The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

“Technology gets better every day, and that’s fine, but most of the time all you need is a stick of gum, a pocket knife, and a smile.”—Nathan Muir (Robert Redford), Spy Game   With just about 20 years of experience in STM publishing, some would say I’m still somewhat new to the industry. I fell into the business in the late 1990s, at age 27, having had 15 previous jobs completely unrelated to publishing (with an M.A. in Philosophy and Religion, I had a number of minimum-wage warehouse jobs). However, I’ve now been around long enough to have seen major advances in technology that have drastically changed the logistics and parameters of the STM publishing process. In spite of those world-altering developments, though, I’ve also noticed that many aspects of the job haven’t changed at all. When I greet new colleagues who have been hired just after graduating from college, I often astonish them when I mention that during my first year with the company, I didn’t use a computer at all. Their stunned reactions seem to pose the question: “How did you manage to do anything?” For these employees who were born after the Internet was reasonably prevalent in American households, it’s difficult to imagine that my desk featured pencils, markers, various stamps and ink pads, Wite-Out, piles of paper, and multiple lamps bent low over slanted wooden boards. What my desk did not feature was a keyboard or monitor. These days, of course, my workplace looks completely different. […]

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