshall McLuhan famously said (in 1964!) ‘the Medium is the Message’. (B) Our current culture in Canada (and increasingly the whole world) is dominated, and being defined by, Social Media.

Our current situation of COVID required isolation is ‘accelerating the acceleration’. With face to face interactions so reduced as to be almost completely absent, any view of the outside world has become framed by a computer monitor, or even less effectively, by a 3 x 6 inch phone screen. Over my own life (see above) personal communications have been reduced from spoken phone calls (1970’s & 80’s), to written email paragraphs exchanged over hours (1990’s), to snapped out single line comments on Facebook or the ‘home movies’ on YouTube (mid 2000’s), to the instant phone camera photographs of Instagram, or ’140 characters’ of Twitter (both before 2010). The narrowing of the viewing window to the world is clear, with all that (should) represent in terms of limiting our view. (2)

When I was looking for an illustration for this issue’s cover, I came across the video commentary you see. This was only attributed to ‘Black Bear Forge’. Digging around, I was able to find a link back to the business web site. This gives the location as Beulah (Southern) Colorado. Going over most of the web site (including the contact information) I could not find an actual name for the individual involved, John Switzer. (Name supplied later by one of the proof readers of the initial version of this article.)

This is the description provided for that commentary :

“ These days, most of us have a smart phone or tablet of some sort. Are these simply time wasters? Or do they have value in our journey into blacksmithing? Today lets look at some cell phone hacks for blacksmithing.“
Watching the 19 minute long piece, you will see that the speaker found he could use smart phone as a replacement for a desktop computer (which he had used free at work until he retired). He states he is able to undertake all sorts of web searching, video watching, even necessary business functions, on that 3 x 6  phone screen.

He suggests a few ‘useful apps’.
One of which is illustrated here : ‘The Heat Treater’s Companion’ (which is free, but turns out is not available in Canada)

The illustration shown is what it would look like on a typical 3 x 6 phone screen.

Convenient? Well maybe.
Useful at that viewing size? Leave that up to you.

My point here is that work that requires a full sized computer screen to properly undertake will just not fit on to that 3 x 6 screen. Consider that the trend with computer monitors for decades has been to larger and larger screens.

Sure, you could spread and zoom that small image.
•    Do you even get wifi reception inside that giant metal cage that is the typical blacksmith shop? (I sure do not!).
•    Do you really want to take a $1000 dollar electronic device, with a (fragile) glass screen, into the metal dust and chaos of the workshop?
•    What about the raw cost involved in ‘surfing the web’ - via a phone data plan, while you are trying to actually undertake (time demanding) forge work?

This is an actual, recent, posting on the ‘Canadian Blacksmiths and Bladesmiths’ group on Facebook (identity deliberately removed).

“ HELP !  Looking for a blacksmith, from Canada, on YouTube. ”

Go ahead. Plug the two words ‘Canada Blacksmith’ into the search box on YouTube :
For comparison (since this was for OABA) plug in ‘Ontario Blacksmith’ (3)

Did anyone have any trouble finding, oh, 8 out of the 10 choices being actual working blacksmith’s contributions?
(And with those from Ontario, easy half link back to OABA itself. That includes David Robertson, Robb Martin, and myself - all of us have a slate of ‘work in progress’ videos available on YouTube.)

Increasingly, most especially over the last (COVID) year, I am finding more and more of this same ‘level’ of request. I can not imagine I am alone in this.

Beyond a level of personal whining, how does this relate to the current state of Blacksmithing?
Take a look at the (following) opinion piece ‘Death of the Expert’...

References / Notes



1) As a working comparison : In 1969 (the year I started high school), the Apollo 11 Command Module Guidance Computer weighed 70 lbs and had 64 KILO bytes memory. My first computer (which I still have) was a Mac 812 (kilobyte!), acquired about 1985, so it is safe to say I have been part of ‘home computing’ since well before there was an internet. The 2014 (!) computer I’m writing this on has almost 8 MILLION times more memory storage than that Apollo machine (at roughly the size of of a thick hardcover book). That same capability is available on current cell ‘phones’.

2) Honestly, there are now dozens more, increasingly specialized (and intentionally segregated, and thus viewpoint limited) ‘sharing’ platforms. As time progresses, the users are becoming more and more hidden behind pseudonyms and outright false identities. Again, stating bias, I launched my Wareham Forge web site in about 1995, started blogging in 2006. I have had no desire to progress past YouTube and Facebook (I started both in 2008)

3) Note the use of ‘Duck, Duck, GO’ here. Unlike Google, you can not buy your way to the top of the listings there. This search site also does not compile your personal search history, then sell that back to advertisers (You all might consider this)

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