I was talking to my mom via FaceTime last night and told her that if she could flash back to when she was a young teenager (say 13-14) could she ever imagine talking to her son through a device whereby she could see and hear him. She said she couldn’t. When she was growing up, she was told that there was a device that could record your voice and play it back so you can hear it. She had a hard time comprehending that such a device existed in the first place — much less the reality that one could actually hear a recording of one’s voice.
It is pretty striking how much technology has changed from when she was a little girl to now. When I was a kid, I was enthralled with the NASA space program, Star Trek, and, well, anything that had to do with the future. Mostly, the technology that would make life easier for humans was fascinating
to me. I loved depictions of video phones, food dispensers that would serve you a meal in seconds, robots who assisted humans with jobs, and, most importantly, flying cars. When Star Wars premiered in 1977, George Lucas had Luke Skywalker driving what I thought flying cars would be like in the future — which, admittedly, were more like hovercrafts. I wasn’t the only one who found futuristic devices fascinating. The people who went on to design cell phones, iPhones, tablets, flatscreen TVs, microwave ovens, and, yes, even robotic assistants (mostly in manufacturing) were undoubtedly inspired by what they read in books or saw on TV and the movies. How else do you explain the uncanny resemblance of the flip phone to Captain Kirk’s communicator? Or the Tri-corder to the iPhone? Sure I could go on, but really, much of what we take for granted now in terms of technology, and the fact that it’s mainstreamed so thoroughly, means that the geek dreams of the past (you know, the one’s that would have gotten you an atomic wedgie in middle school) are now the daily devices of those who would have given a geek a wedgie.
As far as flying cars go…well, years ago I took Maya to Future Fest in San Francisco where we saw a flying car. Alas, we didn’t actually see it fly. The future may be now, but when it comes to flying cars for everyone, it’s still a geek dream.