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Serving: Central
ron-smith-40-year-commentary.jpg Ron Smith
Technology has changed a lot over the last 70 years.

I grew up working for Farm Press, almost

For more than half of seven decades, I have worked for Farm Press Publications.

A few weeks back I hit a milestone, my 70th birthday.

Funny, in my head I still think I’m about 35. Unfortunately, my joints, digestion and eyesight tell a different story. Pat has another version — most days I’m about 12.

Be that as it may, the occasion prompted a bit of reflection. For instance, for more than half of those seven decades, I have worked for Farm Press Publications.

I mentioned a few weeks back that my first day on the job was June 19, 1978. I could not have imagined back then that more than 40 years later I would still be driving country roads across the South looking for farmers willing to tell me their stories. And I could not have predicted how much I would enjoy those farm visits and how many friends I would make in the process. I’ve told folks more than a few times that just about every time I visit a farm I leave with a new friend.

I also could not have guessed that the twin lens “box” camera and the Smith Corona typewriter I was using would be replaced by a camera that needs no film and a computer that needs no whiteout to correct my many mistakes.

Who could have predicted that the weekly trips — every Friday before 5 p.m. — to the Post Office to mail photos and articles to Clarksdale, Miss., would be replaced by a click of an electronic button and near instant transmission?

I could not have known that the collection of maps I kept in my glove compartment (Georgia, Alabama, South and North Carolina, Virginia and Kentucky) would give way to a small device on my dashboard that talks to me in a sultry, female voice with a British accent informing me of best routes to take. Sometimes she’s wrong, I’ve noticed, but I did not always follow map directions to the letter either. I’ve been lost a lot. And I still consult paper maps occasionally to get a better overview of my proposed routes.

I also could not have imagined that I would get directions from my phone, which also serves as a handy encyclopedia, a camera and a music box.

The idea of a tractor that steers itself across a field would have been preposterous back in 1978, if I had even pondered the possibility of such a thing. Back then, I was still seeing a lot of tractors without cabs, and farm equipment with onboard air conditioning and computer technology seemed something out of a Buck Rogers comic book.

I’ve worked in ag journalism since 1976, first as an editor with the ag college at Clemson University. I was 28 when I signed on with Southeast Farm Press. I grew up here, I guess, or as grown up as I ever will be.

TAGS: Technology
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