And Yet Still No Rocket Car to the Moon

So, here’s me in 2008, watching a show from 1953 about what it’s going to be like in 1970 (moon bases, lady presidents, space crews in caps and t-shirts) on a tiny handheld computer that has exponentially more processing power than anything they had for the real moon landing in 1969.

Now excuse me, I’m off to write science fiction.

35 Comments on “And Yet Still No Rocket Car to the Moon”

  1. A guy on my crew had an iPod with 3 songs and 80 gigs of porn and I tried to make a similar point- imagine if you could go back fifty years and show them this technology and you see how amazing it all is. Yet you only use it for porn. All I got was a blank stare and he went back to his porn.

  2. Scalzi, you have just become Unstuck In Time. It is possible you are now some sort of Singularity or something. Y

    You may have just doomed us all. I hope you’re happy, Mr. Man.

  3. Actually, I had the same sort of moment a couple of years ago. I was born in 1949, the year the transistor was invented, and I looked at my Palm, my cell phone, and my iPod hanging on my belt and it hit me that I had on my person more transistors, more digital data storage, and more raw computer processing power than existed on the whole earth the day I was born.

    But what *really* got to me was that, technically, these were CLOTHES!

  4. My related random thoughts.
    My grandmother was born befor we had flight and died after we made it to the moon.
    While much of the world works on the international space station there are still hunter gatherers living a life style that hasn’t changed in millenia.
    As much as I want my personal rocket pack it frightens me to think of sharing the sky with people who can barely opperate an automobile with just two axes to deal with.
    We really need to figure out FTL. Theoretical physics be damned. Screw the manned mars mission and a moon base for a stepping stone. Build an unmaned vehicle that will try and go FTL. It doesn’t need to be useful for anything else. What was the XS-1 good for besides breaking the speed of sound?

  5. Interesting! Reminds me of a note in the book Flashman and the Redskins by the (sadly deceased) author George MacDonald Fraser.

    He noted that the pace of technological change was such between the middle 19th and middle 20th centuries that a person could cross the plains in a covered wagon as a baby and live to watch a show about it on TV. This was reality, and not a jet pack in sight.

  6. At least we do have the “tiny handheld computer that has exponentially more processing power than anything they had for the real moon landing in 1969.” I just bought one from HP.

    My mother, as a young girl, saw the first automobile in her town drive down the street, and listened to the first commercial radio station in the area (on a crystal radio with headphones). Later, as a woman of unstated years, she saw the first moon landing on TV.

  7. I remember when I was about 3 watching star trek (the original series in it’s first run on NBC). The only thing that penetrated my 3 year old brain was the doors; I thought it was so cool that the crew could walk to a door and it would automatically open.

    When I turned 5, the first mall opened and it had an automatic door. That was science fiction becoming reality for me. I still think automatic doors are the coolest things.

    Watch little kids with automatic doors; they think the doors are totally cool as well.


  8. The future will not have arrived for me until it brings me portable computers the size of an iPod that can display 32″ holographic screens in Apple Cinema Display quality, and provide an input device with a decent footprint, holographic or not.

    And that such output/input holographics or whatever the heck they’ll be are secure.

    Until then, I see no future here. And it’s not like I’m asking for a rocket car or robot sex in a box.

  9. I hate those automatic doors. I have to jump for them to open for me. If you can’t count on technology not to discriminate against shortish people, what can you count on? I mean, the average human is evil, but machines are pure, and shiny, and cool!

  10. This weekend I was casually handing someone a 8 Gig flash drive smaller than my thumb to give them some files. It struck me how awesome this was, so I sat down and figured out that it would take more than 3,000 of the 5.25 inch floppy disks I used to use on the Apple IIe just 25 years ago to hold that much data.

    Of course, I was using the 8 Gig thumb drive to hold a single 50 kb file.

  11. a tiny handheld computer that has exponentially more processing power than anything they had for the real moon landing in 1969

    An exponential function can be increasing or decreasing, and it can do so very quickly or very slowly. Accordingly, I suggest “orders of magnitude” rather than “exponentially”.

  12. My “this is the future” moment came about two years ago, when I sat on a Lufthansa flight with wireless access, browsing the internet from 30,000 feet.

    When I was in college, I worked on a computer that had a 10 mb removable hard drive. The disks were the size of a pizza box and probably weighed 15 pounds.

  13. Tully, have you read The Door Into Summer? Remember the product “Hired Girl”? You know, the automatic vacuum.

    And then there was Roomba…

  14. Re: Comment 7 – didn’t Jack Williamson do that?

    Although in his case he’d have been able to watch the show on YouTube.

  15. Sara Genge @ 13

    At least they don’t have cheerful, sunny dispositions and sigh with satisfaction when they open and close for you.


  16. I share the frustration with this so-called future we’re living in: there’s just too much backwardness mixed with the futuristic parts.

    Consider this:

    – Right now, some reactionary psycho-fundamentalist is ranting against modern Western society… on an Internet messageboard.

    – Right now, computers are running the Creationist Museum.

    – Right now, men driving SUVs (in Saudi Arabia) are appalled by the notion that women might be allowed to drive automobiles.

    – Right now, a Hollywood producer is pitching a sequel to My Favorite Martian: The Movie.

  17. If my kid has his ‘this is the future’ moment when he is about my age (42), then I stand a decent chance of being still around to see it (okay, grumpy and smelling of ammonia, but hopefully still cogent). How cool is that going to be? Will I even understand what the **** is going on?

  18. All new communication technologies are, to a large degree, used for porn. This has always been the case. The main exception is if the broadcast bandwidth limitations are such that regulators can claim it as a scarce public resource (for instance, network TV).

  19. The lameness of comparisons between IT and space technologies — heck, between IT and ANY other technology except perhaps publishing, telecomm and broadcasting — is a hobbyhorse of mine.

    The definitional fact that IT manipulates, replicates and transmits INFORMATION — bits, patterns, which can be instantiated at ever-smaller scale and energy levels with unchanged function — sets it way, way apart from anything that must manipulate, replicate and move macroscopic quantities of pokey recalcitrant matter.

    Ralph Gomory (then at IBM) said it well 25 years ago. Take a ton of computer and use its materials to make 2000 little computers, and they work just as well or better. Do the same with a ton of automobile or bulldozer, airplane or spacecraft, and you have 2000 no-longer-functional toys.

    Moore’s Law progress HAS benefited space tech, in that we get orders of magnitude more function and reliability per pound of avionics or satellite circuitry than we did back in the day. But it hasn’t done much at all for the construction or propulsion of your rocket car to the moon… and isn’t likely to.

  20. forget the moon or mars, we need to be looking at our oceans and the unexplored areas of the sea floor. money ought to be spent on funding research for better antibiotics, cancer drugs, anti-viral medications and cures for the diseases that plague us now.

    you can send someone to mars if you want but its not going to help you if you catch a case of necrotizing fasciitis or MRSA

  21. #19–of course I have. That was a half-century ago. I’m still waiting. Roomba ain’t it. I have kids. I WANT MY ROBOT MAID!

  22. I have a really tall husband, and his stride is such that automatic doors don’t always open in time for him. WHAMMMMMMMM!…then a soft wooosh as it opens.

  23. Why is porn always there to drive new communications techologies? Think about it…

    Porn is documentation of the process of creation as recreation (or re-creation). Without the act of recreation everything would die off after one generation.

    Viva los orgasms!

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