I’d expect that headline needs an explanation.
When I we’re but a lad, every school English course came via an anthology. We didn’t get far without Robert Southey’s The Old Man’s Comforts and How He Gained Them:
“You are old, father William,” the young man cried,
“The few locks which are left you are grey;
You are hale, father William, a hearty old man;
Now tell me the reason, I pray.”
That’s from 1799; and by mid-Victorian times (1865 to be precise) an Oxford don felt it ripe for parody:
“You are old, Father William,” the young man said,
“And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head –
Do you think, at your age, it is right?”
Which I’d guess is the version better known — if recognised at all — today.
All of which is provoked by:
- the revelation that the US military uses archaic 8-inch floppy disks to coordinate nuclear force operations;
And I’m shouting: why — for Heaven’s sake — not?
I still have the tools my father made as an apprentice locomotive fitter at LMS Sheffield Brightside. A ball-pein hammer is a hammer. A spanner (albeit imperial, not metric) is a spanner.
My English-Greek Lexicon, by Charles Duke Yonge, although now reduced to very infrequent use, is a battered first edition from 1849. In these degenerate modern times it is available on-line. My English-Latin dictionary, by Smith and Hall, is the 1870 edition — and it’s still in print.
When I was teaching a Shakespeare text, I always found the khaki-green (or failing that, the red reprinted) Warwick editions as good a vade-mecum as any. And they go back to the turn of the Nineteenth Century.
I’m preparing this post on a 2011 Mac: my grandsons regard it as antique. Young fools! They forget the anecdote of the Mac SE from the late 1980s, which a Cambridge lab had been recycling as a door-stop. Then someone, out of interest, plugged it in, switched it on … and bong!
Similarly, when we moved house three years ago, I had to clear the attic. The BBC Micro B (circa 1982) would still play Snapper and Hopper on the metal-box of a 12-inch monitor — so well that it took me three days to switch it off. That is, once I had found an equally-obsolete tape deck from which to load the games. The pizza-box LCII from 1992, with a 68030 chip and a massive 4MB RAM, went on-line, no bother. But s-l-o-w.
A couple of weekends ago, I was at MOSI, Manchester’s Museum of Science and Technology. When the Apocalypse comes, we’ll be heading there for durable, low-tech equipment to re-start our society.
So, in these parts, we don’t go along with Ecclesiastes 12:1-6:
Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;
While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:
In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,
And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low;
Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:
Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.
No: because I know Dear Old Dad’s battered hammer, with its chipped hickory handle, nails a wheel broken at the cistern as well as any.