Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Skype's the limit

John and Carla Skype I had my first Skype conversation this evening, with my friend Carla. As she recently pointed out to me, we've had a particularly fascinating firsthand experience of seeing long-distance communications evolve over the years.

We met at summer camp when we were kids and have never lived in the same city, so since 1993 we've been managing to stay in touch by the best means available at the time. Back in '93, that meant writing (sometimes typing) and mailing letters, making 10-cents-a-minute long-distance phone calls and, in an act of creativity, sending physical cassette tapes through the mail so that we could chat and share recent music we'd either bought or composed. That was very time-consuming, but it has some great side effects -- I have a wonderful collection of letters from her over the course of about four or five years. Also there's something particularly special about receiving a handwritten letter because you know it took time and is just for you.

By around 1996, we were moving to America Online, and we started talking over IM, in chat rooms and by e-mail. Within a couple years we had cellphones. Then along came text messaging and the various social networks. We also each have a blog, so that's another way to stay in touch. These days we mostly IM and send messages through Facebook, although she's one of the very few friends I still regularly talk to on the phone.

And now there's Skype, which is easy to use. I like it but can see why, in this multitasking culture, it isn't ubiquitous, since it requires dedicated, uninterrupted attention (unlike text messaging or chatting on Facebook, where you can do a couple things at once and kind of come and go). That said, there's really no substitute for seeing the person you're talking to. And because laptops are portable, we even got to give each other mini tours of our apartments. Pretty cool.

Hard to imagine where technology can go next. I assume we will soon be hanging out in hologram form in each other's living rooms. I mean, why not?

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