He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

 

“Stop thinking so analog” (Dr. Rodney McKay, character on Stargate Atlantis” TV series).

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analog /ánəlog/ “…using physical variables, e.g., voltage, weight or length to represent numbers….”

 

digital /díjit’l/ “…operating on data represented as a series of…binary digits or in similar discrete form…”

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Most TV stations have delayed until June the transition to exclusively digital signals. But in parts of Mississippi, including my area, a number have already switched from analog. These include the local CBS affiliate and all the Mississippi Public Broadcasting channels. Even as this is happening, according to a report I heard last Sunday, about 20,000 Mississippians remain unprepared for the digital shift.

 

I’ve paid little attention to the transition, since our TVs are connected to cable. And, given that the pictures are sharper, the sound better, and digital saves stations money on electrical bills, it’s a good thing that the switch is being made, whether this week or this summer.

 

Listening to the story on public radio, I began to reflect on the differences between analog and digital, maybe even as ways of thinking, and where I fit on the continuum between them. Those of us born into a world where digital meant something you did with your fingers or toes and analog was simply the way of things are neither one nor the other.

 

I’m no Luddite; I think digital technology is great, providing us with lower costs, faster response, and more accurate transmission of signals. Because of it, I can have multiple guitar effects in a single unit for a reasonable price or carry gigabytes of data on a drive that fits on my key ring. A reader who owns the latest generation of Amazon.com’s wireless reading device is able to take an entire library of 1500 books on a trip in the space of 8″ x 5.3″ x 0.36″. Thanks to digital, myriads of college students can strap their MP3 players to their arms and work out at the gym to their favorite tunes without having to carry the bulky and awkward cassette or CD players of an earlier generation.

 

Still, there’s something to be said for analog. Call me old-fashioned, but I like telling time from a clock or watch with hands instead of reading those glowing numerals on a display. I write my to-do lists on a legal pad instead of entering them in Outlook; I don’t own a BlackBerry, and I want my cell simply to be a phone. I enjoy the feel of a real book in my hand, turning actual pages. Apparently, so even do those with electronic readers; Amazon sells a leather cover for its device. As we heard in Megatrends years ago, the higher the tech, the more we crave touch.

 

Well, I see from my analog watch that I need to be going now, so I can write with my pencil on my paper legal pad my to-do list for the day:

 

¦  play acoustic guitar through a digital processor;

¦  tweak settings on my webcam;

¦  enter new numbers in my cell phone;

¦  search online for a word from the Bible….

 

© 2009 Tom Cheatham

 

Source for definitions: The Oxford American Dictionary and Language Guide (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999)

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