Wednesday, December 5, 2018

A Space Age Christmas: The Future Has Arrived

I am a product of the space age. I was a bit too young to remember the launch of Sputnik by the Russians in 1957, but I remember when Alan Shepard went into space in May of 1961. I remember it because my birthday was only three days earlier. Everyone seemed obsessed with the notion of exploring outer space.

This Computer is a Result of the Race for Space
The science behind making the space race possible yielded curious new technology that soon spilled over into the consumer market. For example, space travel required maximizing power while minimizing space. Think transistor radio. (If you’re old enough to remember those.)

I’ve shared with students through the years that we have computers today because of the need for them to operate rockets to conquer space. It’s true. 

Space travel inspired futuristic comic books and movies. The idea of living in outer space or on another planet captured the imagination of everyone. Including the Hanna-Barbera team that produced the popular cartoon, The Flintstones.

A space age cartoon called the Jetsons arrived on the scene in 1962 only a year after Shepard’s historic flight. The Jetsons had cool gadgets –cars that could fly and a station in the kitchen where you merely punched in the food item you wanted and it appeared hot and ready in a minute. We don’t have cars that fly but we do have microwaves. Of course we have to put the food in it first.

Although the story themes were traditional, I watched the Jetsons fascinated to see how people might live in the future. 

AP Photo Credit/ Claude Paris
Consider this: The Jetsons had two children Judy and Elroy.  The children climbed in a pod and were delivered to school every morning. Unimaginable? We have drones that will deliver packages. Not that far fetched after all.

George Jetson, the father in the cartoon wore a watch that also served as a computer of sorts. His boss would call him and they could actually see each other as the talked.  Silly? Not so much. It was, in essence a smart watch. 

Jane Jetson, the mom, could speak to friends via Facetime, though it wasn’t called that. She even had a special mask of her own face she could wear if the call was early and she hadn’t combed her hair. 

We have a lot of what was only imagined in the 1960’s. I’ve personally reaped the benefits of products invented because of the space race. I’m typing this post on my laptop computer. I have a cell phone I can take with me anywhere. My computer in my car can calculate the best route to drive to my desired destination. 

The Future Has Arrived!
But those inventions pale in comparison to my newest acquisition.

You see, the Jetsons had a robot named Rosie who cleaned the house for them. The day after Thanksgiving, a local department store offered a Roomba at a great price during the “Black Friday” sale. So I treated myself to an early Christmas present. 

A Roomba is an automated vacuum to sweep my floors while I sit here and type. 

A programmable robot. A Rosie of my own. The future has arrived. 

Well, almost. I’m still hoping they’ll invent a filter for the camera on my Smart phone that will make me look younger and thinner. 

What do you wish to see invented next? Think. Believe. Create. It all starts with your imagination.