Thursday, 6 January 2011

All over for another year

So here we are, another Christmas with the family over and back home again once more and now into the Year 2011.
Two thousand and eleven!
I still have not yet completely got over the idea that I am alive the other side of 2000AD, let alone a decade past then. 2000AD was the date when everything happened. All my life until then, every projection and forecast began with ‘By the year 2000…’ Also we should have all been living on the Moon, subsisting on food pills and wearing shiny silver suits with a personal jet pack by now.

Mind you, no one predicted that everyone would have a personal computer and be able to talk to anyone in the world with free video communication if you want, shop from home or find any TV programme, past or present.
Other wonders that have crept into our lives that were never predicted are that my car knows if a bulb has failed, which street it is in, how many miles to the gallon it is consuming and how far I will get on my remaining fuel.
My phone is a minature two way radio that is more intelligent than ENIAC (a 1950s computer) and uses a radio band that would have been undetectable around the time of my birth and a modulation system that would be undecipherable even if it could have been received.

My grandmother had an old fashioned black Bakelite pedestal phone and you could make a whistling sound if you put the earpiece against the microphone and so end an unwanted conversation with feedback and pretend there was a fault on the line.

We had no dial and a live operator would say ‘Number Please’ when you lifted the receiver. I don’t think my other grandmother even had a phone at all for many years. Now I feel undressed if I go out without my mobile phone (cell phone in American).

Mankind has been to the moon and now cannot afford to go back. What would Dan Dare or Flash Gordon have said about that?

When I was young, the first Moon landing was only a matter of time and it was bound to be a British space ship, manned by moustachioed ex WWII fighter aces that had transferred to Spacefleet and would plant the Union Jack on the moon in the name of the Queen. The Americans would probably have been second but no one suspected the Russians would get into space at all, let alone first.

Seriously, we were ahead of the Americans at one point when their rockets were exploding and proving the old saying ‘that what goes up must come down’, we knew why they were having problems and had solved them on the British Black Knight and Blue Streak rocket design, but due to government short sightedness the plug was pulled leaving the USA a clear field in space technology.

A successful launch of Black Knight c 1959 in Woomera Australia

It is some of this American space technology that brought us the minute microelectronics which allows a mobile phone to be such a compact and powerful product, and the research all paid for by the American tax payer, thanks very much. This also allowed the games industry to produce the games machines that are now totally interactive. Ironically the technology that drives electronics development is led by both the military and the games market. PCs would not have high resolution colour graphics screens if it had not been for games software demanding more and more realistic graphics, when the PC originally only catered for text.

It is often incorrectly quoted that one of the founders of IBM once stated that there would never be much demand for computers and thought that five was the maximum market due to cost and lack of expertise to operate them. This may have been true in the early forties but as a prediction it would have been wildly wrong since even greetings cards now have a more advanced computer chip in them than was available then, which plays the obnoxious sounding message when they are opened. However, you can get a greeting card which allows you to record a message that does not have to be obnoxious.

So life in the twenty-first century is not all shiny suits and jet packs, but a lot of unforeseen changes, and we have a new lifestyle that would baffle people from earlier generations.

So congratulations to all you wonderful people who have dragged yourselves into the 21st century and can receive this message and a Happy New Year to you all.


  1. I remember thinking when I first watched Star Trek that you'd never get women to wear those skimpy suits that showed every bump and wrinkle because they'd object to showing everything when the men got away with comfortable trousers and a sweat shirt... And now I walk down the road behind girls who appear to have put their tights on but forgotten their skirts! The guys, of course, are in jeans and sweat shirts.

  2. It's funny, I remember thinking, as a child, that I couldn't possibly live to see the year 2000 -- it seemed unimaginable. I remember doing the math and being sure I would never live to be that age. I guess as a child one doesn't really understand age -- just as a child doesn't really grasp the value of money.

    I do remember watching the Jetsons cartoon with my children and thinking I might live long enough to see those 'flying cars' jetting around from home to office and back again, that would relieve traffic congestion down below. I think it's kind of strange that mankind hasn't made greater use of the skies, to relieve some of our earthly problems. Even our passenger planes haven't evolved much, over the years -- just gotten tighter seating to pack more people on! I wouldn't mind my own private little jet car to run down to California in, once in a while!!

    Nevertheless, as you say, our ancestors would be mystified by many of our mod cons!

    Great and intersting post, as usual, Rabbit!

  3. I often like to imagine what amazing things we will discover in the future. I heard they are trying to make billboards give off an aroma of what they are trying to sell. Can't see that happening - not too practical to have all those smells wafting around, unless you could tune in to the one you want! Hope nobody's going to try to control the weather either. That hasn't worked too well in the past. Since animals have microchips, I wonder if they will come up with that for humans. It might have a hard time getting past privacy laws. I think they may soon have to come up with something to replace the thumb, with the enormous amount of texting going on. Seriously I think that reading and writing is going to undergo a great change with the advent of texting. Language is a growing and changing skill anyway.

  4. M-AJ, fashion is a strange and wonderful thing and is beyond reason. Another thing people have tried to predict with hilarious results, but who could have predicted the Punk era.

    Kaybee, I often wish my car has a vertical lift capability when I am stuck in a slow moving stream of traffic. How wonderful it would be to just leapfrog all that ground traffic.

    Chris, writing is already becoming replaced by symbols. Road signs, public toilets, directions and much electrical equipment are all signed by a symbol now. Tape recorders used to say PLAY, now everything uses a triangle to indicate the play button and a square to indicate STOP. We are moving into an era where learning to read will not be essential to survive in urban areas.
    The next big breakthrough in computing could be a direct link via an implant and we say goodbye to the keyboard as we send information to the computer by icons projected directly onto the retina. I would be nearly illiterate if it were not for spell checkers and predictive text, due to my severe dyslexia, so I am very happy to see some changes. I would also like to have a silicon memory implant to aid my fallible memory, but implant technology like that would make taking an exam so easy teaching would be changed forever too. The problem with speculating about the future, is that catastrophic change prevents prediction of continuing trends. In this sense, catastrophe does not necessarily mean a disaster, but a big change, like vinyl LPs to MP3s or valves (tubes) and microchips, although war and disasters make catastrophic changes too. WWII started with aircraft using propellers needing refined high octane fuel and ended with jet planes that ran on kerosene.

  5. Regarding the use of symbols, see if you can find a picture of a Studer C37 (1962). Though to be fair, the Studer machines were aimed at a worldwide market so writing the controls in German might not have gone down too well.

    If memory serves "The Genesis Machine" by James P Hogan actually did predict a worldwide computer network with video communications, though it was written in 1978 - if the author had spent any time in a university computer lab or seen the PLATO system, he might well have seen it coming.