Commentaries

Dead as a Dodo? Maybe Not.

By Penelope Hillemann on April 15, 2013

I’ve read a couple of articles recently about cloning technology that may allow scientists to restore extinct species by using the DNA of well-preserved specimens – not Jurassic dinosaurs, but perhaps the passenger pigeon and other species that expired relatively recently.

It got me thinking. What endangered or extinct methods of communication might we bring back, if we could?

How about the town crier? As the primary means of conveying official proclamations and other important announcements in medieval times, the specially attired crier used to go about ringing a bell and calling, “Oyez, Oyez!” for attention before delivering the news and moving on to the next gathering spot. I guess today’s equivalent is having a “breaking news” alert on your smartphone. It’s just not the same.

Or perhaps the hand-penned letter on formal stationery, elegantly written in copperplate script with a quill or fountain pen? In pre-telephonic times, the post was delivered twice a day to homes and up to four times a day for businesses. Today, receiving a personal letter is an increasingly rare pleasure, and Saturday delivery is soon to become a thing of the past.

Or what about the party line on early telephone systems? Anywhere from two to dozens of families shared the same telephone line, creating entertaining gossip potential from the common practice of eavesdropping on one another’s conversations. Operators developed different ring patterns to signal which household the incoming call was for – kind of like today’s ringtones, though they didn’t get to use “Sweet Home Alabama” or the theme from “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”

Time marches on, and the slogan used to be, “Extinction is forever.” But maybe forever isn’t as definitive as it used to be. The possibilities are intriguing.

About Penny

Penny joined Neuger Communications Group in 2004 and advises a wide variety of organizations, from healthcare and higher education to nonprofits and consumer cooperatives. She especially enjoys exploring the essence of a client’s business or area of advocacy to guide development of a new name, brand, graphic identity, website or communications campaign. An avid birder, she has been known to exclaim in mid-meeting about an eagle or heron she has spotted flying by. Read More »

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