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By Staff | Dec 2, 2010

It is interesting when the old ways meet the new innovations. Usually, the old way is improved and everyone adopts the new improved method of doing something we have always done before.

Bought any film for your camera lately?

It would be hard to find a field operation that is not partially controlled or measured by a computer and satellite.

Yield monitors were found in combines and have since improved to be spray monitors. Auto steer started with planting and is becoming commonplace in any field operation.

We are moving towards the complete automation of field work that will allow us to work in complete darkness someday. If field conditions are good at midnight, there will be nothing to stop us from starting then instead of waiting for daylight.

All this has happened in a relatively short time span of 15 years or less. What will the next 15 years bring? I could guess, but I am afraid of being too short sighted in my prediction.

My dad died 11 years ago and if he could see what has been accomplished since then, he would be surprised. He saw the change from horses to tractors and then the next improvements on a tractor, higher horsepower and comfortable cabs.

My uncle died in 1998 at age 83 believing that computers were a fad.

I see one area that has not resolved itself yet about how the past will meet the future in a way that everyone finds acceptable. That area is the printing business and everything involved with printing.

Some parts of printing have made the transition. Most forms I use are available online and all I have to do is make sure there is ink and paper in my printer and I can have any form I need in a matter of seconds any time of day.

Think about what that has done to any business or government agency that relies on paper work. Forms do not need to be printed in advance and stored. Forms are printed as needed, when needed. They can be easily revised or updated.

It is in the newspaper business where I see there are things evolving with some things yet to be worked out. Part of the problem is generational.

My generation of baby boomers tends to prefer a paper, something to feel between the finger tips as we scan across the page for anything of interest.

I see my children’s generation preferring the computer screen and they are very at ease with it. They are ready to drop newsprint as easily as they gave up cassette tapes for compact discs.

There is a bigger problem for the newspaper industry in how to charge for news content. Nobody wants to give anything of value away, especially if they have had to pay to get it.

Readers want content, as much of it for free as possible. Advertisers want to be read and are willing to pay for the chance of appearing on a page that can be viewed by as many people as possible anytime, anywhere.

How will this work its way out? What will be the final form (at least for awhile) a newspaper will take?

The days of newsprint are numbered. When my generation of baby boomers is gone, newsprint will be gone.

Newsprint’s replacement will (probably) be in the form of a small screen you can carry in your pocket, instantly available and updated with current events just as quickly.

There will be a similar version available on a larger screen you will see from your desk or the laptop or computerized tablet you keep not that far away.

The final details are still being worked out as publishers decide how much to give away to keep readers coming back and how to start charging for content because this news business does not run itself nor does it work for free.

Somewhere between the totally free online version and the “you have to buy a subscription before you can read it” of the past is the answer that is not here yet but is getting closer all the time.

Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net.

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