I survived the Warsaw ghetto

Do not ever imagine that your world cannot collapse, as ours did. This may seem the most obvious lesson to be passed down, but only because it is the most important. One moment I was enjoying an idyllic adolescence in my home city of Lodz, and the next we were on the run. I would only return to my empty home five years later, no longer a carefree boy but a Holocaust survivor and Home Army veteran living in fear of Stalin’s secret police, the NKVD. I ended up moving to what was then the British mandate of Palestine, fighting in a war of independence for a Jewish homeland I didn’t even know I had.

Perhaps it is because I was only a child that I did not notice the storm clouds that were gathering, but I believe that many who were older and wiser than me at that time also shared my childlike state.

If disaster comes, you will find that all the myths you once cherished are of no use to you. You will see what it is like to live in a society where morality has collapsed, causing all your assumptions and prejudices to crumble before your eyes. And after it’s all over, you will watch as, slowly but surely, these harshest of lessons are forgotten as the witnesses pass on and new myths take their place.

Stanisław Aronson, 93 years old, writing in The Guardian 

Tech history is poorly documented and poorly understood

It’s often near impossible to know why certain technologies flourished, or what happened to the ones that didn’t. While we’re still early enough in the computing revolution that many of its pioneers are still alive and working to create technology today, it’s common to find that tech history as recent as a few years ago has already been erased. Why did your favorite app succeed when others didn’t? What failed attempts were made to create such apps before? What problems did those apps encounter — or what problems did they cause? Which creators or innovators got erased from the stories when we created the myths around today’s biggest tech titans?

All of those questions get glossed over, silenced, or sometimes deliberately answered incorrectly, in favor of building a story of sleek, seamless, inevitable progress in the tech world. Now, that’s hardly unique to technology — nearly every industry can point to similar issues. But that ahistorical view of the tech world can have serious consequences when today’s tech creators are unable to learn from those who came before them, even if they want to.

Anil Dash writing in Medium

The Victorian Internet

Tom Standage writes in his book The Victorian Internet, “That the telegraph was so widely seen as a panacea is perhaps understandable. The fact that we are still making the same mistake today is less so. The irony is that even though it failed to live up to the utopian claims made by about it, the telegraph really did transform the world.”

The Internet, like the telegraph, offers tremendous potential for altering the world in a positive way. But we would be wise to temper our enthusiasm.

As Standage suggests, “Better communication does not necessarily lead to a wider understanding of other points of view: the potential of new technologies to change things for the better is invariably overstated, while the ways in which they will make things worse are usually unforeseen.”

Stephen Goforth

The multitude Books is a great evil!

Flash back to the year 1455. German Johannes Gutenberg prints his first book, the Latin Vulgate Bible. As Gutenberg’s press reaches across Europe, the Bible is translated into local languages. Poorly-produced copies of the Bible and mediocre literature soon thrive, leading to claims that the printing press must be controlled to avoid chaos and loss of intellectual life. Martin Luther complains, “The multitude of books is a great evil. There is no measure of limit to this fever for writing.” 

Comparisons are being made between the effects of the printing press to the advent of the internet.

Stephen Goforth

 

What Sarah Hale Did for You

In 1621, famous pilgrim William Bradford proclaimed a day of feasting to commemorate the first harvest after a long year of suffering. That became America's first Thanksgiving Day. But as the colonies grew prosperous, the people forgot all about Thanksgiving and the meaning it held for their ancestors. The holiday was revived for a time under George Washington, but general interested in it dropped steadily. Finally, it was observed in only a few communities and that was sporadic because there was no set date.

Then, a determined woman named Sara Hale appeared on the scene. She was a young widow from New Hampshire. In 1822, she found herself with five children to support. She turned to literature and became the editor of a woman's magazine. Like most editors, Sarah was a crusader. It was her belief that the government should make Thanksgiving a national holiday. She pounded away at her idea for years. Three presidents turned her down. But the fourth finally agreed with her. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of every November as our national day of Thanksgiving.

Now, you probably never knew that Sarah Hale did that for you. Her fame rests more on the ditty she wrote in 1830. We’ll never forget her for that simple poem that begins, “Mary had a little lamb…”

George Stayed Home

George was 14. Adventurous, boisterous, independent and a little bit rebellious. You know, 14. He was a British subject and proud of it. And why not? His family had been loyal to the English throne for more than 600 years. It was during the summer of his 14th year that a British man-o-war anchored in the Potomac river, near his home. The sight of that giant war vessel with the billowing union jack flying in the breeze stirred the adventurous young heart of patriotic George. He decided to join up in the British Navy and fight for England. It didn’t take long for him to get ready to go. George slipped out of the house after his parents were asleep. He had his sea chest on board and his was ready to sail in the early morning. He could hardly wait. Then, George’s distraught mother, a very aggressive woman, tracked him to the ship, hurried on board, and grabbed him by the collar. She ordered him to secure his sea chest and get back home where he belonged. George did. And that’s only a trifle, but it changed the history books. You see, if George had sailed on that ship, he might have become a British admiral, blocking shipping from the American Revolution. Instead, he stayed home and became the father of his country.

The Right Man for the Job

His writing talents were never in doubt. Certainly not after he authored a well-written pamphlet called A Summary View of the Rights of British America. However, the tall red-headed, Virginian was so quiet during debates that some questioned his strength. The real power of that critically important Congress of 1776 was John Adams of Massachusetts. His bull-necked honesty and enthusiastic zeal made him a power center in that legislative body. It was natural that Adams be a principal choice to prepare the key policy paper on the future of the 13 colonies. Three others joined him to form a committee: Ben Franklin, a Connecticut merchant and a New York lawyer. Another man was added to give place to the importance of Virginia. When the committee met to do its work, it was naturally expected that John Adams would be the primary architect of the writing. But Adam suggested instead that the quiet Virginian draw up the first draft for the committee’s consideration. “I’m too obnoxious,” he said. So, almost by accident, the new man had the job. “I turned to neither book nor pamphlet while writing,” he said. He first draft was received without change by the committee and approve later by the entire Congress. Written almost by chance but just the right man, Thomas Jefferson. The document - the Declaration of Independence.