Our Guest Poster today is T.K. Toppin, a science-fiction author hailing from Barbados, here to talk to us a little bit about how the things that were science-fiction a few generations ago have come to pass. You can learn more about her works by clicking on the covers.~L.T. Getty
My grandparents, if they were still alive today, would be—more or less—in their 110th year. Like, wow, right?
I was offered the blog post prompt of 10 things we have now that would’ve been considered science fiction in their generation. In order to do that, I had to do a little research—as in what was around in their time.
A quick Google search showed that in the early 1900s, when they were born, already there was electricity and telephones (though, not everyone had use of it), piston-driven engines that ran on gasoline (again, not for everyone and mostly for the affluent), phonographic recording, cameras/film for stills and silent movies, telegraphs, rapid-fire firearms, gas bombs, and the very first airplanes.
By the time my grandparents hit their twenties, there were more cars, airplanes had most of the kinks ironed out, and World War I. In the 1940s, World War II came about and they too would’ve been in their forties. Google notes that Velcro was invented then, and I suppose in their generation, that was akin to sci-fi.
Jump a mere twenty years, and you have the 1960s. It seems the 60s brought with it incredible leaps and bounds in the technological arena. From TVs in almost every home, Polaroid cameras, air-conditioning, robotics, the first computer, pocket radios, lasers, video, and rocket science. Fast forward another twenty, into the 1980s, and personal computers were more accessible, CDs, VCRs, Walkmans, cable TV, camcorders, answering machines, portable and cordless telephones, and the very first cell phones were emerging (Remember those bricks? Literally.).
And now? What do we have? Here’s my list of 10, just a few of many, and what these items would mean to, and do to my grandparents.
Let’s face it, every house has one, every workplace, even your car. We in live an abundantly obscene techno generation. These days, what doesn’t have a computer chip inside it? My grandparents would’ve goggled at seeing words typed across a screen as you type it, or witness real-time live motion, graphics created at your fingertips. I remember my mother marveling at the very fact of realizing what an email was all about.
- Handheld Devices
From portable credit card machines to scanner, cell phones to iPods, which are really computers squashed into extremely small packages. In the age of convenience and on-the-go necessities, we have all these little gadgets. Were my grandparents to witness these, things only once seen in movies or read about it in books, they would be gobsmacked. For one thing, they’d have no idea how to work them, let alone know what they did. I vividly remember trying to teach my father how to work the VCR. Up to his dying day, I doubt he fully understood what all the buttons did, let alone how to work the remote control.
- Organ Transplants/Medical Advancements/Emergency Medical Services
I think that all speaks for itself. Death, while it cannot be averted, can be delayed or the inevitable prolonged for a very long time. The advances we’ve made in medical sciences are incredible and everyday, new advancements and discoveries are made. Emergency response teams can arrive and deliver medical care in even the most remote areas on the globe via fast vehicles on land, air, and sea. My grandparents grew up in the generation where new vaccines were still being discovered for diseases and viruses that are now curable. Even X-rays were still primitive and more harmful than good. If I were to explain to them about heart transplants and pacemakers, genetic research or even stem cell growth, I’m pretty sure my grandparents would disbelieve every word I said.
- Digital Imaging and 3D
Come on, we take all this for the norm now. What movie isn’t out there that isn’t in 3D? (Personally, it makes me feel slightly barfy. I suppose I’m from a slightly older generation. Shh.) The very concept of digital imaging (from moving pictures to special effects, oh, and those holographs!) would boggle my grandparents mind. To think they were around when honking huge TVs made it from black and white to colour and the first VCRs were just emerging. If they saw all the flat screen TVs from the wall units to the tiny ones in your cell phones they would be mesmerized, you know, like how those babies are with watching TV. In this age of digital, it has also brought with it a vast array for different imaging systems, from video chatting, home and public security monitoring to movie magic.
- The Online World
This techno-generation, we live straight out of a SF imaginings. The online world has birthed a multitude of amazing and sometimes scary manifestations. We don’t think twice about Skyping with friends and family, having video messaging, instant messaging, Twitter, Facebook, Google hangouts and the numerous other social networks. The entire world brought closer at the touch of the ‘send’ button. I doubt my grandparents could even begin to grasp it in its entirety. As I said, even my mother marveled at the idea of emails, and fax machines. Theirs was the age of snail mail and long distance telephone calls, where one shouted down the speaker and the receiver had to strain their ears to hear. Where costs to make these calls were horribly high and no ‘long-distance-dialing’ discount numbers to call beforehand existed. The idea of ‘free’ chatting would be mind-blowing. Sometimes, even I wonder about the magic of it all because I am really living IN a SF world. It’s really sad when even my brother, who lives far, far away, can share an amazed laugh that we can instant message each other while he goes cross-country via train as if we were in the same room. Like, wow! This IS science fiction. And it even has its own language. Talk about alien-speak.
- Instant Food, Convenience Items
We live in a disposable world and nothing lasts as long as it used to. Food being one of them. Gone are the days when the average person spent laboriously long hours conjuring up a masterpiece feast that could be savoured for days. We now have the option to make instant food from frozen dinners to ordering take out. From the instant gravy packets to the dehydrated bouquet garni that comes out of the shaker, nearly half of everything in our cupboards are convenience items. I can name a number of items in my very own kitchen: dried Italian herbs, Bisto gravy mix, Ramen noodles, frozen desserts, frozen hamburger patties, pre-sliced packaged deli meats, corned beef and baked beans and soup tins, frozen veggies. Wow, I have quite a bit more but am too embarrassed to keep going. In my grandparents time, they would’ve carefully selected every single food item and used it wisely, making whatever delicacy from scratch, from flavour to next week’s sandwich from the same hunk of meat.
- Solar Cells
It speaks for itself. But considering in their generation wind technology was used (and still us), I’m pretty sure the idea of ‘trapping’ the sun’s rays to create energy would be a marvel. But think about it. Solar technology has and is changing the world. It not only can provide electrical power to light up the universe, when you look carefully, it can power anything, from your watch, calculator, hot water systems, even cars.
As I said before, we live in a disposable world and we’ve filled it with the excesses of our disposable junk. Thankfully recycling emerged and now practically anything and everything is recycled and spat out again for us to consume like vultures. Gone are the days when things were made to last for generations, from canning jars to furniture, toys to buildings. If it breaks, if it stops working, if it tears just a little…we throw it away. But now, what was once unthinkable, all the parts used to make these disposables are sucked back in and remade, maybe into the plastic dinner plate at your next picnic (Eww, just had an image of an old toilet seat made into a plate…)
- 3D Printers
Well, I’m still trying to wrap my head over that one. But they are here, they exist, and they are very real. I’m sure my grandparents will tell me to “git outta here!” (or the Japanese equivalent of it).
Now, I know this is a term that really is science fiction, popularized by scientists (click here), but let’s face it, there are things being created—some in use—that a few decades ago were unheard of, because of nanotechnology. Now that is science fiction! Check out this article, and I am pretty sure my grandparents would have those cartoon question marks over their heads. When you really think about it, without this technology, a lot of the items I listed would not be around.
Well there you have it, a bit long and wordy. I’m sure my grandparents would feel utterly out of place, like fish out of water. But had they lived through all these new developments, I’m pretty sure, like everything, they would’ve learned to adapt. I know I am…still.