Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Another Lost Form Of Communication

One of the frequent threads of this blog has revolved around the dying art of commercial radio. That only makes sense, considering it has been my career for my entire life. However, in recent days, I have been reminded of another dead form of communication. And while radio has at least a statistical chance of resurrection, this form is already pushing daisies.

I'm speaking, of course, of the memorandum. Like radio, the written memo has been been killed off by technology - in this case, the e-mail. I'm not exactly mourning the loss of the memo or the mundane business letter... it's probably not worth mourning over. And just think about how much space has been saved in filing cabinets!

A few days ago, my college choir director sent me a big box of stuff that he had squirrelled away from his years at Syracuse, including many pieces of correspondence documenting the humdrum business of running a college choir. I've been busy adding some of this material to my choir alumni site.

The letters themselves were at once, both unremarkable and fascinating. There was definitely a certain elegance and formality that no longer exists in email. Memos, for example, were typed on dedicated Memo paper...

The paper itself was more formal... heavier and more textured than the common paper we all use in printers today. Some of it was printed with the manufacturer's watermark, with elaborate letterheads on top and bottom. And on this paper, in many cases, was completely mundane information. Can you imagine, in 2008, writing and mailing a formal letter to confirm a date for an appointment?

And with the death of the written letter, there is the corresponding death of the practiced signature, written with panache by a fine ink pen.

One other thing that's not really gone... It lives on in spirit through letters from insurance companies and whatnot - the form letter. However - even most form letters today are done on word processors, leaving out the massive gaps of old typewritten notes:

With email taking over the world, is it any wonder that the U.S. Postal Service is reporting record losses? According to the Washington Post, the USPS is in danger of folding altogether...

Just like the memo.

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