The other day, as parents are wont to do, I was thinking about what kind of world my daughter is going to live in when she grows up.
Then, after I stopped screaming and unfurled myself from fetal position on the floor, I started thinking about some of the technological miracles that have been released since I was a kid, and how now they’re completely humdrum and integrated into daily life.
So without further ado, a roughly chronological top ten list of cool technologies that have become “invisible:”
Remember the first time you got your hands on a Walkman? And realized you could bring 90 minutes of whatever music you wanted with you wherever you went? No more waiting for the bus in silence or being forced to listen to the blather of strangers—you could rock your Def Leppard anywhere.
You didn’t have to go to a movie theater anymore, oh no. And if you needed to be somewhere else when your favorite show came on you could record it … and … watch it later. Whoa.
Of course, back in the early days, programming a VCR was arcane knowledge restricted only to teenage nerds with acne, but if you were one, all kinds of time shifting was suddenly possible.
3 Debit Card
Remember when you had to plan ahead when you were going shopping to make sure you actually had enough cash on hand to purchase whatever it was you needed? And you would keep your gold coins in a handy leather purse tied to your belt and carry a stave to knock robbers over the heads.
Ah, that sucked.
4 Remote Control
Yes, children, there was a time when you had to get out of the couch to change the channel. Fortunately, there were only two channels so you didn’t have to get up much anyway.
And the in-dash CD player in your car most assuredly did not have a remote control. As a matter of fact, you did not have a CD player, period, as they hadn’t been invented yet.
5 Microwave oven
There was a dark time (known as the entirety of human history) when you would have to wait longer than five minutes for food to cook.
6 Cordless phone
Phones used to be stuck to the walls. There was no talking on the phone on the patio. No, there wasn’t.
7 The Graphical User Interface
I have no mouse and I must scream…
(Yes, sure, Real Men use the Terminal, but it is pretty dang nice to have things like WYSIWYG, isn’t it?)
8 Cell phone
Not only could you not take your regular phone with you on the patio, but as soon as you were more than screaming distance from your home or office, you would have no idea somebody was calling you.
This was not always a bad thing.
9 The Internet
Back in 1990, I was at the University of Louisiana and heard about this Internet thing. Apparently there was free stuff on there and more things to read than you could ever hope to get through. So I got a 1,200 Baud modem and a copy of Kermit for my Mac Classic and went to town.
Connecting to the University of Michigan FTP server from my bedroom was the closest to a religious experience I ever had. Really.
Remember the first time you got online on a laptop without any cables? It’s the fuuuuuutuuuuure.
I re-read Neuromancer in the early nineties and was annoyed that in the book people could connect to cyberspace pretty much wherever they were without any wires. Boy, William Gibson sure overlooked that little modem detail, I thought.
Turns out that I’m an idiot and William Gibson is a prophet.
A sci-fi and fantasy heavy installment that includes The Valedictorian of Being Dead, The Mastermind, Broadsword Calling Danny Boy, Tiamat’s Wrath, The Raven Tower, The Liberation, The Light Brigade and Cryptonomicon.
Includes The Incomplete Book of Running, Aching God, The Murderbot Diaries, Lies Sleeping, The Consuming Fire, and Rendezvous with Rama.
Did you know Las Vegas is kind of nutty?
Includes Hollywood Dead, Tales from the Loop, Things from the Flood, The Court of Broken Knives, and Port of Shadows.
Nic has a retinal tear and has his vision is saved by a laser.
Includes The Storm Before the Storm, White Trash, Calypso, Tell the Machine Goodnight, Prince of Fools, and Provenance.
The Internet tells Nic to install Ubiquiti gear in his house, so he does, and now he has thoughts.