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The March of Time

And technology.

Everybody gets the march of time.

Baby, toddler, kid, teen, adult, beer belly or saggy tits (maybe both), elder. Then comes death.

Some think life is a cycle. When one cycle ends, another begins, and the march of time starts anew. Ad nauseum.

I sure hope not.

What fascinates me is the march of technology. I remember when the pocket calculator came on the market in the early 70s. Wow! Best thing since sliced bread! Schools banned students from using them. In class, those physics calculations had to be done by hand.

Not long after I headed off to college, the son of a friend of my mother’s who was in high school showed me his calculator. I was amazed by two things. One, the school allowed students to use them. Two, this thing had enough functions to look like it could calculate every scrap of math required to send Cassini to Saturn.

Tech in the Dark Ages.

In the office, there was carbon paper. Nasty. If you weren’t careful, you’d get all this greasy black shit on your fingers. Hard to get off, too. I wonder if any of these young folks would know what I was talking about if I said a set of twins looked like “carbon copies?”

And who can forget Wite Out? I remember when they started making colored liquids. Typing up something on pink paper? Pink Wite Out. So my partners in crime and I stole Wite Out in every color we could get our hands on from office supplies and painted pretty pastel pictures. Green, blue, pink, yellow. And of course, white.

When word processers were introduced, I thought Wite Out would go away. It didn’t. The market is growing. Beats me.

In the 80s, the first commercially available electronic databases for researching case law were introduced. They even Shepardized cases. Shepard’s was a print copy resource for finding out if a case you cited in a brief was referred to by a court, favorably or unfavorably, distinguished, or overruled. Like, if you cited a case that had been overruled, your argument was dead in the water.

Change was a-comin’, but it was slooow.

Oh, lordy, so much fun! Shepardizing the cases cited in a brief sometimes took all night. Or longer. Believe, me–I’ve done it. With the database, it took maybe a couple or three hours, depending on how many cases you had to research. Nowadays, the databases and search functions are far more sophisticated and instead of dedicated machines, it’s just an app on your PC.

Then came the 90s. Specifically, the invention of the world wide web in 1996. Search engines. Game changers is an understatement. It took me years to get used to the idea that I didn’t have to go to the library if I wanted to know something. Just google it.

The internet brought us into the Light.

The internet also brought a sea change in the way businesses sold stuff. That’s right. Online. But there was something radically different about buying stuff online back then. You go into a brick-and-mortar store and buy something, you paid sales tax. You buy the same something online, you didn’t. That’s because the states’ sales tax laws didn’t keep up with the new tech, and stayed stuck in the 60s.

And they stayed stuck for a reason. I’m not going to bore you with the legal particulars (and you should be very, very grateful for that). Suffice it to say that a tax shelter created by the U.S Supreme Court allowed some startups to mushroom into the behemoths we all know and love today.

Amazon, in particular.

Amazon started out as an online bookstore, remember? Browse and order your books from home so you didn’t have to go out in that yucky rain. Or maybe you were homebound. Its business structure meant they always had your book “in stock,” even though they carried no inventory. It was more convenient and less expensive than gassing up the car and going to the mall or wherever, and people took advantage of it. Nothing wrong with that. Bezos just built a better mousetrap, that’s all.

But because of that tax shelter, Amazon could undercut the prices of its brick-and-mortar competitors. Depending on a state’s sales tax rate, that could translate into a hefty discount, even heftier if there was a local sales tax, too.

The internet also brought death. Lots and lots of death.

And that was what let Amazon run the other guys into oblivion. Not just independent bookstores. The big chains, too. The only big chain still standing (sort of) is Barnes & Noble, and they came very close to going under. The other chains ignored the internet’s handwriting on the wall until it was too late, and they paid dearly for that.

I have a love/hate relationship with Amazon. Mostly hate. But I have to give them their props. That there are so many indie authors with books on the market today is because Amazon was the first to give us a legitimate publishing platform. Amazon gives our books major exposure and worldwide distribution. Just think — all it took was the invention of that little thing called the world wide web.

The march of technology goes on.

There’s lots of tech I know I won’t live to see. Tech that would blow my socks off. I’m fine with that. I don’t need to see the future.

Because I’ll be damned if I ride this carousel from hell called life again.





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