See you later 2016 – don’t keep in touch

The year that took away David Bowie and Alan Rickman and gave us President Trump is not going to be remembered fondly. I am sure you’ve heard the sentiment already, but what about 2017?

Let’s forget about US politics for this – while we have all been watching that some major earthquakes have been shaking the ground we stand on.

Firstly, with PMP and IPMG merging, we are facing a completely new domestic print market. No one really knows what the effect of these two getting together will be, but the one thing we know for sure is there will be job losses across the country.

Printers and ancillary staff are going to have to go. Given the state of the industry it is probable that for many of them, they will never set foot in a print business again. This has the potential to be the single biggest exodus from print of people and experience ever in Australia.

Secondly, the Federal Government is finally girding its loins to take on what it regards as an excessive reliance on print. I have said it before, but Malcolm Turnbull has made it clear since he stepped into Parliament that his was a digital agenda. Good – that is the way the world is heading and we need to be as close to the forefront as we can be, but there are a lot of babies about to be thrown out with not much bathwater.

The documents of government are important and need to be kept securely. Our country is built on them.

We know paper stored correctly will last hundreds of years with little care and attention. We also know that in the thirty years we have been storing things electronically, there are problems.

It comes down to the storage media – when I was at university I did a lot of my work on software that does not exist anymore. The companies have gone or the platform has been changed beyond recognition. If I wanted to revise that work, not only would I need to find a copy of the software, it is on 5 ¼ inch floppies and I would need to find a working Pentium 486 with that size drive. Or, I could just go to the textbook.

It is a problem that places like the Smithsonian are reckoning with now. Every few years the popular technology changes so much, that in order to access their archives in addition to storing the information they have to store the equipment they need to access it. We all know what it’s like too – it is a plain as having to keep a VCR in the cupboard just so you can watch your old videos.

It is a big problem and one of those ones where a solution that looks good now will look woefully naïve in twenty years. But in the meantime what does it mean for us?

From Sydney, life for Canberra printers has always looked pretty sweet. No city traffic, low rents, a big civic centre, and one of the country’s biggest print buyers right next door hungry for your work, and too far away from the large printers to draw much competition.

But Paragon Printers could have been the canary in the coal mine here – the work in Canberra has been on a downward slide for years, and a concerted push by Turnbull to eliminate print would probably see the end of any printer in Canberra not nimble enough to downsize or repurpose in a hurry.

And if we can get back to President Trump for a minute, if he really does start the trade war he has promised, the enemy he is aiming to take out is China, our biggest trading partner. If that happens, and they stop buying our resources, PMP-IPMG and Malcolm Turnbull will be the least of your problems.

Have a happy new year.

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