Like everyone, I’ve been caught up in the whole Back to the Future craze. In case anyone’s living under a rock, October 21st, 2015 is the date Marty McFly visited in Back to the Future 2.
The movie was made in the 80s, so we got to see Robert Zemeckis’s predictions for technology, fashion, trends, and everything else.
Now, there are articles all over the place that talk about what he got right and wrong. Therefore, I’m not gonna go into that. All this Back to the Future stuff has got me thinking about technology in general. We’ve come a loooooong way since 1989.
In some areas.
But doesn’t it feel that, in other aspects, we haven’t progressed at all? With that in mind, I wanted to share 4 things I think have advanced like crazy and 4 things that have stagnated and sucked.
Things that have advanced like crazy
The most advanced toy I remember from childhood was Teddy Ruxpin. You put a cassette tape in his back and he came to life! He mouth moved and he told amazing stories. The experience mesmerized me for hours.
I looked up Teddy Ruxpin on YouTube the other day to feel that nostalgic magic. Oh man, he’s pretty much a piece of crap by today’s standards. If you look at Ruxpin, he’s just a cassette player shoved into a teddy bear. And his mouth and eyes just randomly move. Playing with Teddy Ruxpin is like watching a badly dubbed Japanese movie.
Today’s toys, however… DAMN! Did you know there’s a toy helicopter you control with your mind!!??
WITH YOUR MIND!!
Seriously, you put a thing that monitors brainwaves on your head. Then you focus on flying and, if you “think properly”, the thing actually takes off. Check out this video for examples:
Mind blown (pun intended).
Phones are like the most advanced things ever! Even when you watch old futuristic movies – where the writer’s imagination was his only limitation – phones couldn’t do what they do now. It’s like phones are more advanced than our imaginations. Think about that for a second.
Phones from futuristic old movies
– They were wireless
– They had caller ID
– They had screens where you could see the other party
– They do all the stuff above.
– They can control your entire house.
– They’re can control brain helicopters!
For this one, we’re going to talk about Shoulder Joe. Shoulder Joe is a gentlemen in my writer’s group. And he was just plain Joe until tonight (I love how timing works out so perfectly sometimes).
So I brought this article to group tonight (the one I’m writing right now… you’re reading something that has been to writer’s group!). The members really liked it… except for this item. They thought my original “Medicine” example was blah. They were right: it sucked.
I sat there for a minute, then shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ll think of something.”
Joe stood up. “Want me to show you how far medicine has come?”
At that, he rolled up his right sleeve and pointed at his shoulder. “That scar is from a surgery I had over twenty years ago.”
We all took a look. Damn the scar was huge! Like a snake winding its way up his arm.
“And this,” continued Joe, rolling up his other sleeve, “is from the same surgery I had on the other shoulder a couple years ago.”
Again, we all leaned in for a closer look. The tiny round scar was almost invisible.
Without another word, Joe rolled down his sleeves, sat down, and put his hands on the table.
BAM. Shoulder Joe was born (Joeulder?).
Remember how, when watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, Data would sit at a terminal and let his hands fly over a huge touchscreen?
Man, wasn’t that so cool? I used to be like, “Wow! I wish I were alive hundreds of years from now so I could use big touchscreen things!”
Well, the future has arrived! It’s aliiiiiiive! Everything is touchscreen nowadays. And they’re every bit as cool as Star Trek’s.
Things that suck
An acquaintance of mine drives a 1990 Mercedes. It has heated leather seats, automatic everything, reclining rear seats, and is the smoothest ride under the sun.
The car is 25 years old. It’s 25 years old, yet it has more features than lots of today’s models.
Isn’t that sad? If you took the fanciest phone 25 years ago and compared it to one today…. well you’d have to pull the springy phone cord from the wall and it would really just be a big mess. Let’s just say the difference in phones is like the different between Kirk’s Enterprise and Picard’s.
I will admit cars have finally began to advance the past several years, what with electric engines and better GPS. But still, you can find older cars that seem to be just as advanced as today’s Ford Focus. BURN ON THE FOCUS! (I don’t know why I said that. I like the Focus just fine).
Yep, medicine is on this list, too.
I was born with hernias back in the mid 70s and had surgeries when I was two. Today, I don’t have ANY evidence of that surgery. No side effects or hangups or anything.
Sure, surgeries today are more advanced. But I honestly expected nowadays to go to the doctor and be like:
ME: I’m not feeling well.
DOCTOR: Let’s examine you…. it looks like you have appendicitis.
ME: OH NO! That sucks. What do I do?
DOCTOR: Take this pill. It will dissolve your appendix. The remains will flush out through your bloodstream when you tinkle.
DOCTOR: You know. Tee tee.
ME: OH! OK thanks!
And when you look at things like ACL repair surgeries, they’re more advanced, but surgeons still have to use hamstrings or cadavers. And you have scarring for life. On top of that, you likely won’t ever be quite as badass afterwards.
So while medicine has extended our life spans, we still need nanites that will keep me healthy and alive forever! FOREVER!!!
Siri (Artificial Intelligence?)
You know how on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Geordi LaForge would have entire conversations with the ship’s computer (I’m soooo Trekking out today)? They usually went something like this:
COMPUTER: Yes, Geordi.
GEORDI: I’m looking for advice on picking up women.
COMPUTER: Please specify the type of woman you like.
GEORDI: I like brilliant women who can challenge me.
COMPUTER: OK. Hold your hand out and form the shape of the woman you want.
GEORDI: Alright. (He draws a wide hourglass in the air).
COMPUTER: Thank you. Scanning. There is a woman in sector B. She is a brunette. At this very moment she’s talking to her friend about how she likes blind men with cool gadgetry.
GEORDI: Perfect! Take me there.
COMPUTER: You got it!
Now let’s look at a conversation between me and Siri:
SIRI: How can I help you, today?
CODY: I’m looking for the nearest Safeway.
SIRI: Scanning for safe houses.
CODY: WHAT? No! I’m not an abuse victim. I want Safeway.
SIRI: Please repeat command.
CODY: SAFEWAY. I’m looking for SAFEWAY.
(At that moment, I drove by a Safeway… This is a true story.)
SIRI: Sorry, I didn’t find a Safeway in your area.
CODY: (Looks at the Safeway sitting right next to him) I hate you, Siri.
SIRI: I’m doing my best.
For all you conspiracy theorists out there, there’s this thing called HAARP (Click here for some fun reading). Essentially, it’s a weapon that can supposedly control the weather.
One of my old coworkers (who was brilliant, mind you) FIRMLY believed in HAARP.
“They used it to create Hurricane Katrina,” he said.
“What?” I said in my most unbelieving voice.
“Yes!” he said. “The major catastrophic earthquakes and tsunamis recently were caused by HAARP!”
“Sooooo there’s no chance they were caused by natural forces? You know, like how it’s happened for millions of years?”
If my coworker was right, and some mega device out there exists that can control the earth’s weather, I’ll eat my words and print a retraction. Until then, I’m going to sit here, point at the weatherman and say, “You said it was going to be sunny today and it’s pouring down rain!” Just like people have done for years, because our forecasting still stinks!