A Greek messenger runs through a Greek countryside with an important message. After a grueling twenty-six miles he finds the Athenian leaders and delivers his report: victory at Marathon! The Chief Athenian glances at his fax machine and says to the runner, “We heard already!”
This was a 1970s commercial on TV when I was a youth. It was my first clue that communications were speeding up.
In 1988, I handwrote a letter to the CBC radio show Morningside, put it in an envelope, addressed it, stamped it, and dropped it in a mail box. About a month later I began hearing from friends and family that the host, Peter Gzowski, had read my letter on air.
Gzowski always prefaced his listener letters with a brief review of what the show had been about. It had, after all, been several weeks since the topic had aired. That’s how long it would take letters to arrive at the Morningside offices and be processed. My letter to Morningside was all about wonderful new things happening in the world of the telephone in the 80s. But in those days, the speed of written communication could be counted in days.
Then it sped up. I got an inkling of that increased speed while listening to Morningside a couple of years after I had sent my slow-moving letter by post. That day, Gzowski introduced a listener letter by saying that it had arrived by e-mail (he emphasized the strange new word) from somewhere in Canada. He said the letter had been sent seven minutes ago.
“That’s amazing!” I thought.
“That’s amazing!” said Gzowski.
But when it came to the speed of written communication, I can see that none of us — not me, not Gzowski, not anyone — had seen anything yet.
Back in the Greek countryside, the Chief Athenian glances at his BlackBerry and says to the fax machine operator, “We heard already!”