At the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where I work, the person in charge of the maintenance of photocopiers is a middle-aged recent immigrant from Russia named Ya’kov. He arrived in Israel in 1990 and has been with us for some two years. Since the photocopiers have an uncanny habit of breaking down whenever I use them, I have had ample occasion to call upon his services and have never ceased to marvel at the magic he works on these machines. Once, watching him bring back to life a photocopier I had no doubt was clinically dead, I remarked to him innocently: “Well, Ya’kov, whatever the sins and failures of the Soviet system, at least it produced an expert on photocopiers.” His reply terminated my innocence: “You’re obviously not an expert on the Soviet Union,” he said. “The truth is, that until I came to Israel not only did I know nothing about servicing photocopiers, I didn’t even know such a machine had been invented!”
As the old Jewish proverb says, an example is not a proof and, besides, Ya’kov had grown up in a small town in the remote Soviet republic of Uzbekistan, far from the supposedly modern offices of urban Russia; so perhaps too much should not be made of this research sample of one. But this brief exchange prompted me to reflect on the relationship between the already predominant information technology of our times—not only photocopiers, of course, but computers, and especially personal computers, modems, electronic mail, fax machines, video recorders and hand-held video cameras, and the now emerging world of CD-ROM “multimedia” —and the world of politics....
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