The I-Want-It-Now Guy
Why I've kept this old New York Times article bookmarked for over a decade. Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
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Fax on demand!
What do you guys think of this idea? Instead of sending you an email with the full text of Understandably every morning, what if I sent you a one-page fax, instead?
Every day the fax would include a list of headlines and brief story summaries. You'd read down the list, mark the ones that interested you most, and fax it back to me.
Then, I'd send you a longer fax including the full text of the stories you wanted to read.
It would all be for a pretty reasonable price. Maybe a flat $10 a month for the first fax, and then $1 for each story?
Apparently they tried it at The Fresno Bee newspaper, where people were willing to pay 99 cents to have baseball box scores faxed to them in the morning.
OK, before this gets too silly, all of these ideas were once apparently cutting edge. But, they're from a 30-year-old article that ran in the New York Times (July 6, 1992, to be exact): Papers Finding New Ways to Make Faxes a Business.
"It's for the I-want-it-now guy," Jonathan D. Ahlbrand, who was then the president of something called World Data in Detroit that did a fax-on-demand service with the Detroit Free Press, told the NYT at the time. (His service was more utilitarian; faxing people tax forms.)
In a fairly meta example of nostalgia, I've had this article bookmarked on probably every computer I've owned for the last 15 or so years, and gone back to read it once in a while. I like it for two reasons:
First, because it's such an earnest example of people completely misjudging what the technology of the then-very near future was likely to be about, and
Second, because it's a reminder for me just how far things have evolved even since I've been an alleged adult—and at least a college graduate.
Within days of when that article published, I was starting my first "grown up" job (at least it seemed that way), as an entry level reporter at the New Haven Register.
Salary: $18,500 a year to start. I remember getting my first biweekly paycheck for maybe $500, and thinking there was no way I could possibly spend all this money.
Granted, the article I've saved is 30 years old, so it's not all that surprising that the people involved had a mistaken view of the future.
But it's so perfectly anchored in the way the world worked when I was an early 20-something just setting out that I can't help looking back at it.
Anyway, it was good therapy for those moments when I used to beat myself up a bit for not having been the most prescient guy when it came to the Internet. (I co-founded a national print magazine for law students in the late 1990s; our digital edition was barely a last-minute afterthought.)
And, I think it's also inspiring now. Life comes at you pretty fast—the good, the bad, and the ugly—and everything looks inevitable in retrospect.
See you tomorrow. (It's still an email; the fax thing is just a little joke. I mean, unless I've completely misjudged things and you'd really want it.)
7 other things worth knowing today
The Biden administration issued "clarifying guidance" Monday that says state law is trumped by federal law allowing abortions performed by "providers when offering legally-mandated, life or health-saving abortion services in emergency situations." (HHS.gov)
Over 50 and looking for a job? Here's what you need to know about age and work. (CNBC)
How Brazilian surfers became a powerhouse, beating the Californians, Australians and Hawaiians, who had dominated since the beginning of the sport. (NYT)
A leaked trove of 124,000 confidential files to The Guardian allegedly reveals the inside story of how the tech giant Uber flouted laws, duped police, exploited violence against drivers and secretly lobbied governments during its aggressive global expansion. (The Guardian)
California trend: Some cities are now banning new gas stations in a battle to combat climate change. (LA Times)
NASA revealed the first full-color scientific image from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope on Monday, showing off the power of the new observatory with one of the deepest images of the universe ever taken. The space agency will reveal the rest of JWST’s first images at 10:30am ET today. The YouTube link below should take you there if you happen to read this at that time. (Axios)
Finally, a pair of sea lions chased people off a beach in the La Jolla area of San Diego, and the whole thing was captured by a traffic helicopter's camera. (Twitter)
Thanks for reading. Photo via Pixabay. Want to see all my mistakes? Click here.
No, please don’t fax save paper!!
There's a fantastic recent episode of the Joe Rogan podcast where he interviews Marc Andreeson (for those who don't know him, he was one of the founders of the Mosaic web browser--the first graphical web browser--and now a prolific tech VC investor/visionary). He talks in depth about the widespread, deep skepticism by most in the mainstream/positions of authroity around personal computers, the internet, email, etc. -- pretty much every digital tool we take for granted today, the majority of "experts" at the time were convinced were either completely useless or would never be successful. It's fascinating how far we've come in just 30-ish years, and those naysayers have eaten a lot of crow. I remember seeing the first stand-alone word processessor (basically a typewriter with a digital screen), using ICQ messenger in the college computer lab to talk to random strangers at another college, sending my first email (internal only) at my first job, and using dial up to find websites of companies before Google--you had to know the URL specifically and type it correctly to get there. It was a novelty then. Now, it's literally the basis of my entire career as a freelance writer in the PR/marketing business. Being a Gen Xer has been a wild ride!