Old skills, new conveniences

First I put the set together backwards, the next time I forgot half of it, but finally on the third try it was assembled properly and I got the result I wanted.

Do you know what process this is? It’s something I had to concentrate on the first few times to get it right. After that it was still annoying, but no problem. Until I made a mistake and had to correct it. That wasn’t so easy or so fun.

The task at hand was to make a carbon copy of a letter in a typewriter. Remember that? What it amounted to was a tussle with a sheet or two of carbon paper, typing paper, and the typewriter in order to get copies of a letter. Even more fun was correcting a letter with carbons behind it-another skill to learn and practice.

Often it seemed I needed at least three hands to get that done successfully. That was before copy machines and keyboards with auto-correct. And I thought that Liquid Paper was a real godsend.

So I was thinking one day about skills we worked hard to master before using them and that eventually became totally obsolete and useless. I realize It depends on one’s age, but I wonder what those skills are for you. I immediately think of the blood I sweat in college learning how to fit written copy into columns, even though I’m pretty sure I couldn’t do it now at any cost.

Now the same task is easily accomplished in a heartbeat just by pushing the right key on the computer keyboard.

The same could be said for many common tasks that aren’t needed in our daily lives any longer. Think about ironing. Yes, we may press some clothing items today, but real ironing? That just doesn’t happen, as far as I know. I learned and practiced that skill on my dad’s chambray work shirts and handkerchiefs, but it’s been a very long time since I took a rolled-up clothing item out of the big plastic zippered bag , laid it out on the ironing board, and went to work with the iron.

Now that was real ironing. And I can’t say I miss it, regardless of how long it took me to perfect the technique.

I know there are many farming practices that could be on this list of obsolete skills. A coworker said that for her it was cultivating. Then there was threshing, and shelling corn and on and on. What about milking a cow or butchering a chicken? All useless now.

But just think, when the need for those skills comes back, at least some of us will be ready.