God bless the inventor of the Internet

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How did we ever survive before the advent and proliferation of the Internet? Looking back now, it seems like living in the Stone Age. But surprisingly, life was fun then!

Some weeks ago, I visited The PUNCH premises to present the Most Trusted Newspaper award that I had received on behalf of the newspaper. I was present at the ceremony organised by BrandHealth in Lagos, and when the prize was announced, there was no representative from PUNCH Nigeria Limited. Being a columnist with The PUNCH, I was told to receive it on behalf of the media organisation.

When I visited the state-of-the-art office of the newspaper called PUNCH Place at the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Magboro, I met, for the first time, the Opinion-Editorial Page Editor, Joel Nwokeoma, who is in charge of my page, as well as the Editor, Martin Ayankola. The interesting thing is that in the past three years that I have been writing for The PUNCH, I had been communicating with him via phone, email, sms, online chat or BlackBerry chats.

Rewind to 25 years ago. After reading an article in a newspaper and I felt very strong about the article, either to disagree or to agree, I would pick up my pen and paper and start pouring my heart out. One such occasion was in 1989 when the then editor of the Weekend Concord and columnist, Mike Awoyinfa, wrote the satirical piece, “May Your Road be Rough” in honour of Dr. Tai Solarin for leading the anti-SAP riots over the rumour that the then military head of state, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, had millions of dollars stashed away in Swiss banks. As a boy waiting to get into the university that year, I enjoyed Awoyinfa’s scathing criticism of IBB and praise for Solarin, albeit he wrote tongue-in-cheek. But to my shock, the next weekend, many readers, including university students and graduates, wrote in to vent their anger on Awoyinfa for purportedly ingratiating himself to IBB and castigating the no-nonsense fighter for the people, Solarin! A full page was dedicated to these biting attacks on Awoyinfa with the headline: Mike Awoyinfa on the Cross. I was so indignant about this misunderstanding of the obvious satire that I wrote my first letter to the editor from my base in Nnewi, Anambra State.

What was the process of writing an article to a newspaper then? If there was a library in your vicinity, you would visit it to collect some information. If you had old newspapers, magazines as well as reference books, you would consult them and collect the necessary information. Then, you would pick up a pen and paper and start expressing yourself. Thereafter, you would take the manuscript to a typist who would type it and give you to proof-read. Then she would use a Tipp-Ex to correct the errors. After that, you would pay her and proceed to the post office. At the post office, you would buy stamps and an envelope, address the stamped envelope, seal it and drop it in the collection box.

Because I was posting from Nnewi, it could take about two weeks or more for the letter to get to Lagos. With great expectation, I bought a copy of Weekend Concord the following Saturday and searched for my letter. Sadly, it was not there. Maybe, my letter did not meet up with the editorial standard of the newspaper. Or maybe, it did not get to Lagos before production. But comfortingly, another page was dedicated to those who understood Awoyinfa’s article and came to his. They lambasted those who did not understand Awoyinfa’s article, especially those whose addresses and positions showed that they were learned.

At that period, from the newspaper’s side, after a reader had sent in a letter, the letters would be collected from the post office and from the organisation’s office mail box as well as the reception room – some readers would come to the office to drop their articles or letters. Then, these letters would be read to know those to select. The selected ones would then be given to another typesetter to retype.

When I came to Lagos and joined advertising, it was hard too to send materials to the media houses. Advert officers from media houses were usually phoned to come and pick up finished artworks and diskettes or zip drives. But if the artwork was late – as most artworks were – then someone had to go the media house to deliver it, sometimes as late as 10 pm.

Today, without stepping out of my room or office, I can do all the necessary research I need to do, type my story on the laptop or even a mobile phone, proofread it and email it. That same second, it gets to The PUNCH. There is no need to retype it. It is just reread for typos and other matters and then sent to the page-planner.

Even if I am outside Lagos or outside Nigeria, it makes no difference. Just with my laptop, the job is done. Even if I have only my phone, the job will still get done. And I can also read the article online when published, even before those who wait for their newspapers to be delivered in the morning. That is why our people in the Diaspora get to know about happenings in Nigeria even before those of us who claim to be “on the ground.”

Sometime ago, I was writing a story and needed to write the exact wordings on the gate of Apapa Wharf. I called a freight-forwarding friend of mine in Apapa. But he did not know and was far from Apapa. The second person I called was also far from the wharf. I was getting exasperated about how to solve the problem. Driving to Apapa that evening was not an option. Then, a voice told me: Why not google it? And I did. The gate of Apapa Wharf came up. I zoomed on a picture and saw what I wanted. A smile beamed on my face and I exclaimed: God bless the inventor of the Internet!

Recently, I wanted to learn how to use a feature on my new phone. I hate to read manuals, especially when the prints are tiny. My wife said: Why not google it? I googled it. The search result brought up information from both YouTube and web pages. I watched the video of someone explaining how to use the feature. I also read the explanation that had still pictures of the phone icons. My problem was solved.

If I need to know my body mass index (BMI) or someone’s BMI, I go online and type in the height and weight and the BMI is computed for me.

If I need a Bible passage but can’t remember where it is in the Bible, I just type the first few words of the passage and it appears pronto. If a doctor gives me any drug and I need to get the full details about the drug, I just google it.

I once saw a movie on TV but came in a few minutes after the name of the movie was displayed. I liked the film and wanted to know the name. So I just typed: “Movie in which LL Cool J was called Ray.” It appeared immediately. The movie’s name was: Deliver us from Eva.

What can one not find online these days? I look at the stress one went through when there was no Internet and compare that with the ease of today’s life, and simply say: God bless the inventor of the Internet!

But do many youths of today know that they have a wonder tool in their hands beyond using it for pinging and chatting? That is a story for another day

Written For http://www.globalruns.com

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