You can find the original New Yorker article here.
Hello and welcome to the Analog Diary.
For a long time, I’ve struggled with a tension in my life. It’s nothing worrying, and it’s a privilege to have this tension, but it’s been there nonetheless. It’s a tension, I think, that stems from potential far-reaching consequences. It’s the tension between analog and digital.
Now, what exactly do I mean by this? I mean that I have, for the most part, grown up with technology and enjoy using it. I’m a big Apple fan. Their balance of design and function suits my aesthetic taste perfectly. However, technology has replaced much of what we used to turn to paper, pen, mail, and phone-call for.
But somewhere along the line, I developed a real love for these analog objects. I have a love of typewriters that is getting close to out-of-hand, a serious love of fountain pens, notebooks, paper, letters, real,tangible books, and film cameras. The very same things I enjoy the technological solutions for.
I enjoy writing digitally, and apps like Ulysses afford a wonderful experience that is both clean and functional, so I have no real need for a typewriter. I have apps that manage my todos unimaginably well, such as Things 3, so I have no real need for Field Notes or fountain pens. I have an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, so I have no real need for paper notebooks for classwork or journaling. I have email, text, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Snapchat, so I have no need to send a real letter through the mail. I have a Kindle, which is far more convenient, instant, and portable than most books. I have a digital solution for every one of my analog passions. And yet, whenever I lose touch with my analog passions and go “too digital,” I really miss them. But it’s not the function I’m missing. It’s the experience.
The click-clack-ding of a typewriter, the smoothness of ivory-white paper, the weight of a well-made, freshly-inked fountain pen—these are experiences that cannot be transferred over to my iPad (though Tom Hanks has tried.) Emails get deleted, letters get placed in a drawer. If something can be deleted at the click of a button, did it ever really exist? My future grandchildren will not go searching through my emails from 2018, but they very well could happen upon an old letter I wrote their grandmother. I do not leave my impressions on a Kindle book for someone else to discover, but the physical books I read are irreversibly stained with my impressions and stored in a library that represents who I am. When I tap the shutter button on the Camera app of my iPhone, who really knows how that moment is being captured? The physical process of film photography literally captures the light particles in a certain space at a certain time and records that on a piece of material—that is your photograph. The same cannot be said of digital photography.
So, what is this blog? It is a place to collect, converse, and convert. For those who already know the joys of any of these analog passions, share your collections and collect yourselves here. For those on both sides of the fence (or somewhere on the fence,) it is a place to converse, and for those who have yet to see the beautiful experiences to be had with the analog versions of their digitized lives, it is a place to be converted—a place to understand and appreciate methods of communication and memory-recording that have, for the most part, survived centuries.
It is a place to step away from the digital world and appreciate objects designed for a singular purpose, be that to write, to be written on, to capture, or to communicate.
Unfortunately, this is ultimately a digital space, and I am aware of the irony there. If this could be a weekly newsletter sent to your mailbox and not your inbox, nothing would make me happier. But at least for now, the internet is free and USPS is not. I hope that after reading these final words, you turn off your screen and open your book.