Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Going Backwards?

We watched a documentary about the last Space Shuttle flight today and it got me thinking that, in some ways, technological improvements have stalled at the start of the 21st century.

We are so used to things becoming 'better' or 'faster' or 'bigger' (or indeed, 'smaller') as time passes and knowledge increases.  I'm sure we've all had the experience of telling a disbelieving child/student that when we were their age there were no computer games; that you had to find  phone-box and have a 2p piece to call someone if you weren't at home; that if you missed a film at the cinema you had to wait 7 years until it turned up on TV and if you missed it then, well, tough.  Buying music was a totally different experience; it wasn't the mass media, instantly available commodity it has now become.

Yes, we currently amaze our children with stories of how things were different, and to their minds, slightly backward, in the past.  But watching the film of Atlantis's last landing, it struck me that in my lifetime I've seen the development, testing, commercial success and death of both the space shuttle and Concorde.

When my soon-to-be-born son is old enough, I will tell him that before he was born, there was no such thing as holographic TV, and you weren't able to teleport a cornish pastie straight to your oven from Greggs' pastie factory in Uttoxeter, and that we had to walk everywhere because hoverboots hadn't been perfected.

But I will also be telling him that we had a passenger plane that travelled at twice the speed of sound and flew to New York and back in 6 hours.  And that we had a spaceship which could fly into orbit, help to build a space-station and then return, over and over again.  And that, before the shuttle, we sent 12 men to walk on the moon; not because it was easy, but because it was hard.

These things that happened in my lifetime sound futuristic.  And it makes me sad because he may not believe me.