Cellphones and the Internet are great, but…

The world really has become a village. I’ve been on a virtual trip through southern Africa the past few months that’s been mind-boggling.

When I first started as a journalist we used to work with telex machines, feeding long strips paper through the machines. (Oops, I’m giving away my age now!) Younger readers probably won’t even know what I’m talking about, but I can still hear the clicking sound of the telexes coming through. And then, lo and behold, the wonderful world of faxes, followed by emails… What will be next?

We had to travel vast distances in cars without air-conditioning. No self-respecting media company would have issued journos with anything but the most basic type of vehicle. Trips could become a heated affair, to say the least. You were roasted 50 shades of red in the summer months (and nearly got frost bite in winter).

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To this day I thank the Lord for the person who decided to make air- conditioning standard issue in most cars!

But with or without air-conditioning, I still would not have been able to visit Danie and Carina Jansen van Vuuren’s Dexter stud between Kamanjab and Khorixas this year. It would have meant a nearly 3 000km round trip. But what with cellphones, email, the Internet and all the other technological wonders we have, I was able to visit their farm Orpheus without putting a foot on the soil. And spoke to Danie as and when I needed.

Oh how well I remember the old party line telephone services! You often had to go through two or three exchanges to reach farmers on the platteland. For instance, to reach someone in the Leniesdeel region in the Vryburg district, I had to phone Kimberley, Kimberley put me through to Vryburg, Vryburg put me through to Tosca, who then put me through to the number I requested in the first place.

You can imagine the quality of the sound by the time I finally had someone on the line. Conversations were more often than not conducted by yelling at the top of your voice to each other.

Then again, life was slower then – more gentle. Agh man, I’m sure each generation feels the same about the past, but to my mind those days were longer and sweeter. The very same technology that makes our lives so much easier has eroded our time and, in many ways, our sanity.

And how fortunate I am to still go on long road trips in the Free State and Northern Cape to gather stories for you to read. And in an air-conditioned car, nogal!

Annelie Coleman represents Farmer’s Weekly in the Free State, North West and Northern Cape. Agriculture is in her blood. She grew up on a maize farm in the Wesselsbron district where her brother is still continuing with the family business. Annelie is passionate about the area she works in and calls it ‘God’s own country’. She’s particularly interested in beef cattle farming, especially with the indigenous African breeds. She’s an avid reader and owns a comprehensive collection of Africana covering hunting in colonial Africa, missionary history of same period, as well as Rhodesian literature.