I Remember Back in the Early ’70s

JOHN W. CAMPBELL, shortly before he died, saying something to the effect of, “All those space-ships and time-travel and telepathy, and not one of us anticipated the digital computer.”

And it’s true. Even as late as 1964-65, when Heinlein was inventing that Dinkum Thinkum, Mike, one gets the impression that computers a hundred years down the road would still be made of massive steel frames holding racks and rows of racks of vacuum tubes manipulating limited computing resources in an arcane art and science managed by engineer-priests.

And, even so, the state of the art just then was the DEC PDP11, if memory serves. The VAX, 8088, and the microcomputer were still in the future.

My point being not to disparage the greats of the Golden Age of science fiction, but to point out (for the billionth time) the futility of trying to predict surprises in so chaotic a space as the enterprises of men.

You wanted a flying car? How about a flying truck?

Play with that notion for a moment. How far down the — pun intended — road do you suppose this development will come? Get ready to defend your flyover rights.

3 responses to “I Remember Back in the Early ’70s

  1. As much as I hate to disagree, you should read this from 1946 – A Logic Named Joe. I think you’ll be impressed…


  2. Mark Philip Alger

    Not sure how you’re disagreeing. That Campbell didn’t say what I remember him saying? That he couldn’t have been mistaken? That with 20/20 hindsight, you can map anything onto any other thing? (Not saying you’re wrong, or that Malzberg is in his intro, just sayin’s all.) Or that it’s not just a little silly to try to predict the behavior of human society, enterprise, and the choices of individuals?

    My point, I think, is that using small drones to carry low-weight, high-value cargo (for various values of all three) is not a use *I’ve* ever seen predicted anywhere, even though I can think of BUNCHES of places where small, stealthy drones have been predicted in SFF over the years. So how does Leinster’s (admittedly, yes, prescient, and yes, excellent) story connect to that?

    On a total tangent… The Post Office is seeing incredible cost increases in the delivery of First Class mail. What if letters could be delivered by drone? If drones could be made cheap enough, frex, to compare with the cost of a postage stamp? Deliver a letter, die, disintegrate to dust. Could that ever compare with email? What if the government refused to recognize email privacy rights? What then? What if the drones refused to die?


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