Sci-fi authors have imaginations that go far beyond the times they live in. I often wondered why the “next best thing” in technology never really surprised or delighted me. It was fun to send messages in orange text to someone in 1991, but I was waiting for the pictures. In 1995 I patiently waited for the images to slowly upload on my screen, but I wanted it quicker, damn it! Even my first Skype experience was ho-hum.
I realized my “problem” was that I’ve been spoiled with ideas of things- yet-to-come by my consumption of science fiction. If you told me back in 1991 that I would be able to make a “video call” with someone in 2004, I would have said, “Sure! What took them so long!?” And in 2014 when you ask me about my “video phone” I will say, “Well, it’s not perfect, I still get cut off when I’m talking to my father. And sometimes there’s no sound, and sometimes it goes all digitally. Meh.”
Sci-fi authors wet our appetite for future technology. Often this technology works much better in their novels that it ever will in reality!
Being able to plot the course of new gadgets in our lives is a real talent. It is said that most of the technology in Philip K. Dick’s novels have come to fruition. When I saw this little video of Arthur C. Clarke talking about the future of the internet, shot in 1974, I knew I had to share it on this blog.
What he’s saying may seem obvious to us now, but even back in the 70s a lot of science and business experts did not think the computer would ever reach individual households.
“Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.” from Popular Mechanics in 1949.
“I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year.” Editor of Prentice Hall business books, 1957
“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943
So, thanks to the combo of art and science, we still patiently await new technology and strive for gadgets that will make our lives better, easier, and more enjoyable. And if we’re smart, we will re-read these old texts and notice when things are getting a little out of hand…notice when WE become the things being controlled, rather than being the controllers.
Thanks to Jonathan Culp and Cosmos Magazine for the video.
Like most blogs, This Analog Earth! is made up of research and wise knowledge gathered over the years. Here is a list of resources I got information and images from: