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The benighted US of A

I’m not sure most Americans realize that many people think of us as rather backward. I remember the young man at the counter at W.H. Smith, the British newsagent, who said, “You Americans still use inches, don’t you?” The equivalent of using, say, an IBM personal computer with 64 kilobytes of RAM. Here’s what an author wrote me the other day about updating his article for the new edition of the Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History:

It was a bit of a hassle. In Europe, we no longer use fax machines to any extent, though I think they are still in use in the USA. Anyway, the fossil to which I still have access is locked away over Christmas in my university.

He concluded with good wishes and the hope that under a new president the “benighted United States” will be less benighted. I’m quite confident that that will be the case, but I suppose we will still use inches for some years to come, and fax machines will still be in use — at least here in the Berkshires. To defend myself, I put information about faxing into my email only because we do have some rather traditional authors – some, even, who send corrections by postal mail. Others are so au fait with technology that they work around the limitations of the PDFs we have available through the platform.

In a lovely piece of synchronicity that shows how our various publishing projects don’t exist in separate spheres, the author who struggled to locate a fax machine went to a concert in Dublin a few days later, got to talking with some friends, and found that they are coming to Great Barrington in March to work with us on a new China project.

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