The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

January 6, 2013

Some of us enjoy the ‘old world’


Sometimes, I feel like the village horseshoer, watching the first Model T Fords roll into town.

I’m a print-on-paper guy … always have been. I love real newspapers, real magazines, real books … even real typewriters. I have a printing press, and metal type, and ink, and I know how to use them.

To me, heaven is spending a winter afternoon in a public library … stumbling into books I never knew existed, taking them to a quiet table and learning exciting new things.

But the world’s a-changing.

For instance, my nephew got a Kindle Fire HD for Christmas. It’s a little, wireless viewing screen that does everything but shine your shoes. With it, you can read more than 1.2 million books and magazines. You can read the pages on the screen, of course, or you can have all the words read to you. If you don’t know a word, just touch the word, and a definition appears.

With the Kindle Fire, you can send and receive email, do research on the Internet, post photos, share photos and take photos. You can watch TV or a movie; with another touch of the button, the Kindle will tell you which actor is in a given scene, and what other movies he has appeared in. You can view maps, check the weather, find a drug store close to you, and play thousands of games. You can use Facebook and Twitter, of course. That’s all I remember, but I’m probably only scratching the surface.

It’s all miraculous to me, and a little unsettling.

Call me backward, call me old-fashioned, call me a Luddite, but I still like to watch movies in movie theaters. We still have two newspaper subscriptions, and we get several magazines. I go to the library and check books out. I have hundreds of books of my own, and I’m always in the market for more. I have no desire to start reading books on computer screens — I stare at enough computer screens as it is.

This all reminds me of something written in 1863 by William Makepeace Thackeray, in “The Roundabout Papers.” It shows that there’s nothing new under the sun. He wrote:

“We who have lived before railways belong to another world … it was only yesterday, but what a gulf between now and then! Then was the old world. Stage coaches, more or less swift; riding horses, pack horses, highwaymen, knights in armor, Norman invaders, Roman legions, Druids, ancient Britons painted blue, and so forth — all these belong to the old period.

“But your railroad starts the new era, and we of a certain age belong to the new time and the old one. We who lived before railways, and survive out of the ancient world are like Father Noah and his family out of the Ark.”

After seeing my nephew’s Kindle demonstration, my wife asked me if I would like a Kindle, too.

No thanks. Model Ts are fine, but I still like horses.

Danville native Kevin Cullen is a former Commercial-News reporter. Reach him at