Rundles wrap up: Pondering passages

When it comes to things to ponder – and I am an inveterate ponderer – the passing of eras interests me greatly, probably because I have lived long enough to see many of them pass. I’ve seen a few of them come along, too, and then pass. For instance, my office in the early 1980s was one of the first in Denver to get a fax machine, and we went to great lengths to seek out the other two or three possessors of this blazing technology; we mostly sent each other jokes and quotes just to see how the machines worked. Then for about 15 to 18 years we had to get a newer, faster, plain-paper fax machine every year to keep up with the demand. I recently saw one of these marvels on a shelf in my basement, right next to a classic Underwood manual typewriter I once used to bang out articles, both covered with several layers of what struck me as sad dust.

The pondering came this time when I saw a recent newspaper article (talk about the passing of an era!) about the pending liquidation and closing of Wolf Camera stores, seven in Colorado among some 137 nationwide owned by Ritz Camera & Image. Eleven years ago there were 23 Wolf Camera locations in Denver and Colorado Springs, a then-impressive chain that came about with the 1998 purchase of Waxman Camera and Video, and then the subsequent sale, in 2001, to Ritz. Ritz was once the largest camera store chain in the country, and now it – and its nearly 2,000 employees – will soon be gone. I was going to say “gone and forgotten,” but apparently the “forgotten” part came first.

It’s no surprise, really. First, of course, hardly anyone buys or uses a camera anymore – digital or film – because everyone now takes and shares high-res photos instantly with, of all things, their cell phones. Just this week I have looked at wonderful photographs of grandchildren, vacations, new cars, and a whole host of things on my friends’ smart phones. In one instance some friends of mine shared their Italy photos via phone and email for a vacation they are still on. Not too long ago it would have been at least a week after they returned, took the film to the lab, and then we’d have to get together to take a look.

You could see the struggle going on at Wolf for some time, and it looked familiar. I haven’t been in one of the stores for a few years – no need – but the last time I was there I was carrying a Wolf Camera advertising slick from the newspaper so I could inquire about something in the ad that caught my eye.

The clerk – who identified himself, haughtily, as a photographic expert – informed me that the camera in question was “substandard” and tried to up-sell me aggressively. I had seen the same thing happen years before with the specialty computer shops that ruled the roost until the discount houses and the Internet priced them out. They went down screaming that “expertise” was more valuable than price, but they went down quickly nonetheless.

And then, like many, many other people, a few weeks ago I was terribly interested in the release of Apple’s iPhone 5, so I clicked into the press conference and looked up the quick reviews, and I heard many of my colleagues discussing the merits of the new device.

My takeaway from the proceedings, however, was from a comment made by one of the Apple presenters about the “Post-PC Era.” I do, of course, vividly remember the “Pre-PC” era, and I have been trying throughout the entire era to be, at least for one day, on the leading edge of the technology, to no avail. Now the PC is going the way of the camera and the fax machine, replaced by notebooks and pads and smart phones and clouds.

It’s the first I’ve heard of the term, so I Googled “Post-PC Era” – ironically on my PC – and discovered 53,700,000 results in 0.16 seconds which, I suppose, is proof-positive that I may be at the dawn of the “Post-Jeff Era.”

Now that is something to ponder.