This month I wanted to talk about the past and the future and how opposites are affecting the present. Not your basic hot rod talk for sure but there’s something to be taken to heart. If you’re involved in our hobby and plan on doing so for years to come you might just keep this “pressed between the pages of your mind.” I’m going to show you how hot rods, the publishing business, emerging technology, and your ability to learn have crossed paths; much like the horsepower and torque curve on a dyno sheet.
For starters, I was reading an online newspaper story about two Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) economists and their belief that rapid computer advances may be “vaporizing” careers faster than workers can be retrained for new careers. But how does this affect what we do in the magazine biz and how you get your hot rod fix?
For decades all of us grew up waiting for our mailman to deliver the latest issue of our favorite car rag. For the really old, the books were, well, “little pages” and fit neatly within our math and geography books, giving the illusion we were intently studying, which we were but not what the teacher had in mind. (Repeatedly Sister Mary Smack Your Knuckles busted me with a ruler and then would confiscate my favorite car mag, drawing, etc.)
Today we still wait for our favorite car magazine to be delivered to our mailbox. Modern publications now have a website, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter account. We are a “new media” company with print capabilities that bring the history of rodding to those wanting or having an insatiable appetite for all things street rod. Today your favorite magazine and its staff you have come to know are, or should be, versed in preparing stories for print, web, Facebook, videos for YouTube, and timely news items on Twitter.
Our industry, while often dealing with I-beams and IFS, split wishbones and four-bars, and tube or coilover shocks is deep into this emerging technology. Those of us attached to the keyboard who don’t embrace this technology are doomed to be one of those vaporized by the speed of technology.
Each member of the STREET RODDER staff is capable today of producing more magazine pages than in years past, resulting from the use of computers, digital cameras, and the Internet. The use of technology leads each of us to multitask by producing print pages as well as posts to Facebook and Tweets; all with the purpose of bringing more hot rod info to you.
But, there’s something else to be taken into consideration. While computers can perform tasks faster and faster (computer chips are doubling in power every 12-18 months) there’s one aspect that hasn’t changed since the pen was placed to paper creating the first written magazine article—creativity. The STREET RODDER office is filled with technologically advanced equipment. (Right now we have begun using Eye-Fi, which allows our photos to be wirelessly transferred from camera to iPhone, iPad, or computer, enabling us to post to Twitter, Facebook, or websites in real time.) I travel the shortest and longest distances with a laptop, iPhone, iPad, and several digital cameras, all designed to cooperate with Wi-Fi, VPN, iCloud, ready to move text via email and photos through FTP sites. Bucko, times have changed and today’s magazine guy is much more techno savvy than in years past but, again, something hasn’t changed and it’s his (or her) creative capability.
No matter how much we are saturated with cutting-edge and ever more powerful and productive technology, the fact remains those of us in the office still have to speak with you who live in your garage. Computers are expanding the staff’s productivity exponentially but computers still haven’t figured out what you would like to see and read. Creativity is still within the grasp of a greasy fingernail, reading-glass equipped hot rodder who sits behind a desk. Keep in touch but I must admit email is much better than “snail” mail and even the phone call; or follow my Twitter account. We are few in number (SR staff) and buried beneath the advantages of technology and there’s still only 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week. (Unless of course you figured out what the Beatles did and came away with “Eight Days a Week.”)
There are computers that can compete at world-class chess but the fact remains computers haven’t mastered the creative. Even the “geeks” admit computers aren’t very good at creative tasks, such as, “generating ideas or finding ways to apply lessons from one experience in a totally different context.” When it comes to blending an I-beam, a top loader, a set of wires and bias-ply, a roadster body with a V-8 (flathead or overhead), and applying several coats of elbow-deep black paint, you the reader must do that and we the magazine guys must report it. For the foreseeable future we scribes are safe in our employment but all of us should keep learning about the emerging new media and be prepared to gather and distribute our hot rod knowledge in many more ways than those who came before us.