Letter: A revolution which remains out of reach of the masses

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The Independent Online
Our "Cultural Revolution" feature (Review, 29 September) gave me a distinct feeling of deja vu. My bookshelves are groaning under the weight of books such as Future Shock by Alvin Toffler and Profiles of the Future by Arthur C Clarke. Reinforced by 20 years of Tomorrow's World, these have led me to believe that very little which is really revolutionary actually percolates down to ordinary people and, if it does, there is a long time lag. (Yes, I remember CDs on Tomorrow's World, but I also remember Betamax. Where is that now?)

The frontiers of technology are always many steps away from actual usage. It became possible for people to go to the moon and back in 1969 but this did not mean that I could go to the moon. If I had the money I could fly on Concorde, or buy a computer. As it is, being unemployed, I have to make do with a prehistoric typewriter. Am I part of a new info-tech underclass?

Recent developments show that there is a sort of cultural drag holding back the adoption of high technology. The multi-national conglomerates have spectacularly failed to agree on a new standard for a digital video disc. Ideally, the technologists would have us all change overnight, but what are people to do with their suddenly out-of-date videotapes and recorders - throw them out after working so hard to buy them? The clockwork radio is another case in point - a medieval technology solving people's problems on the eve of the third millennium.

I remain to be convinced about the imminence of the revolution your feature espouses. I am sending this letter by fax, a new technology your writers would no doubt approve of, except that it produces two sheets of paper instead of the one a snail mail letter would produce.

Peter Stockill

Middlesbrough, Cleveland