Remembering the Future

At the weekend I finished a draft of my next near-future novel.

Co-incidentally I re-watched “Johnny Mnemonic”, the 1995 near-future SF film starring Keanu Reeves.  It was on an old VHS.  I won’t watch that again because the tape snapped on rewind.

It was doubly timely, because the scrolling text talks about the middle of the second decade of the 21st Century, i.e. ‘now’ (although the action takes place in 2021).

In the film, Johnny has a brain implant that enables him to store 80 Gb (gigabytes), with a memory doubler to increase that to 160 Gb.  He’s asked to store 320 Gb.  Now, the kit he uses to transfer the data was bulkier than my 1 Tb (terabype) portable hard-drive and Amazon is selling a USB data stick for £193.94 that holds 256 Gb.  They could have saved themselves a lot of hassle and adventure if they’d simply popped it in the post, or, given this is the second decade of the 21st Century, transferred the files via DropBox?

I saw a great documentary years ago on this that used a Flash Gordon clip.  Flash gets an anti-gravity device to descend to the Planet Mongo.  The thin belt may well be what a gravity belt looks like, says the commentary.  Fair enough.  Next, Professor Zarkov gives Flash a ray gun, and, who knows, a ray gun may end up looking like the classic spark firing toy variety.   Finally, Dale gives Flash a radio so he can keep in touch, and you knows, a radio in the future may well look like a big mahogany box with dials… hang on!

It’s that failure of imagination.

Star Trek: The Next Generation famously imagined tablet computers.  However, they are used in a bizarre manner.  If you want someone to do something on the Enterprise, say proof read your novel, then you hand over your Kindle.  That’s my entire e-library, if you don’t mind.  But collecting a file via email to their own PADD seems alien technology.

To show Captain Picard is very busy, his desk is awash with numerous tablet computers, which entirely fails to understand that more that tablets store more than one computer file.    (There is, to be fair, a problem in showing a person who is organised and someone who is overworked when both are just sitting there with the same slab of technology.)

I shouldn’t really criticise.  When I bought my first computer, the BBC Micro came is two varieties: 32k and 64k.  Did I really want to spend more for the extra memory, I thought, after all, what would anyone need more than 32k for?  (My novel is 4.1 Mbs.)

It does make me think about my own predicting, mind.


One thought on “Remembering the Future

  1. I don’t know if the story is apocryphal, but supposedly Bill Gates said he didn’t know why anyone would ever use more than 4K of memory.

    I coded MasterMind into my programmable pocket calculator in 100 steps.

    We’ve come a long way, baby.

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