High tech, low tech arsenal
By Lindsay Slogrove
It can be a curse, but without technology we’d have millions more dead people.
We’d probably still be waiting for the Covid virus to be identified and genetically understood.
Last week, our newspapers migrated to a new digital production system. Stories were “lost”, cuss words were numerous and frustrations nearly boiled over. Okay, sometimes did, in a polite-ish, bite-your-tongue manner. And sometimes in a “my fok, Marelise” tone of exasperation and despair. (Remember Marelise? The young woman who cycled into a rugby post while her mom recorded the crash and her expression of bewilderment. The recording was posted on social media, went viral and the phrase earned its lasting place in Saffer-speak.)
Teams across the country trouble-shot their way to putting their “babies” to bed with hot communication via WhatsApp and e-mail.
Being of a certain age, the new technology stirred some memories and what-ifs.
Back in the day, on the weekly community publication that nurtured my love affair with news and newspapers, we did everything on paper and with our hands.
Slicing (those NT cutters were lethal) the pages of type that came from the typesetter into strips that made up the columns in the newspaper. The smell of the hot wax used to stick the type onto a page; that blue developer that readied the plates for print and stuck in the grooves of your fingernails for days.
That’s how most people got their news in the 80s, or the big dailies or Sunday newspapers.
TV was sort of around, but it was SABC, whose state-run agenda was not the most trusted source.
No one had a computer unless it was a Commodore for games. No one imagined a cellphone, let alone a smart phone.
So what if Covid had struck back then?
Even with today’s network of media, social and other, the world was slow to understand what was happening. There have been reports (not verified by this home desk) that people in Italy may have had the virus as early as September last year. With the same caveat, many suspect China may have known there was a problem much earlier than they let on.
In the olden days, information about the spread could have taken many months to reach health authorities. Then, there would have been a slower scientific ability to understand what it was and to engage with each other.
Italy was the first country outside China to have to deal with mass infection and death and no one knew what they were really dealing with and how to treat patients. Thousands of people, including medical workers, died in that first wave.
The global scientific community used technology to step in quickly, developing and distributing a growing body of information about the disease and how to try to combat it.
Now, in the fastest time in history, science has produced at least two vaccines.
But we still have huge challenges ahead of us because Covid isn’t letting up and we still have to wait for a vaccine to get in our arms. It’s not going to be next week.
Until we can take advantage of this extraordinary technological breakthrough, this is a reminder of low-tech weapons in our arsenal: wear a mask, wash your hands and keep your distance. Please.
The Independent on Saturday