Low-Tech Pleasure and Pain

Pretty much all of the tools and information I need to function in my personal and professional life are on my computer or the Internet. But I have a low-tech habit I need to kick.

I’m still clinging to the little red leather address book in my purse and finding stray business cards in the most unlikely places (or not finding them at all when I need them). This is starting to drive me crazy, a good sign that I need to take the plunge and find a good way to organize contacts on my computer. I don’t know why I’ve resisted this long.

This is one last low-tech vestige of my workflow that slows me down some, but the pleasure I derive from it more than makes up for for the slight loss of productivity.

When I was in grad school learning how to be a translator in the mid-90s, I pictured my future self flipping through fat, heavy dictionaries, translating in blissful silence and solitude, and occasionally doing research in libraries. But it didn’t quite work out that way. Before I started working on my thesis in 1998, I was pretty much an Amazon-only kind of Internet user. When I suddenly had to understand the microbiology of milk for my thesis, I became the real thing.

I honestly have no idea how translators functioned before the Internet. You often need to rapidly assimilate terminology and concepts that are specific to industries you might have little or no knowledge of. I’ve had to achieve a working understanding of anything from coal-fired power plants to textile manufacturing to GPS systems in cars. Keeps things interesting, to say the least.

In addition to doing all of my research online, I also use online dictionaries and specialized glossaries. But my low-tech weakness is that I still love to use my old, hardback dictionaries. My partner, a completely paperless translator, makes fun of me, but I can’t help it. It’s a sensual thing. I love the weight of dictionaries, the feel of that delicate paper, the sounds of the pages turning and flipping and slapping, the way they smell… I won’t give them up.

In your work and life, what are your low-tech pleasures and pains and why have you stuck with them?

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