Up To The Pictophone!
Back in 1970 I entered the Calgary Science Fair with a project called "Up to the Pictophone". I wanted to do something to do with electronics and the future. I also wanted to learn more about television and electronics. I am not 100% sure now why I chose the video telephone, but that was my choice.
I never expected to make one, but I researched telephones and how they worked and how televisions worked and had pictures of what they thought the "Pictophone" would look like. All of our phones in the house still had dials and were owned by the telephone company at the time - you weren't even allowed to plug your own equipment into the line. I am mentioning these things just to give an idea of what things were like not so long ago. At that time, we considered long distance calls an expensive extravagance which we only rarely made or received. Very different from today.
I mention this because there are times I realize that I am living in the future I saw when I was 13. It struck me last night as I was sitting in this very same rocking chair with my MacBook on my lap chatting with my friend in the UK. We didn't have our webcams on at the time, but easily could have. But I looked at the screen of my notebook computer and realized that it was doing exactly what that "Pictophone" was supposed to be doing. It also was in a form not too much different in size from that envisioned for the videophone way back in 1970.
Of course, this computer can do much much more than the envisioned Pictophone. This little notebook computer can do much of what the computers of science fiction of the time could do... and it is only the size of a notebook. Mind you I am considering my computer connected to the Internet. Still, the brains are in the box. This computer can understand rudimentary spoken commands as-is. I believe it can understand much more with just a modest bit of added software. It can recite any document it displays at my command. I have had it read to me whole chapters of the novel I am writing - it can really point out weaknesses in the writing style when you hear it read aloud. If I wanted to know about left handed poodle trimmers, I could search for that information.
There are many other ways in which we are living in a Science Fiction style future as seen from 1970. I think it is interesting to try go back and think of what we would think if we could see where we are now with eyes from then. True there are troubles and problems, but there are wonders too.
It can be good to look at things with fresh eyes.
Can you be 13 again?
Darrell Wade Penner / BelGnorman the Gnome
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