It has been 30 years since I last travelled across the Pacific.
The trip will doubtless be as long and as exhausting as it was back in 1985 but it is taking place in a very different communications environment.
In 1985 I accompanied a group of Vancouver-area family physicians on a three-week trip to observe traditional and modern medicine in China. I was working for The Medical Post at the time and the powers-that-be wanted a special feature to mark the transition of the paper from twice-weekly to weekly publication.
Armed with my trusty TRS-80 from Radio Shack, the idea was that I would write stories about the trip and file them back to Canada for publication within the week: Cutting edge stuff for medical journalism. Alas, things did not work out quite as planned on the technology front. Those journalists of a certain vintage will recall the TRS-80 (known affectionately as the ‘Trash 80’) as one of, if not the original, laptops. It would display about 7 lines of type and you transmitted copy at a rate of about 100 words a minute using suction cups attached to the telephone receiver. Unfortunately, the Chinese phone system – when available – was not up to this radical technology and so I was forced to narrate my copy verbally on poor lines, and most people first got word of what I was up to about 2 weeks later.
Fast forward to 2015. At the kind invitation of a group of physicians in the Philippines I have been invited to speak at the first Philippine health care and social media conference in Cebu on Feb. 21.
Of course – good wifi connection willing – I will be live tweeting from the conference as well as blogging – and all of this will be available in real time. Should I feel ambitious enough, I will use my trusty (but now also defunct technology) Flipcam to record and post video to YouTube, also in real time. When I want to make a personal connection I will be able to use Skype to call home.
My whole real time connection with bleak and wintery Ottawa while in Ceub is something I will take for granted.
I know my sense of wonder will be just an unimpaired in viewing Cebu as it was when seeing Harbin or Shanghai 30 years ago. But the wonder of instantaneous communication is something that seems to have crept up on us and passed us by.