16 November 2010 (Tuesday) - In The Future

One of our trainees was griping today about how she’d suffered as a child. She wasn’t allowed a mobile phone until she was fourteen years old. How things have changed…

When I was a lad we didn’t have mobile phones. In fact most people didn’t even have a phone in the house. And those that did had a phone with a dial on the thing. Not buttons, but a dial. Not that the dial actually did anything. Hastings was one of the last places in England to get STD (Standard Trunk Dialling!) and so when we picked up the phone we waited for the operator to come on the line and ask us for the number we wanted. If we wanted to phone outside the Hastings area we would tell the operator, hang up and wait for her to phone us back. If we wanted to speak to relatives in South London, it could take up to quarter of an hour to connect us.
Today everyone has a mobile phone in their pocket. A device which is a phone, a camera, a satellite navigation system and a games console all in one. And less than a quarter of the size of the phone which I had as a child.

For many of us the TV programs we watched as children were in black and white – colour telly was for the elite. Breakfast television programmes did not exist. We had three channels of TV. Schools programmes ran in the morning; there were kids programmes, the news and Crown Court at mid day, then the telly closed down for the afternoon. It came back at 4pm, and closed down (playing the National Anthem) round about midnight.
Today we have a thousand channels of 24/7 drivel. All available in most homes on High Definition screens and in Dolby surround sound too.

And calculators. My first calculator cost my father a week’s wages. Kids today don’t have calculators as such. They use the calculator function on their mobile phones, which are far superior to what I had in the mid-1970s.
And the Internet – a world of information at my fingertips. I have instant contact with friends all over the world. Teenage boys will never need to attempt to illegally buy or steal jazz mags because of the smut on the Internet.

The world today isn’t at all what I imagined when I was young. Technologically we are (in many ways) streets ahead of where we thought we’d be. Look at the science fiction of the time. I’ve recently been re-reading sci-fi from the fifties and sixties. The novels of Asimov and Clarke now seem rather outdated. Or look at Captain Kirk’s communicator. A rather pathetic device compared to my Nokia N8.

As a teenager I was so impressed with having a colour telly and a calculator. And I had several friends who were jealous of me because of that. And now I look back in a rather condescending sort of way. I wonder what my blog entry in November 2050 will make of today’s technology….

But then again, look at what we haven’t achieved. As a child I watched the moon landings. I remember the Apollo 13 disaster: I was there. And it was common knowledge that men would be walking on Mars by the mid 1980s. Didn’t happen. It doesn’t look like humanity will even have the ability to get back to the moon for at least another ten years (at the soonest). I’m sadly coming to the conclusion that I will not live long enough to see people land on Mars.
Matter transportation, “beaming up”  and warp drive remain still theoretically impossible.
Or look at Star Trek again. And the 2001 books and films.  For all the computing power that is now so readily available, HAL 9000 and Daystrom’s M5 are still in the realms of fantasy.

Perhaps my blog in forty years time might tell a different tale…?

And in closing, this video seemed somewhat appropriate for an aging Sparks fan….

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