View from the ‘Loo: Low-tech time travelling on a working afternoon Christian Aagaard June 13, 2013 Communitech, View from the ‘Loo Cloud storage and flash drives can hold tons of stuff, but they’ll never have the musty attraction of an old scrap book. Like the one I found a couple of weeks ago in a long-forgotten box under the basement stairs. Out came the scrap book and away to the scrap heap went an otherwise useful afternoon. In 1985, as glaciers retreated and the Great Lakes formed, I worked for the Cambridge Daily Reporter. It was the practice of the day for reporters to save stories in folders or scrap books, and use ample amounts of intoxicating rubber cement in the process. Few of my clippings lie squarely on a page, or follow a logical sequence. The context for musing about that nostalgic afternoon in my basement arises out of the fact that I’m spending time at Communitech this summer as a freelance writer. I’ve been in and out of the Hub enough to get a feel for the place: It’s like being caught in a giant Yahtzee game, where somebody’s always shaking the dice to see what great ideas come tumbling out of the cup. The people here — these builders of apps, software and gadgets that alter how we relate to our digital devices — draw most of the admiration in the business media. Not so in 1985. Makers of shoes, shirts, tires and boilers ruled the local economy. My sloppy clipping collection contains stories of plant expansions, layoffs, strikes and rumors (realized in December that year) that Toyota Motor Manufacturing Corp. had taken an keen interest in Waterloo Region. Story-worthy startups included Daisy the tea room owner, Doug the taxidermist and Brian the furniture repairman. As far as tech coverage goes, the clipping archive includes only a few breathtaking highlights: A prediction by The Administrative Management Society that the office desk of the future would have a flat video display, a telephone and a laser printer capable of churning out 20 pages a minute. Workplaces would truly become paperless, thanks to “optical disc memory” — with the storage capacity of 10 filing cabinets, or 500,000 pages of text. Detailed schematics — in 3D, no less — at the CAD-CAM (Computer-aided design, computer-aided manufacturing) Centre on Collier-MacMillan Drive. (Now long gone.) Computer dispensed shots at the Yellow Rose Ranch House. A local engineer who wrote a dictionary to update people on such trendy computer terms as “gone west,” and “disc crash.” A Cantel Canada representative who gushed about the imminent arrival of “cellular” phone service in Waterloo Region. “Ultimately, as the technology develops, it will lead to a phone you can carry in your breast pocket,” she said. As for those legacy industries that dominated the local economy at the time, some succumbed to recession, some to lost tariff protection. Too few embraced computerized manufacturing soon enough and fast enough. That’s why we speak of them in the past tense of dust and scrap books.