Posted by Rampant Coyote on February 8, 2017
Sometimes, I feel pretty close to my inner-13-year-old. I hope I never lose the opportunity to see through his eyes. And in spite of all the problems and turmoil in the world (which was still around in different forms when I was 13, but I was oblivious to most of it), it’s cool to see how much of my wish-fulfillment has taken place.
I was a science-fiction, fantasy, and video game nerd. I loved D&D. I loved going to the arcades. I dreamed of what the future might bring, though I had trouble seeing past the year 2000, because I would be thirty then, and that was OLD, and who can imagine being OLD? (Stupid 13-year-old kid….)
But in a lot of ways, today’s world is a wish-fulfillment for my 13-year old self. Maybe I didn’t see all the unforeseen consequences and side-effects, but who does?
I remembered studying lasers in the 3rd grade. While my vision was still of Star Wars style blasters, the more down-to-earth realities were cool, too. I actually knew what LASER stood for (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, if you didn’t know). But lasers were something far, far beyond the capabilities of a boy to obtain Now you can buy ’em for the price of a meal at McDonald’s, or less, depending on color and wattage.
I have a pocket communicator like the ones in Star Trek, only about a million times more useful. I can even watch television on the thing. I have a pretty substantial science fiction & fantasy library stashed on my tablet that I can take anywhere, and I can buy almost any book I am interested in from my own couch and have it delivered in seconds.
At one point, when I was about sixteen, I sold encyclopedias. For all of one day. I quit after my first day, because door-to-door sales sucked, and I couldn’t even see myself making minimum wage at that rate. However, they did have one really, really cool feature: On the subscription, you could send the company a research question, and they would respond with an encyclopedia-entry-style answer. As I was a kid with a head full of questions, who would check out books from the library just because I realized I didn’t really know much about the American Civil War, this seemed like the coolest service EVER. Not so much for most people we did presentations for. Nowadays, that’s just called a web search, and the biggest challenge is learning to evaluate quality.
There’s a new Star Wars movie planned every single year. And they are (in my modern opinion, and probably in my 13-year-old opinion) at least Return of the Jedi quality. Another childhood wish, granted!
And superhero movies… superhero movies that don’t suck! We’ve got tons! Some might argue too many, but my inner 13-year old insists there is no such thing. My favorite comic book characters are big-budget blockbusters now!
The Lord of the Rings got an actual live-action, high-quality set of films. And they were great! The Hobbit… well, not so great, but the depiction of Smaug was everything I hoped for as a kid, and so much more. Mark that one off.
On Thanksgiving, one channel would hold a Twilight Zone marathon. I lived for that. I could only handle about five episodes in a row, but … wow! How awesome. Now? Binge-watch all but one season on Netflix any time you want, any episodes you want. (There’s weird licensing issues with one of the seasons). Now the only problem is having time to watch through all of them… something that never seemed to be in short supply when I was younger, and is always lacking now.
Video games… hoo boy! “Arcade quality” was the magic high-water-mark back in those days. They are unimaginably better now. We’ve got HD quality 3D visuals, consumer virtual reality. And I can plug a $15 home-built system that is far, far more than the equal of the hottest arcade machine of the day. I remember spending hours with wireframe planes in flight simulators. Now… there are times where you have to check to see if its an actual picture or film footage.
Even cooler – game music. I loved game music, the little beeping sounds played by a chip turned into something resembling a soundtrack. As long as it was loud, man. But now… fully orchestrated soundtracks sometimes as impressive as a blockbuster movie. I’ve attended two orchestra concerts devoted to video game music. I don’t know that this was ever something I could have imagined in my wildest dreams when the Commodore 64’s SID chip represented the high point of audio capabilities for video games, but it was certainly something I wished other people appreciated as much as I did.
Indie games have brought back the wealth of weird and wild games that were common back then. Seriously, the idea that I have more RPGs in my library now than I would have time to play in five years of 40-hour weeks devoted to playing… is just crazy. Good crazy, but crazy. Of course, it’s not just RPGs. Lots of older genres have enjoyed a tremendous resurgence, and there are games that cover… just about every idea out there. Sit back and enjoy.
Playing games online. Chatting with people across the world in realtime. 3D printing! And print-on-demand for books! Anybody can publish a physical book at a reasonable cost these days. That used to be such a big deal.
Oh, and visits to the dentist! Way, way better now than it was back then. Procedures are far less painful, take half the time, and don’t often require multiple visits. This was something I wished for about every time I had to get a cavity filled or a filling put in. Other medical care – not that it really impacted me much as a kid – has also improved substantially in just a few years. Things that used to require three days of hospitalization are now outpatient procedures.
Music – not having to dig through the stack of LPs (and cassettes! Don’t forget them!) searching for the music you want to listen to. Having it all portable is amazing.
And we’ve got giant fighting robots. Kinda. How cool is that? And self-driving cars are starting to happen, too.
Of course, you younger folks may be reading all this, and think “geesh, when were you born, the stone age?” It feels like it sometimes. Just a bit. But man, sometimes it does feel like the world is following a checklist of things I hoped to see in our future. There are still a few things on my list that I’m still waiting for… colonies on the Moon and Mars, flying cars, a universal cure for cancer. At least there are still plenty of cool childhood dreams to strive for, right?
Anyway, hope you all enjoy living in my dream-future as a kid. Nope, it’s not exactly as I’d hoped it would turn out either, but I’d still like to thank whatever genie was taking down my list back then.
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