Imagine the Future

opte.orgI grew up in an era when technology was still more or less within the realm of science fiction. When my father brought the first television into our home we made it the center of our family universe. It sat in its own room, dominating a wall, with chairs arranged in a semi-circle so that everyone might have a good view of the tiny screen. We watched the black and white images on that little square of light as though we were viewing the work of a magician. It was a far cry from listening to radio programs as we had previously done. The outmoded radio was moved to a dark corner and replaced by the more modern T.V. as the premiere source of entertainment.

Back then the television broadcast hours were limited as were the number of channels. Each evening the playing of our national anthem signaled the down time for programming. A strange looking test pattern lit up the screen until the next morning. We had no way of knowing that the shows that we watched would one day appear to be so amateurish or that the dull shades of grey would eventually be replaced with living color. We simply marveled at the wonder of the experience. A whole world of products were created to enhance our newest past time. There were T.V. trays to hold our food if we wanted to combine dining with viewing. Enterprising companies even created frozen dinners that only had to be popped into the oven to heat up while we consumed more and more of our time in front of the strange little boxes that so entertained us.

Of course my mother was far more circumspect about this marvelous new invention. We still had to eat homemade food at the kitchen table each evening and we were only allowed to watch one program per day. My father, on the other hand, was so fascinated that he often spent hours laughing hysterically at the comedies that were the bread and butter of those early days.

Eventually, of course, televisions became ever bigger and better as did the variety of what we might view. Color and high definition images allowed us to feel as though we were actually present in the places being shown. Today televisions are no longer just the domain of the family room. They might be found in any number of locations in the house. Interestingly, there are still channels that show the oldies from my youth and I have to admit that some of them are actually quite good even without all of the bells and whistles available today.

I am also from the time when writing a research paper for a particular class was a very complex process. It always required copious amounts of time spent in a library culling through a card catalog and leafing through dusty books and magazines. There were no copy machines or printers or computers or Internet or any of those things. Instead we came armed with index cards on which we hand wrote the information that seemed to be pertinent to our topic. It was tedious and time consuming and most often took place over a series of visits to several different libraries. So many sunny Saturdays and Sundays were spent inside windowless rooms searching for information.

Then came the writing process which was generally done on lined paper by hand. Editing involved scratching sentences and phrases out or using arrows to add ideas. It was a miracle if any of it was legible by the time that the typing began. Then the fun really started as we prayed that our fingers would hit the correct keys on the first strike. If we made a mistake it required carefully using whiteout fluid which the pickiest teachers didn’t want to see. I recall once taking more than twenty hours to complete the typing of a paper to the specifications of one of my professors. I don’t want to even discuss the problems associated with creating footnotes. Such memories send me into a state of unmitigated anxiety.

When computers with word processing software came along I felt as though I had died and gone to heaven. The ability to create a rough draft and then hone it until it was perfect was a godsend. When the Internet made research a more home bound project I was even more excited. A really coherent paper still required work in a library but even that was made more pleasurable with printers and copiers. The old index cards became almost obsolete. When I did use them it was to cut and paste printed pieces of information that was cogent. The new world order freed me from what had once been an odious task.

Now I have the capability of creating a blog while riding along the highway. I type away, able to correct my errors immediately. When I feel that my editing is complete I use the personal hotspot on my phone to get the wifi that I need in order to post my work. I can do this anywhere that I have cell phone coverage, which reminds me of yet another amazing device that we now mostly take for granted. Who knew that one day we would be able to carry a powerful tool like our cell phones in the palm of our hands? I still remember picking up the receiver of our home phone and hearing the conversation of a neighbor who was on the same party line as ours. We have come a long, long way.

The world is a truly amazing place and for those of us who have watched its evolution over the past many decades there is still a sense of awe at what we humans have managed to invent. I have seen so many things come to fruition that once seemed impossible. I now find myself believing that we haven’t yet seen the best of what is to come. Who knows what miracles will unfold in the coming years. If we go back and watch reruns of The Jetsons we might get a few ideas.

I wonder if we will all eventually get off of the grid, using energy sources like wind or solar as a matter of fact. Will there be flying cars? Will a pill or an operation cure mental illness? Will our adventures take us to destinations outside of our home planet? How will we live differently? Will we find newer and better ways of educating our young? It’s fun to imagine and to realize that we have probably only skimmed the surface of what is possible. I only hope that as we gain new insights into better living that we will also be conscious of our relationships with one another. We’ve never quite learned how to get along in total peace and harmony and maybe we never will, but it is nice to imagine what a cooperative world might be. If we can create wonderful things then we should also be able to conceive ideas that bring us more peace and security. We’ve been to the moon and back. Surely we can figure out how to bring harmony to our backyards. Every invention and idea began with a dream. Somewhere right now someone is thinking of the next big thing. We need to encourage anyone who mind works its way outside of the box to envision a better world. We can learn from looking back at the past but our focus should always be in moving forward. Our renaissance continues.

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