The best is yet to come, in my view

May 1, 2010
A reader recently sent me a flaming e-mail castigating me for the temerity of daring to write a column that did not contain the word "laser."

I began writing a regular monthly column for Laser Focus World back in the early 1990s when I joined PennWell Publishing as editorial director of the magazine and its associated publications. That initial column, slugged "EDITORIAL," was headlined "When talk is cheap and light is free." That was my take on the rapid growth of computers and communications, back in the Dark Ages of January 1992. I do not intend to revisit that column or any of the 200 or so columns that I have written for Laser Focus World for reasons that will shortly become obvious.

A reader recently sent me a flaming e-mail castigating me for the temerity of daring to write a column that did not contain the word "laser." Well, well, "Guilty as charged, my Lord!" If my reader cares to look back over the last couple of decades, he will find that there are columns that do not contain the words "optoelectronics" or "optics" or even "photonics." But Steve Anderson and his editorial staff are hardly the Spanish Inquisition, so my copy is not subject to revision for political correctness. Thank goodness for that!

Although I get many e-mails from readers prompted by my columns, I rarely revisit a column topic. I usually acknowledge e-mails with an individual reply that sometime spurs a longer correspondence than I might wish but I do want to keep my readers writing to me.

So, when Steve Anderson approached me to plant the idea of a retrospective column for this special issue commemorating the first laser, I thought that he was slyly indicating that I should review all my published columns and come up with the winners and losers, so to speak. The mere thought of revisiting my columns boggles the mind. That is a punishment to be avoided at all costs.

What then, is the philosophy of "In My View?" Frankly, in little more than 700 words, a topic cannot be treated in any great depth. On the other hand, a column need not be as even-handed as an in-depth piece of investigative journalism. As the name of the column implies, what the readers are getting is my opinions, right or wrong. The column introduces ideas that I hope will challenge readers and encourage some of you to pursue the central topics in more depth.

As I am sure that Steve will readily attest, the desk of a chief editor is always overflowing with tasks that must be tackled without delay, whereas the desk of a columnist, such as this writer, can often be cleaned off as the ideas for next month's column begin to clarify. Ideas appear to the writer without too much effort, especially as the deadline draws near. "Nothing sharpens the mind so much as the threat of the noose." It's the research that's the time-killer. If the gods of Google and Wikipedia are smiling on you, then the research proceeds apace and the written column surfaces without too much blood being spilled.

So, it would be invidious of me to single out a few of my couple of hundred columns with the intention of demonstrating my very limited oracular powers or how often I have egg on my face. That having been said, this column seems to have built a steady readership over the last couple of decades. Maybe the best is yet to come?

By the way, just to show that it is possible to teach old dogs new tricks, I am writing this column with a $10 word processor from Apple that makes Microsoft Word look like a clumsy elephant. The "app," to use Apple's terminology, runs on the new iPad, an astonishing device that I would never have predicted. Check out the specs on A 9.7-in. (diagonal) LCD touch-screen with a 64 Gbyte flash drive, a 1 GHz processor, and built-in wireless and cellular access! All for less than $1000!

Let me see now—"When talk is cheap and light is free." Hmmmm...

About the Author

Jeffrey Bairstow | Contributing Editor

Jeffrey Bairstow is a Contributing Editor for Laser Focus World; he previously served as Group Editorial Director.

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