If we stopped and thought for a moment, I think most of us could think of some skill that has died or been adapted in our lifetime, thanks to the advent of modern technology. Indeed, I know of an editor at an illustrious publishing house who has struggled for years to keep hold of his trusty typewriter, who fought valiantly against entering the computer age until he had no choice – his old Imperial simply gave up on him. So terrified is he of his shiny new computer, he passes all his now handwritten work to his secretary to convert into digital format.
While the above anecdote might be whimsical, a similar tale from India is quite the opposite, as the demise of the typewriter is having a detrimental effect on the livelihoods and wellbeing of their operators: for the past 34 years, Ajay Kumar Nayak has been walking to a busy footpath outside Calcutta’s high court.
He sets up a rickety wooden table, places a battered plastic chair behind it and then carefully places his 15-year-old typewriter on the table. After covering his desk with a piece of tarpaulin to protect his prized possession from the sun, he is ready for business as one of Calcutta’s few remaining street typists.
“A decade ago I would have had no time to sit and chat. My fingers would have been tapping away all day,” he says.
“All you would have heard was the sound of the typewriter. Now there is only silence.
“Look at us. We have nothing to do,” says Ajay.
“If you come back in a few years’ time there will be nobody left here. The computer has killed our profession.”
It’s not all as sad as Ajay’s experience, though: in the construction industry, the ancient skills of stone masons, thatchers – and builders able to understand cob and lime paint – we are hanging on to, as they are needed to restore our old buildings. While the highly specialist skills surrounding cabinet making and #French Polishing are surviving too.
So adaptation is the key – we at Plastic Surgeon have adapted and modernised the tried and tested skills of the French Polisher, stone mason and even builder,to suit modern requirements through our repair work. Ajay and my editor friend may feel they’re too old to embrace to current technology, but even evolution has shown us that we need to adapt to survive.