Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The future isn't what it used to be

The new thing on Facebook is to show a picture of some object long ago relegated to the dustbin of history and let everyone wonder what it is and for what it was used.  Skate keys, floor-mounted headlight dimmer switches, ice cube trays, Vote for Reagan buttons...all relics of a dimly-recalled past.

So of course, I started thinking about what your great-grand-children will pull from underneath your socks in the chest of draws that you bequeath to them.  Or household objects of the present times..what mystery will they hold for little Brattleboro and Desdemona in 2092?

For one thing, they will puzzle over the VHS tapes of "Quincy" and "Dallas" that they find, packed in boxes that once held ream upon ream of Xerox paper.  For that matter, they will wonder what Xerox paper was, since in 2092, everyone will have every document relevant to their life on a tiny hard drive in their thumb-sized personal retention device.  No more need to carry a driver's license, passport or proof of membership in the Tea Party, as long as you can get your thumb to boot up, so to speak.

The descendants will find a Keurig machine in the dustbin of history and some old-timer will tell them that these machines made one cup of coffee at a time for only 76 cents.  Sure, it was weak, and sure, it came out so tepid as to require microwaving to heat it up and a little instant coffee to strengthen it, but what a marvelous device it was for making weak cool coffee for you, and billions for Hans Keurig, its inventor!

Someone is bound to leave a pile of those little padded mailing envelopes among their stationery supplies.  People of 2092 won't remember this, but we could tell them: these envelopes were used to send precious fragile items from place to place, and contained a microchip to signal the Post Office to place them directly underneath several of its vehicles on their ill-fated journey.

And speaking of Journey...people in 2092 will read of a band popular in the 1980s whose songs became mandatory parts of the playlist at every wedding reception, bar mitzvah, crab feast and supermarket opening in the first twenty years of the 21st Century.  Members of our farflung families will find the 27 various Journey's Greatest Hits CDs and, dusting off someone's old heirloom Discman, listen over and over again, seeking the significance of the lyrics to "The Party's Over (Hopelessly in Love)" and "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)" and surely, they will Wonder Why (Anyone Ever Cared To Begin With).

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