In October 1999, I was 37, Tim Berners-Lee was 45 and a decade had elapsed since he had written his first proposal for what became the world wide web. It was also the month that the first Mrs Moneypenny column appeared, under the title Email from Tokyo, in the Business, a weekly magazine then published with the FT Weekend. Like the rest of that magazine’s contents, the column only appeared in print. Despite the fact that I filed electronically each week from Japan, it never appeared online and no online archive exists.
I try to be an early adopter of technology. I had my first mobile phone in January 1990 and a BlackBerry in 2004 – the same year that I bought my business. Now the BlackBerry languishes in my handbag as a back-up to my iPhone. I communicate with all three Cost Centres via technology far more than I do in person – even my 85-year-old mother and I converse via iPad.
I don’t consider technology a threat to either business or employment. I consider it an opportunity that all of us are lucky to have seen in our lifetimes. In 2000, when I joined the company that I eventually bought, its idea of a direct line was to have a separate phone installed on every desk. The database we used was – literally – based on a card index system and we typed everything into it manually. Now we have a phone system that could probably unpack the groceries, and our database “speaks” to many other systems including our email, allowing us to collate data instantly.
Technology has even helped many of the Girlfriends, not least those conducting discreet love affairs who still have BlackBerrys so that they can communicate with their lovers by BBM, having learnt that text messages are discoverable. We share photos and store documents in the cloud. I cannot imagine how I would run a business without access to websites such as LinkedIn or Google.
Things are immeasurably better in so many ways; in 1999, my car worked mechanically; now it has computers that tell it what to do. I subscribed to The Economist in 1999; I still do but read my issue more online than I do in print. Mr M, when we were first married, used to stay up and watch overseas Test matches on Teletext. By 1999, he had discovered what is now ESPN Cricinfo; 15 years later he can stream Test matches and Australian Rules Football matches live.
As this paper recently observed, we have seen technological change before, and it has moved the human race forward, not backward, in terms of what we can achieve. My own business has grown both in size and international reach over the past 15 years in a way that would never have been possible without technological advancement. It is not a matter of humans versus computers, as some would have us believe, it is a matter of humans taking advantage of what computers have to offer.
So, after nearly 15 years, I think it is time to embrace technology absolutely. In 2013, for the first time, digital subscribers to the Financial Times outnumbered print subscribers, a significant milestone. Now that the technology can reproduce the written word even more attractively online than it appears in print, it seems to me that online is the way to go.
So, from next week, this column will no longer appear on paper – either in the magazine, or the international newspaper’s Life & Arts section. I expect to be back, later in the year, on FT.com, and in the meantime you will be able to keep up with my life at mrsmoneypenny.com and on Twitter @mrsmoneypennyft. I know that many of you already read the column on the website or app, and I like to think that in every area of my life I am embracing what technology has to offer – it does feel very modern and rather exciting.
Do stay in touch: your emails and letters have always inspired me. I will be back, soon, on FT.com. See you then!