One benefit of writing a blog like this one is that while you think of the next project to outstand, you just might stumble over another old project that you'd simply forgotten about. This is one of those.
When I became a father, I realized that my children will grow up and live their lives in my science fiction. How would they perceive all the things I grew up with, and thought were pretty neat? I pondered the possibility to create a web site to tell my children about all those things that they never will have to touch, things I grew up with, but has become so obsolete they will not return.
The bright future
- VHS tape and compact cassettes are two examples. Mechanical media recorders in general is something I have a hard time imagining my children to use, other than out of curiosity.
- Thin ethernet is another thing. BNC connectors, terminators, finding out which computer is interfering with the whole network. My first home network was a three-computer 10BASE2 network, consisting of two Linux machines and one Amiga. I've never used thick ethernet, and I'm not particularly sorry about that, though I have friends with somewhat fond memories of that kind of network.
- Wired phones. I mean, how 18th century is that? They couldn't even text, let alone surf the net. I bet they'll never have to look somebody up in a paper phone book, or try reaching someone, standing in a phone booth, searching for leftover coins in their pockets. On the other hand, they'll probably not experience the excitement of finding forgotten return coins in phone booths, either.
- One last, phone related point: Area codes. They're definitely on their way out, and when my children get their own phones, area codes will probably be long gone.
- Being forced to make plans in advance. No, they'll still have to do that, but to a lesser extent. That's one advantage of cell phones (Ok, I lied in the previous point.) that I rather enjoy, being able to meet up with someone on a whim, or tell my wife that I happened to take the children's mittens to work, no need to search for them.
- Vinyl records... Now, that's something they just might come in contact with. That technology is surprisingly resilient, for some reason.
The bleak future
There are, of course, things that were better in the past. My children will grow up in a world where it quite possibly is illegal to break open and peek inside media players and other devices that even remotely handle copyrighted material. Not that there will be much to see inside them, though; probably a few monolithic, integrated circuits and a few capacitors along with a ridiculously dangerous battery. But the principle!
When I grew up, you could build an FM radio receiver from bits of wire, some transistors and a few coils, resistors and capacitors. In a few years, there might not be any analog transmitters to receive, as more and more stations go digital. (On the other hand, they will be able to buy small, over-powered building blocks, even more so than today's BeagleBone Black or Raspberry Pi, and build really cool stuff with them in mere minutes.)
My children will have a hard time evading being logged and analyzed for marketing and other purposes. Anything they do will be registered, unless they cut themselves off from society by leaving phones and cards at home. I reached the age of 40 before laws were passed that anything we do with our phones and computers throughout Europe must be logged and kept for 6 to 24 months.
Those laws were later revoked, but not before the entire infrastructure and related procedures were implemented, and they were revoked on mere technicalities. They will be back, in some form or another, and my children will be subject to them.
In the future, it might be suspicious to use cash instead of electronic money, making it even more difficult to not having your shopping habits logged.
Some more stuff
In my research for this post, I asked a few friends for tips about obsolete and emerging technologies, some of which I've written about in the preceding paragraphs, and some of which I'm going to present in a list below, for the reader to ponder:
- Not being constantly being monitored by technology. Even today, taking a walk in the forest without carrying your phone can be a bit scary.
- Being able to take things apart, and repair or improve them, will be more difficult.
- Pocket calculators, as things instead of an app.
- Portable music players. Again, as things, rather than apps.
- Pencils, the sharpen-it-yourself variety.
- Your grandchildren might not be able to buy cheap paperback books.
- Scheduled TV broadcasts.
- Paper encyclopedias.
- Computers without network access.
- Spirit duplicators. Those bluish-purplish copies did have a rather unique fragrance, didn't they?
And "Saker du slipper"? Roughly translated, it would be "Things you won't have to experience or care about".
What do you think our children won't have to deal with in the future? What do you think is unfortunate that they won't experience?