By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
When I was a kid I had this series of books about what life would be like in “the future.” While not all of it has come to pass, so much has that it is almost spooky at times. It’s also interesting how much of it has happened in a different way than predicted in those books. Let’s take communication technology, for instance.
In those books the telephones we all had mounted to our walls in the 1980s were replaced with giant screens for video calls. That still hasn’t happened in the way the books predicted, but video conferencing is now a big part of all our lives. From Facetime on iPhones to Skype, GoToMeeting, and Zoom on our laptops, tablets and smartphones, teleconferencing is firmly embedded in our lives – particularly our business lives. Video phones never have replaced the land line or the standard cell phone, probably because we still don’t want to answer every call with our faces visible (no one wants to have to get up and put on real clothes and makeup, or to shave, just in case we get a telephone call), but it’s an option that many of us take advantage of at least every once in a while. Whether to show off the new baby to snowbird grandparents in Florida, or to hold a business meeting while quarantined due to a pandemic – or just to stay involved while out of town for work or on vacation – it’s a ubiquitous part of modern culture.
Another thing that was predicted was something that every gamer is familiar with, and probably takes for granted; playing games online. Granted, in that age of the Atari 2600 and Colecovision, the kind of distance gaming discussed took the form of holographic board games like chess or checkers played with “friends from around the world” instead of the online first-person shooters and MMORPGs that dominate online gaming today. But still, they were right. Online gaming is a huge part of the modern landscape.
My favorite part of living in the future, though, might be the household robots that were predicted. These have pretty much manifested exactly as predicted in the books. Our Roomba vacuum cleaner (we call him Bob) and our Braava mop (we call her Rosie, after the robot housekeeper in the Jetsons) make life so much easier that I’d hate to go back to living without them. One thing I would love, though, is the type of household integration shown in these books. Bob and Rosie require external plugs and charging stations, while their counterparts in these childhood books stored away inside the walls when not in use, behind tiny automated doors. I really wish that was the way they worked for us. It isn’t just for aesthetic purposes. We have a toddler, and he absolutely loves to push their buttons. This means the vacuum or mop starting outside their scheduled time, as well as a continuous on/off of the machines while he gleefully pounds on them.
So, the future isn’t exactly perfect. I have to keep the kid from tearing up the robots. And I still have to weed eat around the house and swing set too. But letting Yard Bob, our robot lawn mower, run continuously between charges while I sit on the patio watching the kids play sure as heck beats pushing a gas powered mower in the summer heat. Viva life in the future!
Jeremy D. Wells can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org