Tuesday, June 7, 2011

This Day and Age

Nostalgia just ain't what it used to be.

You know, aircraft got invented three years into the twentieth century and it took over forty years before they moved on to jet propulsion. Another couple decades until the first satellite. And then, just over a decade later, we were watching men on the moon on television.

Oh, and TV, let's talk about TV. Farnsworth got TV working for real in the '30s. Thirty-five years later most of us were still watching our two or three available channels black and white TV on a mostly round tube. A decade later the TVs were color and solid state, but the screens were still tubes small. A decade after that, the first VCRs showed up. Then, within twenty years TVs were flat, sixty-inch screens, on which you could watch a couple hundred stations, which you could pause and rewind and save for later. Oh, and 3D, don't forget 3D.

Or you could just watch movies on your phone, which has a color touch-sensitive screen, can stream music, or browse a global information network that no one could have even imagined back when airplanes had propellers. Which, by the way, was a time when phones were black and had rotary dials, just like they did up until about the same time Armstrong was boogieing on the Sea of Tranquility.

Most of the tech that I had when I was a kid was pretty much completely recognizable as descendants from what my parents had when they were kids. But my kids, I have problems even explaining things that I grew up with. I mean, who the hell knows what a slide rule is anymore? Calculators were so new you weren't allowed to use them for tests when I was in college, and now the concept of a calculator that isn't an app or a function on some other gadget is so retro that it's kitsch.

Or, you can flip it around… Can you imagine trying to explain iPhones, personal computers, and the Internet as a practical reality to someone few decades ago? That was serious sci-fi stuff.

And yet… and yet, 2001 came and went and we don't have any orbiting Hilton hotels, no lunar colonies, no commercial space travel. No personal helicopters, jetpacks, CITY OF THE FUTURE or any of that amazing stuff we all thought we'd have. How is it fair that my kids think everything that I grew up with is only one step more advanced than napping flint knives and arrowheads and yet the closest I'll ever get to space travel is watching the reports of the Rich and Famous flying Virgin Galactic?

But then, I guess we can just be glad we aren't slaves to Skynet, servants of our ape masters, or eating Soylent Green, yet.

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