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I Love My Flying Car

May 26th, 2006

The future held many promises for me when I was growing up in the ’60s and ’70s. Mainstream sci-fi films and TV shows tended to be set in or around the year 2000, because of course the rolling over of calendar digits alone couldn’t help but bring great things. And being old enough to (vaguely) remember the moon landings as live TV events meant that it wasn’t at all unlikely that we’d have a base on the lunar surface (Space: 1999) and would be sending manned expeditions to Jupiter (2001: A Space Odyssey).

Granted, some future visions wound up surprisingly behind the times. In sci-fi of the day, supercomputers filled entire rooms, even in Star Trek‘s 23rd century. The microchip revolution was still some time off, and we still saw bigger as intrinsically better.

I felt that I had a pretty good idea of what the future would be like: robot servants, food pills, and above all, flying cars. (Yes, I watched The Jetsons.) It was simply inevitable that one day not only would cars fly, but that a world of bad drivers would somehow master three-dimensional traffic.

Imagine my disappointment. Here we are in 2006, and not only is that Jupiter trip an anachronistic fantasy, but we are only now talking about getting back to the moon after a 34 (34!!!) year absence. Robot maids are floor-cleaning frisbees, and don’t even wear aprons. And while my Prius is nifty, it most assuredly does not fly.

One of the few areas in which real life not only equalled but exceeded the movies has been in the area of home electronics. Back in the ’70s, I was so incredibly excited about my first pocket calculator–especially its ability to spell naughty words when held upside down–but now they come free in cereal boxes. The small black box on my desk on which I type this post is to that once-wonderful device what a genetically-designed barnyard animal is to a paramecium.

A couple of weeks ago, I got my first iPod, a 30GB model with video capability. 30 gigabytes! When I got my first home computer back in 1987 I’d never even heard the word gigabyte. I was thrilled that my new Commodore had a full 64K of memory, and an external drive capable of storing files on 5″ floppies.

Yet, less than two decades later I now have a device which fits into the palm of my hand, currently stores more than 130 CDs’ worth of music and half a season of Doctor Who, and isn’t even half full. It may not be a flying car, but if you’d told this proud owner of a pocket LED calcuator back in the ’70s that one day I’d have one of these babies, I’m not sure that I would’ve believed you.

The world of the future has proved disappointing on many levels, but this is not one of them.

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