The Art of the Possible – Analog Kid : Digital Man

Analog Kid

The boy lies in the grass with one blade
Stuck between his teeth
A vague sensation quickens
In his young and restless heart
And a bright and nameless vision
Has him longing to depart. N Peart

I was born in 1965, the same year the first ever desktop computer hit the market. The Programma 101 by Olivetti arrived, and overnight, computers went from looking like this:

IBM System:360 Model 30
IBM System/360 Model 30

To looking like this:

Olivetti Programma 101
Olivetti Programma 101

We took a very different view of computers back then. People were ‘a bit terrified of them’, and concerned that computers would be used to control everything and take away freedom.

I don’t recall ever using a computer during my school years. All our work was written in books, drawn on paper, listened to on tape and vinyl. Signals were likely to be distorted, there was interference, and feedback. Though I wasn’t aware of it at the time, the pen and the brush were among the devices I used which provided some of that feedback. The signals might be quite subtle, but they were there. The response of the writing and drawing instrument when crafting different letters, different shapes, and shades. You don’t get this subtle feedback from a keyboard or a stylus.

Digital Man

He picks up scraps of information
He’s adept at adaptation
Because for strangers and arrangers
Constant change is here to stay. N Peart

I started work in the mid 1980s, by which time computers looked something like this:

IBM PC 5150
IBM PC 5150

A decade later I was selling computers to earn a living, and they were common place in people’s homes and at work. I remember starting work for BT in 1996 and being surprised to find no computer at my desk. Some of my colleagues were quite happy to still be relying on inter office memos stuffed in envelopes, and though people were given email addresses – there seemed to be no compulsion to use them.

Fast forward to now, and for most people who read this blog, the idea of not being connected to your work through computers and other devices is practically impossible.


Love them or loathe them, etcetera. And yet…

Analog Kid : Digital Man

…for all the advantages of digital, there remains something distinctly ‘connected’ about working in analog. Those subtle signals I mentioned earlier – the feedback a pencil gives you when you write and draw – that’s a very desirable thing. I recently spotted my friend Euan Semple talking about Blackwing Pencils on Facebook. I followed the crumb trail and discovered you can pay $25 for a box of 12 Palomino Blackwing 24 pencils, produced as a tribute to Pulitzer Prize winning author John Steinbeck. In truth, you’ll be lucky to find these available for sale, they are a limited edition pencil (I swear I had no idea there was such a thing), and seemingly the only way to guarantee a set of these, or at least of future limited editions, is to join The Blackwing Club. Pencils as a desirable collector’s item, how about that?

I digress. Limited edition or otherwise, I believe the humble pencil, pen, and brush remain essential tools to work with. For all the speed with which I can ramble on here, each digit I produce on the screen feels just the same as the last. Q = W = E = R = T = Y. I know from my own experience and from the feedback I gain through arts based learning, that using analog tools to supplement your digital work, creates fundamentally different outputs. When we work like this, I and others see, hear and feel emotions much more clearly, and there seems to be a greater presence of something you might call humanity, when people are creating work together, by hand.


I don’t want to get all dogmatic about this, working by hand is not the answer to making work better, it is an answer. Thankfully, not everything follows Moore’s Law.

More to follow…

A Letter to My Father

Like many people, I have mixed feelings about the whole Father’s Day thing. I don’t need a particular day for Keira to acknowledge me, every day we let each other know about the love we have for one another, and I’ll readily admit there’s something fun about a little fuss being made too. This year, we are off on a long walk this Father’s Day with some good friends, I’m really looking forward to it.

I was tidying up some papers yesterday and I came across an old letter I wrote to Dad, shortly after Carole and I got married back in August 1992. By way of context, after Mum died in 1984 my relationship with Dad deteriorated…a lot. We were frequently horrible to each other and there were times I was sure we’d never reconcile things. As is often the case, I was wrong, and Dad and I started to get it back together a little while before this letter was written. Reading the letter for the first time since I wrote it almost twenty two years ago, I sense a clunkiness and awkwardness to it at times. Nevertheless, I’d like to share it with you, and if Father’s Day works for you, I hope it’s a happy one.

Dear Dad

Carole and I have been married for over a month! Time flies when you’re having fun. After all the excitement of the last few weeks, life seems to be returning to some sort of normality, if there is such a thing. We would both like to say how very grateful we are for all your help towards our big day, and the rest of our life! Not only for the invaluable financial generosity but also for everything else.

I think I now have some understanding of the importance of the reliability and guidance of parents. That is not to say that you and Mum have seen eye to eye with everything that I have done or tried to do. Despite the fact that shortcomings in my life have given you justifiable cause for concern, upset and other feelings I’m sure you’d ideally not wish to experience, I can now stand back and look at my life which is basically happy and sane, I think! I owe no small part of this to you and Mum and I’m truly grateful.

As you know, it is unfortunately all too difficult to talk frankly and openly, especially to those closest to you and though I’m just as hopeless as the next person in this department, I want you to know that it is with the greatest sincerity that I tell you how proud I am that I was able to share our wedding day with you, and Helen and Moira.

I take a great deal of pleasure from the music I listen to, I know you do as well. People who you have no personal knowledge of can write words which make you think ‘I really know what you mean’. The following few lines sum that sense up for me.

Good work is the key to good fortune
Winners take that praise
Losers seldom take that blame
But sometimes the winner takes nothing
We go out in the world and take our chances
Fate is just the weight of circumstances
That’s the way that lady luck dances
Why are we here? Because we’re here
Roll the bones

Cheers Dad, take it easy and thanks again

Love – Doug

Mama Weer All Krazee Now

The office is closed today. London awaits, and an evening with Rush beckons. I know many people who have never heard of Rush and many people who have, and wish they hadn’t. They are different. They’re not everyone’s cup of tea and that’s great – difference makes the world go round. By way of something else a little different, a little crazy, I just thought I’d share with you a few of the search terms that have led people to the blog this week.

‘Zombie HR’ – a personal fave 🙂

‘What a Load of Rubbish’ – Thanks for your feedback. Or does this relate to Rush, who knows…?

‘What is love?’ – the eternal question

‘Why losing is good for you’ – I wish I knew!

‘Rocket from a bottle’ – Hmmmm, Xtc?

‘Is fun a corporate value?’ – No, no it bloody isn’t!

‘Tell your own story’ – Absolutely.

Not a bad little list eh? Proof, if it were needed, that we’re heading in a good direction. Have a great bank holiday weekend folks.