Welcome 2011, the future is knocking

It’s 2011, in case no one told you. Where is my Jetson’s flying car?

I grew up in the 1960s. The dark ages, as it were, of the technology age. Or rather, the beginning of the technology age. We saw the newly created transistor put to use by the Japanese as they miniaturized everything. My generation was the first to have hand-held transistor radios. Little plastic boxes on a strap, with a tiny 3 inch speaker that allowed us to hang out on the playground and listen to music.

Phones, at the time, were still corded and were rotary dial. Long distance telephone calls were expensive and involved several operators. Televisions were heavy tube affairs with knobs and you physically had to get up to turn it on and change the channel. There was only over-the-air TV, no cable, no satellite. You only got local stations. Computers were still the size of rooms. Cars had carburetors and distributor caps and were fairly simple to work on. Typewriters were mostly manual, the IBM Selectric (also known as the Golfball Typewriter) had just been introduced in 1961. Books were made of paper and at the library, you used a card catalog to find what you were seeking. And new movies could only be seen at the theater.

Mankind had just started exploring space. I got excited by the first man in space. The first man to orbit the earth. The first man to go for a spacewalk. By the end of the decade, we had put a man on the moon.

Technology was making life interesting. Sci-Fi was becoming reality.

But much of it was still, well, fiction. “Lost in Space,” where they sent a family to colonize a distant planet was set in 1998. “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” was set in the early 1970s. “Space: 1999” is self-explicit. Then of course, there was “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

By the end of the 20th Century and into the early 21st Century, Mankind was not just supposed to be reaching the moon, but for the stars; we were supposed to have gone beyond them. We were supposed to have space stations. Colonized worlds. Have our own personal jetpacks or helicoptor-like vehicles or even jetcars. We should have had laser guns, personal robot servants, all sorts of futuristic gadgets were supposed to be within our grasp.

But where are they? Where is the future we were promised?

Well, let me Google that on my smartphone while I use my Starbucks locator to tell me where the nearest store to my position is.

Because to a child of the 60s, the world around me is amazing. Flat screen LCD or plasma high definition televisions. Computer laptops with a computing power that far surpasses that of what it took to put the man on the moon. Cars are computerized, fuel injected and now hybrid-electric, or even electric. Everything is remote controlled, even the stereo, which doesn’t just have two speakers, but can have up to seven along with a dedicated subwoofer. Television comes to us through either a satellite dish or via cable. And news can come to us live from anywhere in the world instantaneously. Not to mention the Internet. And music? I can carry my entire music library around with me on an MP3 player the size of a postage stamp as well as carry my entire library of books around on a handheld device. Movies can be watched over the internet. And we went from splitting the atom to shooting particles around a 17-mile tunnel. And you can heat a cup of water for tea in seconds.

So for me, the future is now.



5 thoughts on “Welcome 2011, the future is knocking

  1. Computer laptops with a computing power that far surpasses that of what it took to put the man on the moon.

    Actually, the average mobile ‘phone is more powerful than the computers which got mankind to the moon. The most worrying fact about those computers everyone in NASA seemed to be mesmerized by (whether that particular performance was put on for the news cameras is another story) is the realization that the monitors didn’t work. The actual information was laid on via transparencies, so it’s debatable if any of the calculations were actually used, or if it was the immensely intelligent people they had running calculations which were responsible for things going as well as they did.

    As for futuristic cars, do you need something more futuristic than this? Sure, it can’t fly, and it doesn’t come close to the projected environmental benefits of the nascent hydrogen automobiles, but it’s as far from the cars of the sixties as those cars were from the horse and cart.

    Despite all that, I’m really rather disappointed that I’m living now, rather than eighty or ninety years ago. I missed the pulp magazine era completely (I wasn’t even born when the last of the first generation EC fanzines were wound up, so there isn’t even that consolation prize), and I’ve always held the belief that the movie blockbusters we are subjected to these days pale in comparison to the early epics. I wasn’t meant to be born in this era. I wish I could have watched all the film serials as they were shown, and discover the first issues of all the golden age comics as they were published.

    The future isn’t as good as it’s cracked up to be.

  2. To be honest, I too would have liked to have lived back in the 30s and 40s. Not only were the Pulps in full swing, but there were so many wonderful shows on Radio! And maybe seeing the first few Golden Age comics would have been fun, but I’m glad I got to see the Silver Age as they came out. The talent of many of those artists was head and shoulders above the Golden Agers, watching Barry Windsor-Smith evolve from simple Jack Kirby imitations to what he was finally producing before he quite was amazing.

    And that car? See, that’s what an electric car should look like.

  3. Some GA artists were the equal of (and indeed, better than) many of the Silver Age artists – Mac Raboy, for one, was a talent on par with Neal Adams or Jim Steranko. I’ll agree that early BWS was largely imitative, but the guy was practically living rough when he was drawing those pages, so a little slack should be given to his earliest work.

    If you get the chance, pick up the hardcover Monster Society Of Evil (the Fawcett reprints) and glory at the detailed brushwork and pristine, tone-perfect coloring. There truly were bright spots in those dark days.

  4. Of course not. šŸ™‚ The original print quality does hamper enjoyment of some of those artists though. Luckily most of the good stuff has been reprinted with greatly improved techniques.

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