Notebooks in the Attic
by Steve Leveen
Obsolescence is overrated.
When an old technology is eclipsed by a shiny new rival, the old technology, after some years, will often emerge again, in a romantic crescent of its former self. And how sweet its second light can be.
When electric light made gaslight and candles obsolete, it did so profoundly. But after some decades, gaslight came back—in streetlights twinkling along certain brick streets, and in carriage lights in front of occasional homes. And what home doesn’t have candles? How better to see, when we allow our hearts to guide us, than by candlelight?
Up in the attic
Before they can reemerge, however, old technologies must first enter what I call their Attic Period. That’s when we hastily put them out of sight as we rush headlong into the infatuation stage with our new lovers. After some time, when infatuation evolves into habituation, a seeming accident happens. Somebody goes up to the attic, sees something intriguing in a dim corner, blows off the dust, and smiles.
Often it’s younger people who make the rediscovery. Since they grew up with, and therefore take for granted, the technologies that amazed their elders, their fresh eyes see the old as new. When they add their youthful touch, the old is transformed. Old becomes old school, or vintage or retro, or classic or heirloom or heritage. When these young people proudly show off their new discovery, it can bring a winsome smile to an elder’s face.
Today, thanks to laptops and digital tablets, paper notebooks are already in their Attic Period. I would be more worried if I didn’t understand it was inevitable, and if I didn’t realize that rediscovery is also inevitable.
What’s more, I’m smiling as I write this because I know what the technology cycles can’t: we at Levenger are up in the attic right now with those notebooks—and we’re already designing a stunning renaissance.