I wrote a quick thing about Larry Tesler, inventor of the cut/copy and paste computer commands with which anyone who does any sort of typing on a computer will no doubt be intimately acquainted. Sadly, Larry died last Sunday.
It should have been longer but it’s half-term week, and February’s been another month of thinking more about writing than actually doing it.
I tried something a bit different here: to not include every name, place and date, but to focus on the thread I found most interesting.
I tend to fall down in trying to capture every facet and every nuance of a story. This made writing for Ars particularly unproductive, especially when it came to writing about breakthroughs with solar panels. Each time I’d remind myself of the atomic physics going on inside photovoltaic solar panels when they generate electricity. I’m not a physicist, so that took time.
When I glibly type that I’m not really a journalist, I’m not trying to absolve myself of journalistic responsibility. I’m coming to realise that, even since starting this blog, and some of the creative stuff I felt ready to dive into has fallen away, that, at the moment at least, true stories seem to be what I’m interested in writing about. Obviously the true bit of that is as important as ever.
But lately, I’m more interested in the story bit. That sounds obvious, but when you’re doing straightforward news reporting, you don’t need really need a narrative. You can usually build a structure with the inverted pyramid.
But I’m less and less interested in news. You’ve heard all about the evils of rolling, 24-hour news and news on social media. I used to think technology and science news was a little outside of that, and I probably still do. But I think the equally-relentless stream of science and technology news comes with its own problems.
With science especially, it gives a distorted sense of progress. Much of what I’ve written about in the lab hasn’t made it out into the world, or if it has, it’s done so relatively unnoticed. In focusing always on the new, we’re missing the really interesting bit of what’s happening in the world.
And with technology news, more than ever, I hold the view that not very much of it fucking matters.
I’m a very minor science and technology writer by any description, but perhaps if I can do something it’s to try to find more of those stories about how science and technology is actually shaping the world, regardless of the newness of it. And when I can’t find those, history is full of fascinating under-told tales. I’m getting a hoot out of those lately too.