Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Why The Old Ones Are The Best

Recently I entrusted my life to a piece of 80 year old technology. I was given a flight (and did some flying!) complete with an open cockpit (see above picture) in a WW2 era biplane trainer, a Tiger Moth.
This was a boyhood dream come true, but as I gingerly shuffled up the wing so as not to put my feet through it, then climbed into the open cockpit and looked at the canvas sides, big control stick, wooden handled throttle control, exposed wires and metal, it was a bit of a shock to see how very basic it all was. State of the art in the early 1930's, but not at all 21st century.
We had to have someone swing the propeller to start up and as we taxied to the runway, because the 'plane was a "tail dragger" i.e. a wheel on the tail so the nose of the aircraft pointed up to the sky, we had to weave from side to side so the pilot sitting behind me could have a vague idea where we were going and if anything might be in the way. It seemed ungainly, impractical and potentially dangerous. 
We rolled onto a tiny grass strip to the modern tarmac and awaited permission to take off (a radio and intercom being the only modern concessions to the 'plane), as there were helicopters doing circuits of the airfield. These fast flying manoeuvrable machines only emphasised our tiny biplane's ancient origins.
Then, we were given clearance to take off, the throttle opened up and smoothly and without drama we were airborne and climbing. Wow! The little 'plane was suddenly in its element.
The next 30 mins saw me taking control (under supervision), experiencing a loop the loop and a "Victory Roll". Despite the small size, it's apparent fragility and obvious antiquity I felt far safer in the old trainer than I do in modern jet airliners (even while I was upside down hanging on my seat straps).
Later, on the ground, while reliving it all, the experience got me thinking about redundant technology. Obviously aircraft design has developed very quickly - only ten years after the Tiger Moth had been launched the first jet plane was taking off. But here was a basic, functional design that was created in 1932, and had not needed to be improved upon since for the job in hand, as evidenced by the number of Tiger Moths still in use as trainers, still doing aerobatics and still teaching pupils to fly. How many other pieces of technology do we use regularly that are that old and that useful?
Much as I love heritage and history, I'm a big, big fan of technology. I love digital marketing and the reach, communication, statistics and sheer possibilities that it provides. I am also aware that in some markets there are people becoming digitally excluded through the propagation of new communications and marketing methods, who view modern technology with mistrust, a lack of understanding or fear.
Has the way we do things changed that much? We still use traditional marketing methods don't we? We still use print, posters and flyers at times but perhaps we underestimate the benefits of these traditional methods more than we realise. For example I was reading a comment from someone on Facebook (quoted below), thanking his housing association for sending communications material in hard copies to him:
Nice, also, that I received my copy (like the Quarterly Magazine) in 'real' (hardcopy) form, in a nice white envelope through me letterbox. One can keep such things on one's coffee- table, for awhile, to browse through etc etc, without having to 'fiffle- faffle' with one's PC. ie: It is a more 'occasional' way to absorb. info.... just as effective as having to 'focus' on a PC screen, which can get tiring to the eyes after awhile...
It's interesting reading. I have no idea of the age of the author, but despite what he says about hard copy, it is noteworthy that his "thanks" were still communicated digitally through social media. But that sort of proves that traditional and modern can live side by side doesn't it?
While we're rushing to expand our digital marketing, our apps and converting customers to online engagement, it is always worth evaluating your target market and stopping to ask what is the best form of communication for a particular audience?
Will I use modern aircraft in the future after my bi-plane flight? Of course, I'll have to. I can't travel great distances in an 80 year old aircraft, I have no protection from the elements, there's no luggage capacity, the ratio of pilot to passenger is impractical and it would have been a little chilly if I'd not been wearing specific flying clothing. But it did do the job it was designed for; it also made me happy and appreciate that what is now old, or what has been superceded, does not necessarily make it redundant or pointless.
So in future, planning communications strategies and deciding on the methods of delivery to your target audiences, just remember that sometimes, like the Tiger Moth, the old ones are the best.


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