Thursday, 10 September 2009

Sustainable technology

It has been said, although I can't remember by whom, that renaissance man (and presumably woman) understood his world completely. And although I can't help thinking it something of an exaggeration there is no doubt that it was far truer then than now. Since the industrial revolution we have become increasingly specialised creatures, a point brought home to me whenever a piece of hi-tech equipment fails. The most recent instance was the failure of my computer's motherboard. I imagine the 15th century equivalent was having a quill snap; easily remedied, either by oneself or by someone to whom you could explain the problem. I am no stranger to computers but, beyond the fact that mine didn't work, I didn't even know what the problem was.

When a piece of hi-tech gear stops working the first question is whether or not it is cost-effective to effect a repair and this often requires the opinion of a specialist. Often the parts are too expensive to replace or the item itself has become obsolete. In theory it can be recycled by poorly paid workers risking their health in the developing world but in practice it usually ends up as landfill.

So it was with no little joy that I read of some 15th century church bells in Suffolk being re-mounted and rung again for the first time in 25 years. I may even make a pilgrimage to hear them. They are testament to the enduring nature of acoustic instruments. I still play a soprano saxophone that is close to a hundred years old. Somehow I doubt either the software or hardware I use now will be anything like as long lived. Even if it survives it is unlikely to be considered fit for purpose. The life-span of electronic instruments is short, regardless of how well they are looked after. Something worth bearing in mind when deciding how to spend the departmental budget.

No comments:

Post a Comment