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Weaving my way through digital age

When music came out on compact discs in the late 1980s, most of us began getting rid of our vinyl records, or putting them in closets and attics.

The vanguard of the digital age had arrived and nothing would be the same again.

About the same time, the first crude home computers were coming on the market, along with something called e-mail.

Ultimately, this gave rise to social networking over the Internet, all of which makes the early part of the lives of anyone born before, let’s say, 1965 — the good-old analogue days — seem quaint indeed.

For the younger folks, all this digital stuff is intuitive. For codgers like me, we can get it, too, but it’s more of a struggle.

So, how much has it changed our lives? Totally.

As I was writing this column Saturday morning on my Bradenton Herald-provided Dell Optiplex 755 computer, I received an e-mail providing the latest update on Haitian relief efforts by Out-of-Door Academy students. I posted this bit of this information to breaking news at bradenton.com, and also to my blog, and also added a link to a video of that good work that we had produced earlier this week.

Simultaneously, photojournalist Tiffany Tompkins-Condie called on her cell phone to say a really exquisite yacht had beached itself on a sandbar in Longboat Pass. She directed me to a Web site online, where I found photos of a magnificent floating palace worthy of an oil prince. We posted that news tidbit to breaking news. So a tip Tiffany received from a good source is quickly converted to digital information and goes out on the World Wide Web. It’s mind-blowing, when you think about it.

And it’s all so different than when I entered the business and we were typing our stories on manual typewriters. No spell check, no memory, no nothing.

But you know what? I like this new technology. I like the computers and how they make possible instant communication around the world. And I like the bells and whistles that come along with them. I like the audio assets we can record ourselves at a news assignment and attach to the story that someone reads online.

We can do videos, too, but they are a little more complicated. It takes me four hours to bend a video from an HD camcorder into a usable bit of news footage, work I’m sure that any 10-year-old could do in, say, 10 or 20 minutes. But I’ll get there.

At home, I’ve acquired a new turntable that allows me to download my old vinyl albums into my computer, and then upload them into my iPod. I’ve rediscovered old friends in those boxes of vinyl. My air guitar on the Jimi Hendrix classic, “Manic Depression,” is something to behold.

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