We will start today with an anecdote, from 40 years past.
It was a cold winter night, much like now, and I was downstate near Alton spending some time with my best friend and video collaborator at his parents’ suburban castle. It was late and everyone else had gone to their sleeping chambers. He and I were watching tv – it was a 26 inch RCA console, cased out in polished wood.
Jim (that was and still is his name and we are still friends) meandered up to the screen and in pantomime said, “lets throw a few more logs into the cathode ray tube …”
And there you go, the ancient and the electronic, the tribal and the technology, the hearth and home, the network and the nerds.
So when’s the last time you saw a tv with a tube? When’s the last time you made a phone call through a wire even though we still claim we are “dialing” the number? The reason we still call these devices ‘computers’ is that their original intention was to crunch numbers, nobody had yet even imagined that media could be ‘social’ – heck, the “society” pages in the “newspaper” used to be about people and events outside of both our class and our experiences, begowned and tuxedoed.
According to an article I read recently it is—contrary to the soup being spoon fed us by the ubiquitous and relentless media—becoming quite difficult to be richer than the average dude or dudette these days. Fancy guys used to have a private screening room in their mansion, these days you can acquire one of those at Best Buy. That mobile brick Motorola Michael Douglas carried around in “Wall Street” cost $4,000, these days children have telecommunications rockets in their pockets. You can buy a luxury car if you have nothing better to do with your too much money, but a working class stiff can drive a Ford with so many features it can make the mind bobble and boggle. Cupholders too.
It seems that innovation requires a mass market. This is how a hippie computer company named after an article of fruit became the wealthiest corporation in the world and then, at the same time re-configured the very idea of a corporation into a more humanitarian concept. The confused and obnoxious nutjobs encamped and determined to “occupy Wall Street” had laptops and iPhones. The would-be communists worship at the funeral pyre of a ruthless capitalist—and oddly enough his (adopted) name was “Jobs”.
There is even another joke therein. Wall Street itself has already left the neighborhood for places like Raleigh, North Carolina. Businesses are leaving California like a flood for places like Texas. Mr. Jobs himself tried several times to build state of the art factories in the now doomed empire of California, but Apples are now assembled in China. We are suicidal. We have let the mediocrity of government invoice us with a bill that cannot be paid and a life without incentives (but then that is more than we can discuss today.)
This is all the more salient because more and more of us need jobs to keep up with all this groovy production and irresistible desire, yet given the efficiency, the productivity factor, and the long tail of a global supply chain we are heading into the era of more people than jobs.
But, you see, I have neither enough time left in my life or enough healthy gray matter inside my cranium to either take on or understand the problems of a planet, so I mostly think about Elgin.
It was a decision to come back home, just like 30 years earlier it was a decision to leave. As I am prone to say, “Home is where the art is.”
The one recurring theme in studying the life of Steve Jobs or following the crumbs on the rumor trail of his Apple corporation is that things happen at the intersection of art and technology.
My home town is investing both time and resources in those two human endeavors.
At this point, I am going to suggest you read Mike Alft’s boca column this week to get a picture of how our business district used to be (without any think tanks or external coercion) although it will never be so again.
So when you have a moment, think about those few things:
1. Elgin can and must embrace high technology. While you were not watching that has slowly been happening.
2. Elgin should become a destination for the arts, and that also has been creeping in.
3. Make things, there is a lot more manufacturing in this town than you probably realize.
4. You may not care for politics, but if you ignore it, it won’t take care of you.