In the old days (pre-1980), if you invested in a quality camera like a single lens reflex, the only things you bought after that were film and various accessories like camera bags and additional lenses.
And, unless you dropped it from a moving car, you didn’t buy another camera for the rest of your life. Today many of us own several digital cameras, lured by the astonishing progress in the technical specifications: more megapixels, which generally means higher resolution photos; more sensitive light sensors, which means clearer, crisper pictures; built in telephoto lenses (up to 60x at this writing); shorter lag times between shots; and smaller in size and weight — not to mention less and less expensive, giving us more bang for the buck.
Also changed is the way we take our pictures. When we had to carry rolls of fairly expensive film to record our adventures, we very carefully took one, two or at most three shots of a scene in the hope that one would turn out well. After a trip to the drugstore, who sent them off to a photo lab, we waited impatiently for two weeks to get our prints and slides and negatives back, before embarking on the last stage of sticking them into a photo album or carousel or shoebox to be retrieved once or twice per year at various family gatherings.
Nowadays, with digital cameras that take multiple pics per second, I can take 10 to 15 snaps and be quite certain one of them will be good — blissfully unaware of all the time I will spend later on my computer winnowing them down to the one or two best shots. After that arduous process I can upload them to an online photo service and post them on their or a multitude of other free websites inviting whomever I wish to view them. If I feel a bit old school, I have prints or a photobook made.
So which is better: the old or the new photographic experience?
As Tevye says in “Fiddler on the Roof” regarding the question, “Why do we have traditions?”: “I’ll tell you. I don’t know.”
But I do love the fact that my photo editor allows me to enhance my photos. I can crop, lighten, darken the contrast or shadows, straighten the image if it’s off kilter, retouch, take out red-eye as well as apply several dozen colorizing “effects.” It also allows me to make albums and sort them into order by date taken, name or size. It’s truly amazing how much time I can spend doing this. On the down side, photo editors can be used mischievously to alter reality.
Today technology is used by kids and others with childish minds to make mischief — from hard-core cyber-bullying and phishing scams to trolling. A troll is a trouble-maker who joins a web discussion whose only aim is to destroy or disrupt the comity of the conversation. The standard modus operandi is to make a controversial statement that is sure to polarize the members — usually something bordering on sexist or racist. Then the troll lights up a cigar, sits back and watches, only joining in with responses that will fan the flames. Your first thought might be, “This guy needs to get a life,” but sadly, it is a way of life to trolls.
When I was a kid (in a time long ago and far away) we used technology to perform mischief also. Of course, the technology was rather primitive — it was called a telephone. Me and a buddy would call a local store and ask, “Do you have Prince Albert in a can?” (the brand name of a pipe tobacco that came in a small can). When the proprietor answered in the affirmative, we’d respond, “Well. let him out — he doesn’t like it in there!” It was hilarious at the time. You had to be there.
All these examples are just to say that it may not be technology alone that is the root cause of mischief; it’s a human flaw that most of us outgrow. But it sure does enhance the quality and quantity of mischief that can be done.
Dr. Stewart A. Denenberg is an emeritus professor of computer science at Plattsburgh State, retiring recently after 30 years there. Before that, he worked as a technical writer, programmer and consultant to the U.S. Navy and private Industry. Send comments and suggestions to his blog at www.tec-soc.blogspot.com, where there is additional text and links. He can also be reached at email@example.com.