Olivia Newton-John with co-star John Travolta during the 1978 movie Grease. (Dave Friedman photo)

Olivia Newton-John with co-star John Travolta during the 1978 movie Grease. (Dave Friedman photo)

Tech brings people together

I had to watch the movie Grease the other night.

Maybe “had to” is putting it too strongly. I wanted to watch it; it’s a great summery movie and, with Olivia Newton-John’s death on Aug. 8, it seemed a fitting tribute to watch her in one of her most popular roles.

Now, this column isn’t a love letter to Newton-John or some other form of tribute, though that would be fitting. She lived a good life, and the time she devoted to supporting breast cancer causes is stunning.

Rather, I want to talk about the technological advances that made it possible for me to watch a movie at the drop of a hat.

Back in 1978, when the movie was made, VHS had barely hit the market. Even so, and for years afterward, watching a movie meant a trip to the video rental store and hoping all copies of the desired movie hadn’t been checked out.

Even when DVD copies replaced VHS as the dominant rental unit, you still had to go to the store to buy or rent one.

In the late fifties, when Grease is set, even that level of convenience wasn’t dreamt of.

Fast-forward to 2022 and watching your choice of movie is as easy as checking your DVD collection or your streaming services to see where the movie is airing.

The rate of technological change over the past few decades has been mind-boggling and causes concern for those who see it as disconnecting people rather than bringing them together.

I’ve argued against that particular viewpoint for years. Easier connections to people, while maybe not in person, only expands your circle of friends. Similarly, while easier access to movies may not seem as connected as going into a shop and interacting with people, you can look at it as expanding the shared experience of watching the movie.

And that is what is critical about modern communications tech. It allows more people than ever the chance to participate in the same experience, whether that’s in a virtual metaverse, or just exchanging comments on a chat app.

And while it’s kind of remote the death of a famous and beloved celebrity is still a shared experience. Ease of access to the outpouring of tributes, the performances, only serves to bring us together, rather than waiting for a TV channel to air segments.

Or perhaps you could try chasing a dream and, while working in you home studio, take painting classes with fellow artist in the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens.

Life is short. It pays to embrace these new technologies to expand your horizons.