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Commentary & Analysis

Today’s Tomorrow Is Tomorrow’s Today--And All That Bunk

By Pete Rivard February 21,

By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: February 21, 2006

By Pete Rivard February 21, 2006 -- There was a surreal moment in the first years' classroom the other day. I was just completing an admirably rendered drawing of a Robertson horizontal camera on the whiteboard. Those of a certain age will remember the horizontal camera. The remains of one will from time to time be unearthed, usually when the old Print Production Building is being razed to make room for the Frank Romano Center for Streaming Media Studies. An artist's rendering of the remains of an unearthed Robertson horizontal camera. Generally regarded as elaborate archeological hoaxes by those under the age of 20. The intent of the illustration was to explain why a Photoshop filter used to sharpen images is called Unsharp Mask. I turned around to see one of my students pointing her cell phone at the whiteboard. For a moment I thought she might have been sharing whatever pearls of wisdom I was strewing about with someone remotely auditing the class. Then it struck me that her cell phone was also a camera, albeit one about 1/500th the size of the Robertson horizontal and roughly 1/4000th of the weight! I mentally adjusted her employability ranking upwards a few points. High marks for equipment utility. You have to admire the young lady’s efficiency. It took her less time to snap the whiteboard illustration and upload it to her laptop than it took me to draw it, or would have taken her to copy it. I mentally adjusted her employability ranking upwards a few points. High marks for equipment utility. The cell phone is a camera. The computer is a telephone. The automobile is a personal assistant, scheduling its own routine maintenance with the dealership and emailing the owner confirming the appointment. If it weren’t for health clubs and personal trainers, we’d all be in danger of evolving into those huge-cranium, shriveled-body creatures just waiting to be overrun by hardened Cossacks bent on cleansing the planet of capitalism. Oh, shoot, I forgot. These days even the Cossacks are struggling capitalists. In China, the once feared yellow horde is positioning itself to out-consume us. I defy you to dig into Popular Science’s archives from the time and find anything on the subject of JDF. Where are the Robots? I distinctly remember, as a kid back in the 60’s, poring over Popular Science articles detailing how, by the year 1990, we’d all be ferried to the workplace in hovercraft piloted by our robot butlers. After a strenuous 3-4 hour workday, our metallized sidekicks would chauffeur us home, reciting the news beamed directly to their data banks or conversing with us on any conceivable topic.. There was never a mention of variable data print streams. Nothing back then on the subject of XML tagging. Any term that started with an X had to do with high-intensity vaporizing beams with which we would deal with enemy tanks and aircraft. I defy you to dig into Popular Science’s archives from the time and find anything on the subject of JDF. The same artist’s rendering of the personal, robot-piloted hovercraft promised by Popular Science to its readers back in the '60s. The future arrived some time ago. I’m not exactly sure when, but Adobe Apple, and Xerox seem to be heavily implicated. I’ll probably have my own cell phone camera soon, for no other reason than the public pay phone has gone the way of the Robertson camera. Children gather about junked pay phones and ponder the physical size the giants were who carried them. Yet my 30-mile commute to work, an easy ten minutes or less in any respectable flying saucer, takes fifty minutes to an hour. In good weather. Robot assistant? The budget doesn’t even permit for a part-time human. The four-hour workday? Bwah hah hah hah hahhh! The future arrived some time ago. I’m not exactly sure when, but Adobe Apple, and Xerox seem to be heavily implicated. It’s 2006, dammit! I never asked for a camera telephone. Where’s my danged hovercraft?

 

 

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