Sunday, March 04, 2007

Unfashionable is the New Fashionable

El País of Spain reports that sales of train-sets in the United States have risen 40% in the last two years, according to one of America's largest train-set manufacturers, Lionel.

Is this surprising? Not really. Conservatives have been predicting the end of the printed book since the advent of the Internet, and it hasn't happened yet; most famously and laughably, the vaunted "paperless office," which first saw mainstream exposure in the 1970's, seems as far away from us as ever - perhaps more so; the wide availability of programs like Word and OpenOffice, and the amount of information on the Internet, mean that we may well be printing more "casual" material than ever before. (Although arguably, we might be much further along the road to the paperless office now if Xerox had been able to capitalize on its inventions at PARC instead of becoming known for "inventing good ideas for everyone else".)

Perhaps most notably, the Internet has enabled hobbies which at one time would have seemed on the level of "trainspotting" to most people, to gain notoriety and new fans. It's interesting, also, that these interests tend to converge: I recently subscribed to a conlang mailinglist - devoted to discussion of languages invented for international communication, like Esperanto; testing the expression of logic or language universals, like Lojban; or for pure pleasure, like Tolkien's Quenya and Sindarin. Imagine my surprise, then, when one of the (female!) members of the list mentioned that she found a notebook unsuitable for writing down conlang ideas, and would much prefer a practical, Linux-based PDA solution for those odd moments when she's away from her desk and has a brainwave.

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