By the time I was a kid, jokes about the lack of flying cars and other futuristic technologies dreamed of in the earlier parts of the 20th century were already pretty well worn out.
For all the advancements of science and engineering, I try to keep in mind that decades of hard work by hundreds of thousands of people to develop modern computers seem to have culminated in my children's ability to play Monopoly on our iPad instead of on foldable cardboard.
Sure, I can swipe a shard of plastic through a machine that automatically deducts the correct amount from my checking account, but it doesn't change the fact I still have to wait for an under-paid, under-trained, under-enthusiastic part-time employee at the RDU Airport Breugger's Bagels to charge me way too much for a poorly made turkey sandwich. And, yes, for the fifth time, I do NOT want mayonnaise!
In a day and age when we can send people to the moon -- which I should already be able to book for my next vacation, according to the prognosticators of the 1960s -- shouldn't I be able to list thousands of ways in which trillions of dollars of NASA research has improved my health and minimized my ecological footprint on the Earth? So far, all I have to show for it is powdered drinks, cordless power tools, and the hope that I'll never need anti-shock trousers.
Communication seems to be the aspect of life most significantly impacted by the wonders of technology. I can listen to any song, or watch any movie, on my iPod while I'm traveling across the country at roughly two-thirds the speed of sound. Just so long as I don't try to do it while we're taxiing to or from the gate, or right after we take off, or during the last few minutes of our flight. In fact, if my flight is a short one, it's best if I limit my iPod use to the terminal. I can scrape the mayonnaise off my bagel while P!nk encourages me to be expletively perfect.
Phones have come a long way, as well. I remember when my father hung our first non-rotary phone in the kitchen. It was amazing. I'm fairly certain the buttons lit up. It had a stretchy cord long enough for me sit around the corner in the living room. And when we got our first cordless phone? We might as well have been the Jetsons!
Now we have the joys of modern cell phones. Through audio, text, internet browsing, photo sharing, video feeds, live feeds, and triangulated satelite navigation, I can keep in constant contact with the world.
I can even begin typing a blog about the woman at Breugger's Bagels (who ignored me while I tried to get her to understand I wanted the Asiago bagel instead of the Asiago softwich) while I'm standing right there in front of her. Unfortunately, the intuitive auto correct keeps trying to change every other word. Here is a sentence auto correct helped me type: "If we spec. Half the time listener to what im staying I MIG just get want I was askew for."
I wonder if Gutenberg -- German printing press inventor Johannes Gutenberg, not semi-beloved American actor Steve Guttenberg -- could ever have imagined such automated efficiency?
© 2011 Mark Feggeler