We’re Already That Which Passes


I used to think my grandmother had seen amazing change in her lifetime.  She did, look you.  She was born in 1904, in a village that still had iron rings embedded in every wall or pavement near the door, so you could tie your horse, while going about your errands.

She died in 1992, in a world that had not only sent flights to the moon, but where flights to other continents were normal and easy and even (relatively) affordable, compared to the long transatlantic ship travel my grandfather did.  Her children who had immigrated to Venezuela and Brazil could visit, if not every year, then every other year, something that had been unthinkable when she was young.

But in a way, her quotidian life was not that much different.  Part of it was the village being in many ways a slow community, lagging behind, taking what it wanted from progress and ignoring the rest.

When I was very little — this was important, since I sometimes needed to be rushed to the hospital for oxygen (I really have never been very well, except briefly in my twenties, which I now feel I squandered) — there were two cars in the village, both panel vans, both associated with jobs.  The joking description for the road I lived on when I was little was the road “oooh, there comes one.”  Meaning cars were rare enough they were remarkable.  This changed in the late seventies and early eighties, of course, but it was a slow “let’s adapt to this” ramp.

I mean the village grew before I was born.  I know that, because when I was 6 my uncle from Brazil came to visit first time in 20 years, and was amazed at all the new houses, and some new people.  But all his old acquaintances were till there too.  I wonder what he’d make now of Porto swallowing the village whole due to the highway being put in, and of high rises all around.

The thing is the changes in he 20th century were more “outside the house.”  Sure, there was the telephone (Grandma — and us — only got that in the late seventies, but we could cross the street to answer the phone in the general store, if called for.)

Our changes are direct, personal, where we live, some of us more than others.

We tend to think nothing changed, because well, where is my flying car?  WHERE are my moon colonies?  (My grandkids could very well live in one, but never mind.)

But so much has changed about daily life.

You see, mysteries, contemporary or near past are like time capsules.  Because the crime and solving it depends on the details of everyday life, you get to see/feel/taste the past.  Agatha Christie is a primer to between the wars.  And in another ten years people will look, confused, at “A murder is announced.”

I realized that two mysteries I wrote in the late eighties are now unpublishable and unsalvageable, because the murder/solution depends not only on there being no cell phones, but there being no computers.

My kids are more aware of what used to be than most of their generation because they read, but the number of times I’m telling them something, or we’re watching a mystery and they say “Why didn’t he search that on the net?”

I used to wake up, the first twenty years of my marriage, and spend an hour reading the daily papers (local, Denver and the WSJ.)  The arrival of monthly magazines gave me a day off as I read all the news and opinion pieces.

It changed so suddenly, that the postage I had to mail out short stories on submission has been “feeding” all our postage needs for the last 10 years.  Short stories (not that I really write on spec anymore) and novels go out electronic.  And more and more they get published electronic (and I need to catch up on paper) right here too.

I’ve gone from telling people how to submit, to just telling people to go indie at least at first.  Those people in general make more money than I do.  (Go indie, young man, go indie.)

And the secondary order effects are still percolating, things we don’t see coming yet. Note the village was swallowed up by a big city on the delayed arrival of a 20th century tech.  The highway which now runs up and down the length of Portugal wasn’t completed till the end of the century, but it makes it possible honestly (it’s a small country) to commute from one end of the country to the other if you so wish.  My brother, on his first job, used to go to Lisbon for the week and commute Fridays and Mondays by train.  It took half a day.  Our trip to the beach at the Southern end of Portugal took eight hours by car (usually at night.)  This means populations are dislocating, and what was once a highly regionalized country is homogenizing.  It will mean strange marriages, the break up of traditional culture (good and bad.)

The US went through that in the 20th century to an extent, (except it’s more within states) but it’s now going through something different…

More and more people work from home.  Sure, there are some professions that won’t be able to do it.  But many can.  And things change.  Part of the reason our society is as it is, part of the reason for the state as moral arbiter is the working out of another change form mid-twentieth century: most women working.  Kids raised by strangers.  The schools having free rein, because you have to trust someone and who checks EVERYTHING when you’re dead tired.

Internet? Cell phones? Work from home?  More autonomy in a lot of professions, like mine?

Where does it lead?

This morning I woke up with the idea that soon, not very far off, the world I was born into will be strangely romantic.  Checks? Phones? Letters? Newspapers?  The stuff of romance.

At some point in the future, a novelist will make us as quaint as the regency.

But for me it is yesterday.  Caught between the times, I only want to see where this is going.  Sure, there will be turmoil and confusion, but so far the changes seem as though they’ll empower the individual.  And that’s something I approve of.



385 thoughts on “We’re Already That Which Passes

  1. On seeing the title of this post I was expecting fart jokes. This is rather more interesting if somewhat less chuckle-inducing.

          1. The 1MC crackles, and then the Bosun’s voice echoes through all spaces at full volume: “All hands, all hands, man Battle Stations Carp, this is no drill! And I mean that not in the Hawaiian sense of it really being a drill, but rather This Is Actually Not A Drill.”

  2. My grandfather was born in 1903 and died in 1997. The stories he talked about were interesting (grew up on the family farm in southern Ontario). Too young for the Great War and too old for the Second World War. Missionary, translater, jack of all trades, minister, father, and grandfather. The things he saw in his life. Astounded me one time when I sat down and tallied all the big changes. Sat down another time and tallied all the big changes in my life. Not as much so far, but I have another 40 years to go before I can say that we are on equal footing.

    1. In the late 1970’s (I think) Grandpa and his neighbor and I were sitting on said neighbor’s back stoop (not even a porch as such) and I listened as they swapped Old Days stories some. I don’t recall much grandpa said – probably I’d heard it all from him or Grandma before, but I recall the neighbor talking about he and his buddies to run “moonshine” (not sure of origin and didn’t ask) during Prohibition. The memorable part was that even then I recognized that ‘hiding’ (masking) it with Paris Green was a heckuva a thing to be doing. Dunno if neighbor noticed my reaction, but followed it up with “Never seemed to hurt anybody. It was poison against poison.”

      (And in Other News… spent 90 minutes with shovel & blower dealing with 16 inches of ‘global warming’ that fell here yesterday. It’s Mythos time! ♉)

      1. Global Warming? Sure.

        The world will end in Ragnarøkkr, with ice and fire.

        Although the Norse Eddas of those events sound suspiciously like the flooding and destruction of the Doggerland in what is now the North Sea. 3 intense winters with no real summer between them, followed by intense warming resulting in deglaciation and sufficient rise in sea level to top the straits of Dover.

          1. I wonder that nobody has yet written a time travel story about that.

            Or maybe no wonder. A story of how all the warming catastrophes in prehistory were actually caused by time dislocation of towns full of inventive Americans who then continued to create a modern civilization – or maybe sort of 50’s version – with lots of gas guzzling big machines, and then lost said civilization and were plunged back to prehistorical levels due to the climate catastrophe they had created, well, might point out a few things best not pointed out. 😀

            1. How about Eric Flynt’s “1632”, or maybe Stirling’s “Island in the Sea of Time”?

              You do have a point about there being little in the way of speculative fiction set in that period of 10 to 18 thousand years ago. And the nice thing about alternative history is it gives you wiggle room to not get everything exactly right trying to match real history. Especially if the civilization, and any historical references, become lost or mythologized.

              Oh man. Now that clicks a few ideas together. Doggerland, the lost cities of British myth, legends of Ireland, Wales, Scotland. Well, maybe not about all of Scotland and Ireland, seeing as most of those were covered with glaciers at the beginning of that time frame, but rather the drown civilizations of the coasts and lowlands. Hmmmm.

              1. Being obnoxious, one could probably make enough of an argument about the timing of Conan to justify claiming it is supposed to happen during that period.

                I’m recovering from the day’s headache, and musing about a spacer stuck in a world that more or less combines the roaring twenties with the years just before WWII.

                Good luck to you.

              2. Kate Elliot’s Spiritwalker series (Cold Magic, etc.) is set in an alt-history magical world that is Earth still in an Ice Age. (Oh, and dinosaur lawyers.) Doggerland is where most of the action takes place (though not by that name.)

    2. One of my grandmothers grew up on family farm between Brantford and Paris, Ontario. She well remembered seeing her first car and when they strung up electricity lines in Brantford, what changes to life those two inventions made.

      1. One of my grandmothers grew up in coal country along the TN/KY state line. Her father brought home the first radio on the mountain. It was a crystal set (powered by a battery that the kids had to recharge by cranking for hours) and rather than a speaker it had an earphone. They would put the earphone in a mixing bowl, then everyone sat close to the bowl so they could hear the magical voices from far away.

      2. My cousins’ great gran (when my great gran died and she was told, said “I remember the day she was born!”) was telling us about the first time they saw automobiles (actually Ford trucks brought over on a barge by the dealer), and the first time she saw an aeroplane (they were always aeroplanes) it was a Curtis, and the pilot was towing a sign saying he was going to be at the state fair. Her pa said “We are going to go see that!” and, next morning, loaded the family into the wagon, and went to the general store, liveried the horses, got on the stage to the rail station (Nahma Junction), road it to my hometown, Gladstone, Mi. then took a streetcar to the Fairgrounds in Escanaba, then got a hotel for the night because the trip took all day. This is about 45 miles travel today and an hour trip by car.
        She went from having heard about contraptions that carried people without a critter pulling it that wasn’t a steam train, things flew in the air and finally seeing one, to moon landings, to the Space Shuttle in her 103-4 years of life.

      1. There was still a horse drawn wagon delivering ice in Philadelphia when we moved into center city in 1965.

    3. My paternal grandfather was born in 1899 and was in boot camp when WW1 ended. He died in 1971. He used to tell stories about seeing his first telephone when he was 6, his first automobile in East Texas when he was 10 and his first airplane when he was 12. He got to see the first moon landings before his heart attack. His stories of life as a kid seemed like he lived in a foreign nation. The poverty, poor education opportunities (he left school at age 11), and primitive medical care (3 brothers and 2 sisters died from disease before they were 5) seemed fantastic to my brothers and myself.

      Both grandfathers started farming with a 2 mule team for locomotion for plowing and harvesting even though both did have an old model T pickup truck to haul to and from the local town. They both told stories of iterant farm hands that followed a circuit hitting different areas just at peak planting and harvest times, showing up in horse/mule drawn wagons with their entire family, setting up a huge canvas tent to live in for the few weeks they’d do labor for the local farmers. This went on until the mid 1920’s when most farmers had bought tractors and no longer needed as much help.

      The more enterprising iterant hands saved up enough money to buy combine harvesters, trucks and travel trailers and continued their gypsy lifestyle following the grain harvest season from the Rio Grande valley to well into Canada. Some area still doing this today.

  3. It used to be war was the thing that changed lives and nations. Now its cell-phones. I like this way better. 🙂

    1. Used to be? You haven’t yet really seen the changes this century’s big wars will bring. It’s gonna be awesome.

      Oh there was Nappy and Leo.
      Then Vlad, Joe, Addie and Zee,
      We stare south across the Rio,
      and wonder who will be next to see!

  4. Grandma told of the going to the well for water, the starting of the fire in the stove to cook, the “warming oven” in the stove/oven chimney for rolls & such… and she did at least once travel to The East (not coast, overseas) by jet, and watched the moon landing, and such. 1913-2004.

    Me? I grew up “in this modern age” of antibiotics, general vaccinations, plastics, color TV…

    I’ve waited for ALL the tubes to warm up.
    I’ve lived in a place that had no telephone.
    The eventual phone was rotary dial.
    The neighbors new pushbutton phone pulse-dialed.
    I’ve set the needle in the groove (as that’s how it was).
    I’ve threaded the tape – and the film.
    I’ve taken pictures with chemical photography.
    I remember flash cubes – and the InstaMatic.
    I recall when LED’s were dim and visible (except maybe red) was NEW.
    Red laser? HeNe… or HeNe. Alright, there was ruby, but… ruby?
    Lead in gasoline. And paint. Mercury in measuring instruments.
    And oh my the list of things legal “back when” that are not now.
    I read the “funnies” in the paper.
    And wrote letters with a pen, and more formally with a (mechanical) typewriter. And used White-out for its intended purpose (which could be bought without needing proof of age.)
    While I never used them, I saw cigarette vending machines in use.
    I used the card catalog – with three different cards for every book.

    And when one needed a 5 volt supply for TTL circuitry and that meant articles that included, “…obtain a small filament transformer…” it’s mighty strange and wonderful to see little 5 volt supplies for sale at almost every service..filling station convenience store.

    Automatic doors didn’t slide, they swung… triggered by an “electric eye” or a pressure pad.

    Yeah, it’s a different world. Some better, some worse, some just different.
    And… we ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

    1. Done all that … and a while ago, my daughter and I were driving along a road in California, admiring a vintage 1930s sedan that we were gradually overtaking … and wondering why the heck the driver was gesturing with his arm out of his window. And I finally realized … the vintage sedan didn’t have turn signal lights. He was signalling his stops and turns manually … Which I had been taught in High School driver ed, but which my daughter had not. Because … when did we last see a lot of cars in the road which didn’t have turn indicaters? A client of mine who is a vintage car fanatic and I discussed this, and finally decided that we stopped routinely seeing older vehicles with no turn signal lights in the late 1950s, early 1960s. Cars that old were commonly gone from the open road (save under very special circumstances) by the time my daughter was learning to drive.

      1. As of the late 90s, it was still on Washington State’s tests, because you’re required to use it when your lights may be obstructed— like getting out of a parallel parking job.

        1. And bicyclists are supposed to use them…
          Now I wonder how many I confuse by doing so.
          Then, for a while I boggled people by actually stopping at those red lights and signs. Sheesh.

          1. *shudder*
            We watched a little kid almost get nailed in the cross-walk because the guy in the lane next to me decided I was an idiot sitting on the green light with my turn signal on, and zipped around– missed the kid by a hair, accelerated off.
            I laid on my horn for the next guy who came around, he slammed on his brakes.
            The mom’s head spun around to take me out, until she saw that I’d been honking at “walk sign, what walk sign?!?”, at which point they hustled across and she waved a thank-you.

            Freaking MORONS in a tourist town– and that was the locals!

            1. Drivers not obeying the stop lights and crossing lights, or not stopping behind the stop line, but instead blocking the damn crossing, I just want to throw a frag grenade through their window. Heck, I’d even willingly pay to have the wreck towed afterwards.

              1. People stopping more than a car length back from the stop line or the vehicle in front of them.

                The woman who pointed at the “stop here on red” sign when I honked at her for not doing a right-on-red. (Those signs appear where they put the cameras for catching those who don’t stop before proceeding.)

                1. My town’s street people keep painting mystery lines. They look like stop lines, except they’re two or three car lengths back from the intersection.

                  There’s a T-intersection near me; each arm of the T has a stop sign, but the leg does not. But there’s a mystery line right about where a stop line would go, if there was a stop sign. There’s always broken glass and plastic around from people who get rear-ended, who slowed or stopped for the line while looking for a stop sign.

                  The city has repaved that area at least three times in the last fifteen years, but they keep repainting the line.

                  Having looked at intersections and signage about the town, my conclusion is that the city is deliberately trying to cause wrecks…

                2. I have a few horror stories resulting from the combination of people stopping a car-length back from the stop line, and the traffic light being sensor-controlled but not marked as such.

                    1. Only a few times, never in the Cincinnati area, probably at places where there’d been too many problems from people not getting close enough to the stop line to trigger the sensor. They could have used one in NJ where I saw the worst case of this, which involved both a fool who wouldn’t pull up to the stop line and an impatient fool consequently making a left turn from the right shoulder.

                    2. A lot of the sensor controls around here seem to be a little sight next to the light (I only know this because one had a little red flash when a car pulled up; the rest don’t have that indicator.) Probably easier to set up and maintain.

                    3. I’m sure they’re easier to set up, but the in-pavement loops themselves almost never need any maintenance, and only get replaced when the pavement does. The connections to them would be simple to replace.

                    4. Wayne, a long time ago when I road a motor scooter, I sometimes got stuck at a sensor-contolled traffic. Our combined weight was too light to trigger it. I had to wait until a heavier vehicle to pull up next me and trigger it.

                    5. Yep. Except it’s not weight. Those are basically big metal detectors, and you could sit a couple of tons of wood on them and they would not trigger. But as far as your situation is concerned, it doesn’t really make any difference.

              2. I stop at stop lines….but I often then have to creep over it so I can see if it’s remotely safe to proceed. Too goddamn many stop lines are not drawn with any relation to local conditions and sight lines.

                1. Frequent line in our vehicle: “They DO realize that they’re supposed to trim those trees so you can actually see oncoming traffic, right?”

                  1. That reminds me – at the nearby gas station, there was a bush at the exit that made it REALLY hard to see the traffic coming from the right as you were exiting. I hated that bush for a couple of years. Then, one day, it was gone. Cut completely down to the ground. And from the looks of things, it was done with malice aforethought. I think someone had an oopsie there and made sure it didn’t happen any more.

                2. We have a stop light to get out of our neighborhood that is a 3 stop, right turn. Green is really “proceed with caution, technically you have the right”. 3 stops: 1) at stop line – check sidewalk approaches both ways for people, and bikes, on sidewalk; 2) proceed into marked crosswalk, stop so you can double check bike path for bikes (usually performed as rolling stop); 3) final stop where you have actual line of site for traffic in both directions (also 3sometimes a rolling stop). Got my first traffic ticket (& only so far, age 55, not that I haven’t deserved them before and since, but still …) because patrol caught me doing the rolling stop on 3rd stop, saw him coming, he made the turn behind me too late to see the first stop. Argued out of the fine for that part, got fine lowered for not using right turn signal (in required right turn lane, with no traffic); last day of the month.

            2. I should say that obey traffic signs & light while on bicycle was the stunner. While I have seen motorists (there’s a term that seem ancient now) blow through signs and lights, it’s thankfully rather rare.

              1. Oh, yeah. Bicyclists are virtuous heroes saving the planet with their mere presence, so they’re entitled to blow off any and all traffic laws.

                The worst one I’ve run across was a bicyclist speeding on the wrong side of the road, on a narrow sidewalk, crash into a pedestrian, then quickly get back on his bike and speed off before anyone could get a good look at him.

                1. Between that and know enough people in various customer-facing jobs who encountered people who drink (more than) their fill and then drive… I find I use the bike less and less.

                  And before anyone asks, I walk to and from the local watering hole, or $HOUSEMATE is driving. Or I stay home where I can generally get a higher quality drink – or can make something I can get anywhere else.

                  Example: The Bramble. Reason: It calls for creme de mure (which I do not have) but creme de cassis (which I do have) is considered an acceptable substitute. This came up as a friend pointed out a video on candy making, which lead to a bit how the cassis (black currant) was illegal for some time in the USA. “What does it taste like?” “Believe it or not, I think I have a bottle of creme de cassis.” “I am no longer surprised you have a bottle of some obscure thing.” I’m not sure how this ended up with asking if I’d tried Jeppson’s Malort. Answer: Not yet. $HOUSEMATE is of the opinion that I like some horrifically bad flavors and crazy bitter things, so expects I’d rather like it. The nearest place to acquire some is in the Quad Cities.. which we just happen to pass through on the way to LibertyCon. Translation: Ya dun been warned.

                  1. Ah, Malort. My brother-in-law went out with a friend of his who shared the same birthday to have burgers and drinks once, and the friend told the bartender that he needed to give my brother-in-law some birthday Malort. The bartender gave them both a drink. My brother-in-law described it as concentrated essence of bitterness.

                    Incidentally its Russian name is Chernobyl. Turns out the powerplant was named for the enormous fields of wormwood. . . .

                2. Grumble, grumble… There’s a sign that I pass just about every day. Has the icon of a bicycle on it, and says “Share the Road.”

                  Along that same stretch, there is a well separated, nice, wide, paved, and very expensive to the taxpayers BIKE PATH. The riders along there are actually bright enough to stay on that path – because I ain’t sharin’ nuthin’ lessen they want to share with me.

                  (South Harrison Road, for my fellow East Tucsonans.)

                  1. Usually the “Share the Road” signs are only around intersections, indicating that the bike path isn’t at the intersection itself, or crosses the right turn lane.

                    1. This one is quite a ways away from the intersection. There is a (sensible) sign for the right turn AT the intersection with Irvington – “Yield to bicycles.” The bike path crosses there and continues down somewhere east of the plane graveyard.

                      Someone just went sign happy in this corner of town. There is another sign on Irvington, one of those flippable ones, to tell you that Harrison is closed at the Pantano Wash (for when we get flooding rains). It’s been flipped down since last August (since maybe five days where they actually did close Harrison).

                      Thing is about stupid or irrelevant signs is that people eventually start ignoring all signs.

                3. Some states, bicycles have right-of-way over cars. Here, the law explicitly says bicycles “may not impede traffic.”

                  What that mens is, airmen rotating in to the local air base are regulars in the emergency room after darting out into traffic and being run over.

                4. There have been multiple hit-and-run deaths in Seattle, and over a dozen hospitalizations a month for the same, where the “vehicle” is a bicycle.

                  Almost never caught, because there really isn’t any way to prove it.

              2. A major pet-peeve of mine: Bicyclist who think they are exempt from traffic law. I’ve seen so many of them roll though stop signs and lights and riding on the wrong side of the road, that I don’t even notice if they don’t use hand signals. (except the universal greeting sign.)

              3. Heh. Both my boys have taken headers over the top of car hoods because my sons failed (miserably) to obey the traffic laws I told them to follow in the first place. Lord! I wish they hadn’t inherited my family’s stubbornness. Some things can only be taught by experience.

              4. Living in Baltimore I saw entirely too many idiots blowing through VERY ‘orange’ lights, and observed that most locals waited a second or so before going when the light turned green. It’s a good habit to develop; make sure before you go that some goddamned fool isn’t coming the other way.

                I also taught myself to lift off of the gas pedal when somebody is passing me. It seems to be instinct to accelerate, and of course when YOU are the person trying to pass, it’s an infuriating instinct.

                1. My brother recommends three seconds here. We tend to think it’s related to the fact that no one knows how to program the lights around here, so stopping when the light is just turning often results in waiting for up to three minutes depending on the intersection, so people have a tendency to try to beat the change, and have a very generous interpretation of the term, “beat”.

                  1. I forget what movie it was from, but there was some space alien who had been watching someone drive and then took over:

                    “You almost got us killed! I thought you said you knew what the lights meant!”
                    “I do. I’ve watched you.”
                    “Tell me what you think they mean.”
                    “Red means stop. Green means go. Yellow means go, very fast.”

                2. I am still alive thanks to that rule, drummed into me before I even began driving.

                  Well, at least once, when a moron T-boned the rabbit starter that had been next to me at about 70. The other one I probably would have survived, as I don’t think the snowbird was going much more than 20 MPH when he sailed right through the light (fortunately nobody was hit, at that intersection anyway).

                  I also have the habit of, even when the light my way has been green for a while, of taking a quick glance both ways. Once late at night I slammed the gas down. I wasn’t looking to see by how much the idiot missed my rear end, so it maybe wasn’t strictly necessary.

                  1. I always look to see if the folks at the other spots are stopping or not– AFTER I do my three second stop so the vehicle is actually stopped. Takes one to three seconds, generally.

                    Folks too close behind? I slow down early, so they realize I’m going to actually stop.

                    Right on red? Full three seconds (mostly for the freaking cameras) and then look, and then move. Unless the guy behind me decided to put on his horn to suggest I hurry up.
                    Once I look around and verify that it wasn’t a warning, it was telling me to move, my car goes into park until I have a green light. If someone wants to drive my car, they’d better BUY it first.

                    1. So far, only been hit once, and that was mostly because of someone shortening the yellow light on a turn to pad the camera cash.

                      Only come close to hitting a pedestrian a handful of times, all cases where they were being morons. (Like, going full speed into traffic in the middle of the road from between two much taller vehicles. One of them almost hit ME!)

                    2. On people who blow their horn as soon as the light changes – One day in our downtown section here I had actually taken my foot off the gas less than a second after the light was green, and was rolling, when the fellow behind me laid on the horn hard. I just wasn’t in a mood for stupid that morning and I stopped, got out of the car, locked it, and walked around the block.
                      When I got back my car was still there, the other motorist was gone, and traffic was bypassing it in the other lane just fine. I felt much better, and I got back in and continued.

                    3. I know that in Saudi Arabia and in Panama, there is a line in the driver’s manual that seems to be missing from most here in the States:

                      When the traffic light turns green

                      >Honk horn<

                      Remove foot from brake . . .

              5. I’ve scared at least one guy half to death because we were at a long red light– and I rolled down my window and thanked him for driving safely, told him I was bragging him up to my kids as “this is how you ride a bicycle.”
                His response was something along the lines of “well, I don’t want to die.”

          2. I’ve been rear-ended three times by morons whose excuse was “What did you stop for?!”

            The Kalifornia roll-through is nationwide now.

            1. I must sadly confess that I look in my rear-view before stopping, because I know that anyone behind me expects to blow through the yellow.
              I have had people pull around from behind me to run an obviously red light.
              Driving is scary.

      2. My Mom’s kid sister worked a couple of summers and stayed with us in the mid ’50s. Her Chevy had semaphore turn signals–they’d drop down. Don’t know if they were lit; I was maybe 4 years old.

      3. Older cars probably lasted longer in much of California because no freezing meant no salt on the roads. I know that hand signals were still a part of the driving test in California in 1970 when I got my first license.

    2. Coal stoves. Four barrel carburetors. The shows, the soap operas that every female person in town watched, regardless of whether or not they liked them, so they’d have something to talk about. And so they could pretend like they weren’t gossiping like mother hens when the men came around. And the men were expected to cooperate in this fiction upon pain of Sleeping On The Couch.

      Cordless. Drills, telephones, the works. Machines to wash dishes, machines to wash clothes- and dry them (no more washboards and clotheslines). Service stations with actual mechanics that could get you going, at least far enough to get home.

      Sears catalogs. Lay away. Whole businesses closing down for deer season (at least the first day) and schools giving excused absences for harvest, to be made up when you could. Starting a job with no experience and only the barest reference, “he’s a hard worker,” and sticking with it. Official functions and school every day, every d*mn body stood and said the pledge of allegiance.

      Lemonade stands popping up like daffodils on hot summer days. When is the last time you saw even one lemonade stand manned by an actual child? Eight track. What the record store smelled like (warm vinyl, musty carpet. I think all record stores had the same contractor). Tailors and seamstresses, there always was at least one in town- I mean, you mended you own clothes, but these folks did it better.

      Loud exhaust- ever notice how quiet cars are these days? Factory production cars you can barely hear now at idle. Litter- there used to be drifts of the stuff by the highways back in the early eighties outside the bigger towns. Hardly any now. Fireplaces. Used to, even the poorest had one, or at least a wood stove. Now only rich folks do.

      *wanders off, mumbling about dang kids and off lawns*

            1. They are still a mainstay at Wal-Mart etc. for the people who don’t have discipline to save at home, or who are afraid what they want won’t be there (at that price) by the time they have the cash.
              (I have family members who used to use the feature for buying Christmas presents, but I wouldn’t trust it myself, because if you miss payments you forfeit what you’ve already put in.)

              1. Almost every year there is at least one news story about somebody walking in and paying off the balances on multiple families’ layaway items, often to the tune of several thousand dollars.

      1. I remember the little “orbit” cans along the highways in Canada when I was a kid. We didn’t have as much of a problem in ND, but there was still some garbage in the ditches. One of the most jarring things about driving into Las Vegas about a decade ago was all the garbage along the highway. I hadn’t seen that since I was a little kid.

        1. One different thing now, is that any beer/soda-pop cans linger if left. I recall seeing evidence of a can that had been there, but now (back then) it wasn’t much more than a ring of rust.

      2. schools giving excused absences for harvest
        Early 90s in northern Maine, they still had a harvest vacation time, so the kids could help with getting the taters in.

        When is the last time you saw even one lemonade stand manned by an actual child?
        Just this last August. Cul-de-sac next door. Before that in July, the neighbor kids. I went inside and found some cash just so I could buy some. 🙂

        1. Were here back in the eighties, back before farming went LLC. Bloody hundreds of little farms that ain’t around here anymore.

          Heh, as to the last, that’s a rarity and a wonderful thing indeed. Teaching capitalism to little ‘uns is a joyful duty. *grin*

      3. Barber shops with 75mm cannon cases for decoration. Gas stations where they left the air compressor on all the time (great for kids on bikes). Bikes with coaster brakes.

        Coal furnaces converted to gas burners.

        The gigantic Pickett slide rule hanging at the the science teacher’s blackboard. (I’d love to find one of those…)

        The scissors-sharpening guy who rode a package trike with his tools.

          1. Oh. I dropped eBay when they started requiring PayPal for everything. (Dunno if they still do; I just haven’t missed them that much.) The price is out of my “like to have it, but I don’t need it” budget range. Oh well.


            1. Well darn it. There are 4 or so slide rulers between here and mom’s, somewhere … Hmmm. Where was that “safe place” they got put? Dad used his every work day through 60’s and early 80’s, until his stroke. Mine I only used 2 years before I could afford the basic scientific calculator (when they dropped below $100).

              1. I have a couple left from college; a standard Pickett Log-Log rule, and a pocket sized version of the same. I used the big rule in conjunction with my Craig 4-function calculator (which ran $160 on a friend’s employee discount) until the HP-45 calculator came out in late 1973. The 4-function was pretty amazing stuff; as I recall, it was full of TTL chips.

          2. I lust for one of those Curta calculators for some reason. Not that I have any particular use for it, but all the spinny whirligigs are shiny…

    3. I toggled in the bootstrap using the console lights and switches.
      I waited while microcode was loaded from tape. Or 8″ floppy, for that matter.
      I screwed the stack of platters into the disk drive.
      I loaded my program into the card hopper.
      I watched the asterisks blink as the program loaded from cassette.
      I remember when floppies were fast.
      I renumbered the lines in my BASIC program to make space for more code.

        1. You guys don’t know old. Try cranking the wheels on that damned Babbage engine…………………………..

          1. *raises eyebrow* I still have an old bead abbacus in the attic that’s probably gathering dust which I *did* learn to use it once upon a much shorter and more invincible time… But that’s for another day. *chuckle* Appalachia back then really was a place out of time. Nowadays we’re *almost* civilized.

      1. I learned that there’s a difference between the Hollerith codes in a Model 26 vs 29 keypunch. Using perforated paper data tape. (I have some mylar tape that comes out at Christmas if I’m feeling puckish.)

      2. I had one job where I debugged the program by stepping through it and watching the lights on the outside of the computer change as they processed the code.
        One job I had was cost-accounting at a construction site. The floppy-drives quit working (that was all we had), and when opened revealed a cockroach inside.
        That’s a real bug!

    4. As a musician, I’ve seen us go from analog pedals & tube amps to digital rack mounts, and back to analog pedals & tube amps.
      Want to build a clone of a 1950’s era Fender tube amp, and need a power supply transformer with a 6.3v filament tap? No problem- do you want something cheaper with the same specs, or do you want something that duplicates the finger oils Leo Fender would have left on the windings?

      1. I built up a synthesizer rig in the early ’90s only to discover that I really couldn’t learn to play keyboards well. Looking at the prices, the only valuable keyboard I have is the Sequential Circuits Six-Trak I bought used for $150. The others are better replicated as software…

          1. In keyboards, a Korg Wave-Station WS-1 and the 76 key version of the Kurzweil Pro 1200. Modules include a Kurzweil 1XXX similar to the keyboard (I was mucking with some dual-piano pieces), the little E-mu piano, a D4 drum module, and effects. There’s a Rolland stereo reverb, a DSP multi-function module and a Peavy Val-verb for fun.

            All of these were sitting idle since the late 1990s. I had a small Mac that run the rig, but it died from the capacitor plague. Since most of the equipment is from the same era, I have some doubts as to the health of this stuff. I have a kit Hafler from that era, and it’s throwing a lot of RF noise on the AM band, but the Alesis monitor amp from the rig is doing fine.

      2. I got my broadcast studies degree on equipment that was largely older than I was. My professor was resisting the change to digital editing because he knew that once he tried it, he would never go back—and because of legacy equipment, there was a good chance of his students still having to know how to use the older stuff.

        IOW, I learned to video edit on the functional equivalent of a typewriter. Editing programs hold no fear for me!

        1. And not gagging and making melodramatic choking visuals? That’s what we did as little ‘uns.

          Of course, if we wanted to be dangerous we just went outside. I’m morally certain our mothers might have batted an eye if one of us came home missing a major limb, but short of that…

      1. Thank your lucky stars you don’t have to deal with one of the intermediate steps. When I was living in Baltimore the Enoch Prat library system used micro-FILM. Needless to say it didn’t get updated very often, which rendered it largely useless.

      2. When I visited a friend in Boston, I went into the main public library. The card catalog room was bigger than the library in the Oregon town where I was living at the time, and I resided in the county seat so that was not insignificant.

  5. “I realized that two mysteries I wrote in the late eighties are now unpublishable and unsalvageable, because the murder/solution depends not only on there being no cell phones, but there being no computers.”

    If that’s the sole reason, that’s not true. They’re historical mysteries now, just like the late Sue Grafton’s.

    Now if they’re bad books, that’s a different kettle of bananas. 🙂

    1. Aye. I can watch old TV shows and old movies and they’re period pieces, not errors (besides what was erroneous in them when made).

      And sometimes it even works ‘backwards’. I recall watching a cartoon long ago and there was a tracking device on a car the good guy were following and a simple map display they used to follow. At the time, it was nonsense: where was the triangulation? Now? GPS, done.

        1. “now popular actors” – unless you’re speaking of geriatrics, like Harrison Ford – would, by definition, *not* be “old” TV shows.

      1. I recall watching a cartoon long ago and there was a tracking device on a car the good guy were following and a simple map display they used to follow.

        Watched an old episode of Hawaii Five-O a coupla months ago in which they put a tracker on a car. All they had to go on was a yellow light on their dashboard that blinked faster as they got closer.

    2. On the other side of this, if I want to really know the nitty gritty details of life in a previous century, I look for a good true crime, especially a domestic murder, because that will get into people’s day to day lives better than anything else I’ve seen.

      So yeah, just publish those books as historicals, play up some other stuff of the time. Heck, when I was growing up in the 70s, the 50s were considered another world.

      1. Heck, when I was growing up in the 70s, the 50s were considered another world.

        I was blown away at first when in Captain America Civil War, Spider-man talked about ‘that really old movie, Empire Strikes Back’, but then I realized that if he was say, 16 or 17, then Empire Strikes Back to him was about as old as White Christmas was to me when I was that age. For a lot of the millennial generation the 1980s or even ’90s are that other world that the 1950s or ’40s were to us.

        1. Back to the Future II is now in our past. We don’t have the flying cars, but they got the aspect ratio on the TVs right. (And honestly, the skateboarders we have are far more adventurous than the ones on the hover boards in the movie.)

      2. “So yeah, just publish those books as historicals, play up some other stuff of the time. ”

    3. Most episodes of “The Highlander” hold up surprisingly well, especially those set in Europe, where most Americans have spent little time. But there was one episode that just wouldn’t work anymore, as the plot hinged on them having to stay near a specific phone booth to wait for a call.

    1. I agree completely. Agatha Christie still sells, after all, and I don’t recall spotting any computers in her mysteries.

  6. Your comment about Agatha Christie’s books reminds me of one book I recently reread.

    Published in 1976, it’s Ellis Peters’ Never Pick Up Hitch-Hikers!.

    Fun story but I can imagine how different it would have to be if cell-phones were common when it was written.

    One of the Main Characters gets accidentally locked into a small museum that lacks a regular phone and he doesn’t have a way to “call out”. 😉

    1. And I think of an old serial or such where the enterprising trapped hero manages to not blow the fuse as he futzes with lamp wiring to (remember: serial) transmit a crude SOS. Nowadays, would anyone even notice the noise, let alone correctly interpret it?

      1. *blink* I’m more surprised at the implication that there are large numbers, maybe a majority of people, that *don’t* know rudimentary Morse code, even if just SOS…

        1. I have nothing of whatever it takes to learn new “languages”, so even when I’m paying attention trying to learn it the code is mumbo-jumbo to me– but I do recognize “this is a deliberate pattern being made. A human must be involved. Investigate.”

          Kind of like the “secret knock” my kids have, it’s obscure and has nothing to do with doors or anything, but it’s a very obvious pattern.

        2. I learned enough to decipher VOR and VOR-Tac identifiers, but not enough to pass the International Radio Operator’s License needed to fly into Canada. *shakes head* Happily, we came home the day before they started ramp-checking US pilots for the license.

          1. That must have been a while back. The international radio operator’s license hasn’t needed Morse for years.

            During my primary training, my CFI was teaching me about VOR navigation one flight. He chastised me for IDing the VOR without following along the Morse as it was printed on the chart with my finger. I told him I’d been a ham radio operator for 15 years or so by then, and knew Morse well enough to copy much faster than the standard 5 WPM ID speed. He took the chart, dialed up three VORs, and I told him the IDs without blinking. He decided I didn’t need to follow along on the chart any more.

          2. Reminds me of a little tale…

            Was a time back in the old Catholic school when we were students of one Thomas Worley. Said worthy was a retired navy man and history teacher. Generations of little boys and girls dreaded his class because it was *hard.* We used to think we were smart, or at least not gobsmackingly dumb. *chuckle* That didn’t last long.

            But some of the boys had a plan, see. We were every one of us boy scouts. I think it might have been mandatory that year. I remember showing up one day to hear, dit dit dit dee dee…

            “Hey, do you know morse code?” Clueless looks all around.

            “What’s that?” Eyes light up.

            “Here, lemme teach ya!”

            So we all learned morse code that summer. Which leads us to the cunning plan. It was actually pretty clever, I think (which shows you I had *nothing to do with it,* in case you were wondering. My plans tend to be overcomplicated and impractical in the extreme).

            You see, each of the boys studied a different section of the syllabus. Studied it, mastered it, heck practically memorized it. On the quiz, they’d signal it. A dropped pencil *dit dit dit,* a tapping foot *dee dee,* pause, *dee dit dit dit*… Ten questions, multiple choice. Mister Worley never looked up from his desk until the quiz timed out.

            Then he stood up and started rapping on the desk. Cue hanging heads in the classroom and pale faces. Thought they’d been so clever. *chuckle* I think the man was madder at the dishonesty of it than the fact they thought they could pull one over on him.

            I do know those three did manage to win him over in the end, though I’m not quite sure how. They passed. He didn’t beat the ever lovin’ tar out of ’em… That we could tell, anyways. It was a point of pride back then if you got caught to take your punishment and not let on it hurt.

        3. Morse code and Semaphore are no longer taught in the Boy Scouts, and I seem to recall reading that the Navy and Coast Guard have also dropped it.

          1. The Navy has brought back sextants – apparently someone realized GPS is subject jamming (and being shot down).

          2. That… boggles the mind, actually. Have they dropped knot tying and marksmanship as well in the last twenty… err, thirty odd years? I think I might be a bit out of the loop.

            1. Knots are still big, as is shooting. The first question every first year Scout has for his first summer camp is if he can do the rifle shooting MB…

            2. I worked at a BSA summer camp in the 90s, and have gone back to visit during some staff weeks. The riflery and archery ranges are much nicer than when I was there, because when they put the access road in (we had to BOAT supplies in and trash out, TYVM) they dynamited a few of the big rocks there and had to revamp the whole thing. Scoutcraft (where they do the knots) is its own section, separate from Nature.

              Incidentally, they have a GPS merit badge—but Orienteering is still there, because you never know when your batteries will run out.

          3. And have not been for over 30 years. BSA did bring back semaphore for the 100th anniversary in 2010, only to drop it again in January 2011.

  7. Kipling got that, in his poem “The King,” where every generation complains about how new technologies are doing away with romances, starting with caveman complaining that stone has taken the place of bone. He ends with his contemporaries complaining about how the railroad has done away with romance—”And all unseen/Romance brought up the nine-fifteen.” And that was prescient of him; what’s more romantic now than a trip by train?

    1. Oooh, I need to go read that one.

      *subscribes because this is an interesting post and promises to be an interesting conversation*

    2. Obviously, Kipling was not unfamiliar with message fiction….

      The Three-Decker
      “The three-volume novel is extinct.”

      Full thirty foot she towered from waterline to rail.
      It took a watch to steer her, and a week to shorten sail;
      But, spite all modern notions, I’ve found her first and best –
      The only certain packet for the Islands of the Blest.

      Fair held the breeze behind us – ‘twas warm with lover’s prayers,
      We’d stolen wills for ballast and a crew of missing heirs.
      They shipped as Able Bastards till the Wicked Nurse confessed,
      And they worked the old three-decker to the Islands of the Blest.

      By ways no gaze could follow, a course unspoiled of Cook,
      Per Fancy, fleetest in man, our titled berths we took
      With maids of matchless beauty and parentage unguessed,
      And a Church of England parson for the Islands of the Blest.

      We asked no social questions – we pumped no hidden shame –
      We never talked obstetrics when the Little Stranger came:
      We left the Lord in Heaven, we left the fiends in Hell.
      We weren’t exactly Yussufs, but – Zuleika didn’t tell.

      No moral doubts assailed us, so when the port we neared,
      The villain had his flogging at the gangway, and we cheered.
      ‘Twas fiddle in the foc’s’le – ‘twas garlands on the mast,
      For every one was married, and I went at shore at last.

      I left ‘em all in couples a-kissing on the decks.
      I left the lovers loving and parents signing cheques.
      In endless English comfort, by county-folk caressed,
      I left the old three-decker at the Islands of the Blest!

      That route is barred to steamers: you’ll never lift again
      Our purple-painted headlands or the lordly keeps of Spain.
      They’re just beyond your skyline, howe’er so far you cruise,
      In a ram-you-damn-you liner with a brace of bucking screws.

      Swing round your aching searchlight – ‘twill show no haven’s peace.
      Ay, blow your shrieking sirens at the deaf, grey-bearded seas!
      Boom out the dripping oil-bags to skin the deep’s unrest –
      And you aren’t one knot the nearer to the Islands of the Blest.

      But when you’re threshing, crippled, with broken bridge and rail,
      At a drogue of dead convictions to hold you head to gale,
      Calm as the Flying Dutchman, from truck to taffrail dressed,
      You’ll see the old three-decker for the Islands of the Blest.

      You’ll see her tiering canvas in sheeted silver spread;
      You’ll hear the long-drawn thunder ‘neath her leaping figure-head;
      While far, so far above you, her tall poop-lanterns shine
      Unvexed by wind or weather like the candles round a shrine!

      Hull down – hull down and under – she dwindles to a speck,
      With noise of pleasant music and dancing on her deck.
      All’s well – all’s well aboard her – she’s left you far behind,
      With a scent of old-world roses through the fog that ties you blind.

      Her crews are babes or madmen? Her port is all to make?
      You’re manned by Truth and Science, and you steam for steaming’s sake?
      Well, tinker up your engines – you know your business best –
      She’s taking tired people to the Islands of the Blest!

  8. Last year saw the publication of Cartoon County: My Father and His Friends in the Golden Age of Make-Believe by Cullen Murphy, a memoir of an era that already seems as quaint as the Regency. The author, born in 1952, was son to cartoonist John Cullen Murphy, who carried on Prince Valiant after the strip’s creator, Hal Foster.

    Amazon’s description:
    “For a period of about fifty years, right in the middle of the American Century, many of the the nation’s top comic-strip cartoonists, gag cartoonists, and magazine illustrators lived within a stone’s throw of one another in the southwestern corner of Connecticut―a bit of bohemia in the middle of those men in their gray flannel suits.

    “Cullen Murphy’s father, John Cullen Murphy, drew the wildly popular comic strips Prince Valiant and Big Ben Bolt, and was at the heart of this artistic milieu. Comic strips and gag cartoons read by hundreds of millions were created in this tight-knit group―Superman, Beetle Bailey, Snuffy Smith, Rip Kirby, Hagar the Horrible, Hi and Lois, Nancy, Sam & Silo, Amy, The Wizard of Id, The Heart of Juliet Jones, Family Circus, Joe Palooka, and The Lockhorns, among others. Cartoonists and their art were a pop-cultural force in a way that few today remember. Anarchic and deeply creative, the cartoonists were independent spirits whose artistic talents had mainly been forged during service in World War II.

    ‘Illustrated with never-before-seen photographs, cartoons, and drawings, Cartoon County brings the postwar American era alive, told through the relationship of a son to his father, an extraordinarily talented and generous man who had been trained by Norman Rockwell. Cartoon County gives us a glimpse into a very special community―and of an America that used to be.”

    — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

    The presence in a single suburb of so many cartoonists was an artifact of the publishing industry of that time. Those cartoonists had to live near NY, where the publishers and syndicates were in order to commute for meetings and sales pitches but could mostly work from home, with Connecticut providing a mix of convenient closeness yet still permit quiet ambiance. Other parts of the country had their mill towns, publishing had its cartoonist’s community.

    Of course, as FedEx made cross-country shipping of art affordable, as newspapers became less important, syndication of comics less profitable, and online has grown to offer webcomics the functionality of such a community has faded. Howard Tayler can ply his trade from Utah, Randall Munroe can work from Massachusetts, “Doc” Nickel can produce The Whiteboard from Alaska. The cartooning world has grown almost without our awareness.

    1. Must be Fairfield County, Connecticut. I’ve been stuck in traffic there many a time, on I-95, the Merritt Parkway, and US 1 when visiting kin. The place doesn’t seem that funny now. (Well, not that kind of funny, anyhow.)

    2. Yes, but a lot of the retired cartoonists all moved to the same town in Florida, so a lot of the working cartoonists moved down there also. (Mike Peters moved down there in the 90’s, for example.)

      I guess the attraction is that it is warm, as well as the neighbors being similarly bonkers. 🙂

  9. When i was in film school i used to have a strange delight in pointing out to other students ‘current’ movies that were obviously written a decade or so earlier….

      1. “Mom, there’s this cool new song in this movie!”
        *Mom begins singing along, knowing all the words to Bohemian Rhapsody*
        *Children’s joy appropriately crushed*

        1. “Hey, did you see $SHOW last night, it was really funny?”

          And the older gal she was talking to didn’t watch that show. But did start filling in the gaps as the plot was revealed. “I thought you didn’t watch it?” She didn’t. But with years in theater and such, she did know a few classic vaudeville bits that had been strung together.

        2. I knew a guy who managed the store for Warehouse Records And Tapes, Inc. in Metairie, LA. One day some kid (late teens maybe 20) came in asking about this new band he just heard of, and wondered if they might have anything by them.
          This was well into CDs btw, so late 90’s-2000 or so. Not long before WR&T closed shop.
          Um well maybe, what is the name of the band?
          “Led Zeppelin”
          He said it took all his salesman powers to not face/palm.
          But he did explain to the fellow that they were not a very new band unless you were comparing them to Mozart and showed him all their cds, etc.

          1. unless you were comparing them to Mozart
            Which should give one pause, imo, realizing that even the 40 years of “Classic Rock” are just a flash in the pan compared to enduring music. Some of it will definitely endure. But there’s definitely more of that Tyranny Of The Present. (I love catching the hymns in our hymnal that have notations like “7th cent. Latin” or “3rd cent. chant”. Now *that* is a traditional hymn!)

        3. I once had a van full of 11-year-olds try to tell me (then 17) about this musician called “Weird Al.” I had to inform him that his career started before they were born…

    1. Kind of painful, isn’t it, especially when they’re busy hitting you over the head with how “new” they are?

      “This is totally modern and up to date!”
      “It’s obviously set in the seventies…you know, a decade before anybody taking this class HAD ANY MEMORIES AT ALL.

      1. yes, especially when they are pushing how ‘fresh’ and ‘new’ the story is and yet the news media is pushing how ‘it took the writer 20 years to have his script made’

        not to mention how ‘new’ their favorite director, Tarantino’s storytelling style was…. even when you cite late 70s low budget crime films and/or 80s direct to video crime films.

        1. I’ve stunned some younger folks who thought the Star Wars battle scenes were lots of flashes and such… “You know that’s almost a direct copy of night fighting artillery in WWII, don’t you?” “…”

        2. “This is a fresh new take on history!”
          “This is the same baloney we were taught in school, thirty years ago, but dumbed down even more– you mean it corrects what YOU remember of grade school in the 50s and 60s?”

        3. Tarantino’s new? i thought the fun of his work lay in identifying the pop culture antecedents he’d incorporated? He’s the personification of “Film School Graduate” movie-making.

          Good grief! next you’ll be telling me that Tolkein stole from D&D!

            1. Heh. ERB’s Barsoom stories, which have been strip mined for scenes and ideas and themes and whatnot for about a hundred years now… there are some problems with going to the originals, as that movie nicely demonstrated. And I’m still fairly sure that part of the problem was that the director decided to ditch one of those few themes which have NOT been used much during the time, like having the Princess and John Carter played as people with strong honor, always trying to do the right thing even when they might have wanted something else. Because that would have been something new to modern audiences who are way used to flawed heroes. 😛

                1. I actually really liked the movie, and didn’t find it unreasonably far off from the books. I could definitely see where they should have given Carter more of a personality (he wasn’t a flawed hero, but he kind of ended up playing straight man to almost everyone else, and the relatively minor character played by James Purefoy was waaaaay more fun. And stole all the scenes he was in).

                  I think it bombed because a.) Disney gave it a really boring name (John Carter), and b.) whoever was in charge of promoting it somehow decided “not marketing it at all” was a great idea.

                  I barely knew it was coming out until it was actually in theaters–and really then only because baby brother had started the Barsoom series and was looking for everything related about it he could find.

              1. The title changes here in the US didn’t help, and the lack of management support, probably didn’t help. As I understand it, it started out with the original ERB “A Princess of Mars” title, but then decided anything with “princess” in the title would be too girly for boys to want to go see, so went with “John Carter of Mars.” But then they decided “Mars” would be repulsive to girls, so cut it down to just “John Carter.” And between the time they started production and the time it hit theaters, management at the studio changed, and what marketing and advertising it got here in the US fairly well stank. I saw one mediocre short trailer in theaters and a couple ads on TV that might be enough to attract an ERB fan’s attention but probably nobody else’s.

                1. Aw, c’mon! it was a Disney film! What kind of confusion could “Disney presents: A Princess of Mars” cause?

                    1. Well ERB didn’t think about the problems for men and women going around with no clothing. 😈

                    2. And ERB actually mostly has them wearing something about as covering as bikinis and sometimes togas, if you read carefully. Dejah seems to be naked except for jewelry in the scene which introduces her because the Thark women had stripped her while looking for the hidden daggers etc, but in some later scenes in later books we get descriptions like Tara being wrapped into a cloth which makes it pretty much sound like either a toga or a sari, before putting the “harness” over that, and those harnesses presumably would have to be pretty covering and have pretty wide leather bits because the women could hide those daggers under them. So it seems that he intended them to be naked mostly in the sense a Victorian age person would see something like a modern swimsuit as naked, the naughty bits covered but way too much skin showing for that era person (John Carter IS a Victorian age gentleman, after all, as even if he has lived who knows for how long that is the culture which he leaves when he goes to Barsoom).

                      So, from modern perspective, somewhat skimpily clothed but far from naked, wearing mostly enough that they would not be arrested from the street in western countries, at least the women wouldn’t, the men maybe as they seem to be wearing mostly just that harness and some leather straps and speedos or jockstrap don’t quite meet the rules everywhere (I presume the dangly parts are still safely hidden beneath something like that jockstrap at least, can’t really imagine any man with any sense habitually fighting with sharp objects while letting them swing freely around). They don’t seem to care much if somebody gets fully naked, but something like just some jewelry is not their everyday wear.

        4. “New” Means “I have not encountered it before.” I get the same thing from people who aren’t familiar with various Chinese/Korean/Japanese fairytales and get introduced to Anime. They’re all new, even when the story is older and more commonly repeated than Cinderella.

  10. I can recall taking a bucket to the town pump for water, In fact I distinctly remember one rural house where I had to take it to an actual spring for water – not even a pump. And outside ‘facilities’ were still common (the house with a spring ‘down the lane’ didn’t even have an outhouse,it was take ‘spade,dig hole, fill it in’ rural) And I watched the change from trolleys running on rails with overhead cables for their electric motors, to petrol-powere busses that did’t use rails, and now back to electric trolleys with rails and overhead cables in the name of reducing pollution. I watched the change from ploughng with horses to tractors,and learnt to hand-milk a cow before milking machines became affordable. And I’m only 77.

  11. I’m probably saying the obvious, but still – file those mysteries away even if they’re useless now. They may be publishable in your old age, the same way a mystery set in the Depression era is publishable today.

    1. There’s been a surge in reprints of “local novels” written in the late 1800s-early 1900s. They are now vital historical documents of how people lived and their attitudes, and are great material for historians. I’ve read several and they’re fascinating.

      1. The historicity of old novels might depend on how accurately the authors transmitted information. If they made things up the way people do today, then they can’t be trusted as authentic reports.
        Although I suppose you could use the “trust but verify” principle.

  12. The working from home should cut down on the number of kids being raised by strangers (especially if people can start making a stable marriage a priority).

    I can remember when color TVs were too expensive for us to have one, but now, can even be used for billboards.

    1. We had a black-and-white TV til about 1971, and then when I finally got my own TV, I had the old B&W until 1983… to this day I still dream mostly in black-and-white.

  13. I don’t really have any stories from my grandparents, because all but my mother’s father were gone before I was born, and he only lived till I was four. One grandfather was born in 1872, the other in the early 1890s (but i was born in 1964).

    My father, on the other hand, was born in 1923, and he lived on a farm in the hills of Kentucky, several miles outside a rather small city (pop. about 1800 at the time). I doubt his house had electricity when he was born, though I can’t remember whether he ever mentioned that or not. Definitely did not have running water. They did have an ice box (yes, I do mean the kind that is kept cold by putting a block of ice in the top compartment, and the ice was either delivered by a service or purchased from a store that carries them). I don’t know when they got a phone – they may have had one fairly early, because my grandfather was some low-level town magistrate at some point.

    I’ll have to say that progress didn’t affect him much, outside of the advent of electric power tools and eventually cordless electric hand tools, plus cars becoming something too difficult to work on, until his hearing and eyesight started to go, and he eventually got hearing aids that benefited from all of the miniaturization that had come along, and what was basically a modernized microfiche viewer, in the form of a TV screen that displayed whatever was placed on the platen beneath it, and the magnification could be adjusted from 2x to (IIRC) 100x.

    1. One giant difference that sticks out was the one story my dad told me was about something his father did during a drought in the 1930s.

      The creek where the cattle watered had run just about dry. His father took a metal pole (it had a name, but I can’t remember it – I don’t think it was a tamping rod, but it might have been) to a spot in the creek and started pecking on the rock that made the streambed. Dad said he worked on the same spot, pecking away, for nearly the entire day (an amazing feat, since my grandfather was only 5’4″, or perhaps even less, and I know that the bar had to have weighed at least 20lbs).

      But here’s the part that stands out: After he had drilled a hole about a foot deep (fine-grained limestone is not as hard as, say, granite, but it’s pretty hard), he went and got a stick of dynamite, which I gather he kept in a shed, stuck it down in the hole, and lit the fuse. When it went off, dad says, it took a section of rock about three feet across and lifted it up and set it over to the side of the hole. After that, it filled in with water, and never went completely dry again.

      1. My grandfather used a hand-crank phone to “call” fish. Because he had dynamite, but that tipped off the game wardens, and killed too many fish.

      2. Today they would rather you blew up society (with social media) than your creek bed (with TNT). And you call this progress?

      3. My cousin Pam once found a box, and knew it was important, so she wouldn’t let anyone else do anything with her box. She might let them look at it, but then she would chase them off and go hide her box.
        One day, she was moving her box from one hiding place to another hiding place, when Grandpa saw her. He still had his log mill there so he spent a lot of time at the old farm. She said she knew it was serious because Pa was real quiet and said “Pam, please, very carefully put the box down. That’s a good girl” when normally he’d just yell at her and curse her out.
        It was very old sweaty dynamite.

  14. There were people old enough to remember the Wright Brothers making the newspapers (there were no broadcast radio stations then), that watched the Apollo landing on their color television.

    99% of technological progress has taken place within the last century. The thing that always struck me is that humanity went for fifty thousand years doing not much of anything, and all of a sudden, POW!

    James Burke’s “Connections” series provides an interesting view at how one thing was based on another, but it still comes down to the fact that for most of human history, nothing much happened.

    The liberal arts types will babble about music and art.

    We – America – engraved Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” onto a disc of gold and launched it aboard Voyager 1, still operational at 40y4m18d from launch. It’s now in interstallar space 140 A.U. out from the Sun, heading in the general direction of the star Gliese 445 at ten miles per second.

    “Oh, the engineer would see him sittin’ in the shade
    Strummin’ with the rhythm that the drivers made.
    The people passing by, they would stop and say
    ‘Oh my, but that little country boy could play.'”

    Blaze the trail, V’ger. We’ll be following you shortly.

    1. I like the line in Leslie Fish’s A Toast for Unknown Heroes, “What makes one step a giant leap, is all the steps before.”

      As Burke pointed out in Connections, the printing press resulted in a rise in available information, but it had a problem: how to find the useful (to you, right now) bits. And then came cross-indexing… and there was the dawn of the information revolution.

    2. And many seem to think that 99% bit means that we’re accelerating and will continue to accelerate, and all that came before must be primitive, and tomorrow we’ll be in technical (and therefore, everything-else) paradise.

      Human hubris really does know few limits.

      1. Both of us have built a lot of bombers,
        Missile, surface ships, and submarines.
        Things like this are very good for commerce,
        …If we don’t blow ourselves to smithereens!

        Rocketing Each Other’s Hinterlands — The Capitol Steps

            1. True. But a capsule isn’t exactly what any of us think about when we think about spaceships. They’re more like an emergency escape pod.

                  1. At least America avoided the worldwide horror and opprobrium showered upon the Soviets when they equipped one of their Salyut space stations with a machine gun. Wait, what’s that you say, nobody said a thing?

                    1. That was merely for meteor defense. There’s obviously no military purpose because range to Earth is such that slugs would burn up in the atmosphere.

                    2. A machine gun? Salyut 7 supposedly massed 19,824Kg. 50 Cal machine gun supposedly develops a muzzle energy of 15,582 joules. And the bullet itself masses .042Kg. Is it me, or does that mean actually firing that thing would cause a serious change in velocity of the space station itself?

        1. The Peace Of Dives

          The Word came down to Dives in Torment where he lay:
          “Our World is full of wickedness, My Children maim and slay,
          “And the Saint and Seer and Prophet
          “Can make no better of it
          “Than to sanctify and prophesy and pray.

          “Rise up, rise up, thou Dives, and take again thy gold,
          “And thy women and thy housen as they were to thee of old.
          “It may be grace hath found thee
          “In the furnace where We bound thee,
          “And that thou shalt bring the peace My Son foretold.”

          Then Satan said to Dives: — “Declare thou by The Name,
          “The secret of thy subtlety that turneth mine to shame.
          “It is knowvn through all the Hells
          “How my peoples mocked my spells,
          “And my faithless Kings denied me ere I came.”

          Then answvered cunning Dives: “Do not gold and hate abide
          “At the heart of every Magic, yea, and senseless fear beside?
          “With gold and fear and hate
          “I have harnessed state to state,
          “And by hate and fear and gold their hates are tied.

          “For hate men seek a weapon, for fear they seek a shield —
          “Keener blades and broader targes than their frantic neighbours wield —
          “For gold I arm their hands,
          “And for gold I buy their lands,
          “And for gold I sell their enemies the yield.

          “Their nearest foes may purchase, or their furthest friends may lease,
          “One by one from Ancient Accad to the Islands of the Seas.
          “And their covenants they make
          “For the naked iron’s sake,
          “But I — I trap them armoured into peace.


    3. A number of things work together to produce a multiplicative effect on progress. The first and foremost is free time. Back when we were hunter-gatherers, it’s possible that most progress was created during times when someone who would today be diagnosed as ADHD was down with a broken leg or something, and wasn’t able to go out hunting, so he found other ways to keep from going stir-crazy, when he wasn’t helping the women with things they normally did around camp.

      Once we started harnessing animal muscles for doing work that people used to do, it freed up more time for humans, leading to more progress. Etc, etc, with new progress giving humans more free time.

      Then, as Ox pointed out, the printing press gave broader access to information, leading to even faster progress. And the scientific method made our efforts to progress more efficient. Now we have computers, search engines, artificial-intelligence algorithms helping find relevant information, computational models to test things without even having to build them first, etc.

      These things pile on each other to make new progress easier and faster, and when you consider them in aggregate, it’s not really too surprising.

        1. I would guess that most of the male gender (the ones that have dealt with actual women in their lifetime) agree with this. Some things its just smarter to just do her way or get *out* of the way.

          1. And ditto in the opposite direction. I only use his power tools when he is at the office or out of town, and then might or might not tell him afterward — the dear man is convinced I’m going to accodentally cut off one of his favourites bits, though I never have done so.

            1. I am of the firm opinion that spouses should have separate tool boxes, and we have extended that to separate collections of camping gear.

  15. And its amazing how quickly we forget that some of those changes ever happened and how they shaped the modern world along the way. Eric S. Raymond (Long time programmer and Open Source advocate, his software code is in every smartphone in the world and most computers) recently realized this when talking to younger programmers. So he created an interesting FAQ (with lots of crowd sourced help) on “Things Every Hacker Once Knew” (using Hacker in its original sense, not the criminal cracker sense) about a bunch of the changes in computer tech in about a 30 year span. http://www.catb.org/esr/faqs/things-every-hacker-once-knew/

  16. I do remember how slow it was to find information. Research took longer than actually writing the paper. And then the internet was opened to the public. Life changed rapidly after that when it came to communication. Do you remember when it took three days for a local letter?

    1. Oh yes. And now though the letter (if you still send a physical one) travels farther, it gets there faster. Ah, applied automation.

      Also, when was the last time you needed an operator to assist with a call?

          1. 1978. Although I think my mother must have used one to get to the nearest pay phone to my dormitory room in New Hampshire and block the line open when my Dad died in 1981.

            I can’t recall the last time I used directory assistance, though. It must still be around? I know my children still say “getting the 411.”

            1. THey not only give you directory assistance, they also will look up other stuff like “the place in town named pizza haven or heaven or something.” One dolla!

      1. Last year, and the operator had no idea what to do, so I ended up going on the ‘Net and really digging until I found what not to do (for calls from outside of Britain to inside of Britain, there are a bunch of digits in the phone numbers that you have to omit. Inside Britain, you use all of them.)

            1. Wait… Dis-gruntled Lucas employees…? That would, then, imply that there are gruntled ones, which I flatly refuse to believe.

      1. That’s.. disappointing. I recall from time in Wausau that it served/sorted for the surrounding towns – and the set to the north. So if a letter went from Merrill (54452) to Merrill, it went on the trip to Wausau (54401,-02,-03) and then back – sorted. Preprinted barcoded business letters & such were easiest (barcode reader), typed addresses were next (Optical Character Reader), then neatly printed, but cursive or such meant it had to be keyed by an operator. But generally anything 1st class in the 544XX area would be sent to Wausau in the evening, processed, and shipped back in the morning. Later they also handled at least some of 545XX. And that was… 20-some years ago.

        1. In parts of metropolitan London, mail ran twice a day up until 1950. In the City it ran as often as three times a day.

            1. And that was assuming you couldn’t hire someone to carry it:

              But it’s no use despairin’, my wife must go charin’
              An’ me commissairin’ the pay-bills to better,
              So if me you be’old
              In the wet and the cold,
              By the Grand Metropold, won’t you give me a letter?
              (Full chorus) Give ‘im a letter —
              ‘Can’t do no better,
              Late Troop-Sergeant-Major an’ — runs with a letter!
              Think what ‘e’s been,
              Think what ‘e’s seen,
              Think of his pension an’ —-

              GAWD SAVE THE QUEEN.


      2. Apologies in advanced for how lengthy this ended up…

        Interestingly, the discontinuation of railway post office (RPO) service was a cost reduction measure, not a measure to improve speed of service. The numbers might be a bit off, and I can’t remember just now where I read it to go back and check, but the over medium distances delivery times took an extra day or two after they ended RPO service and moved it nearly exclusively to trucks. Why? Because the trains were averaging slower speeds than trucks, but the postal employees on the train were sorting the mail en-route.

        As I understand it, the local post offices used to have their own role in sorting the mail they received. Local mail got separated out and dealt with locally, while mail for more distant parts got sorted into appropriate bags to go to the train station. Depending upon the number of railroads and the RPO services on them, that might be just a single big bag, or it might be an eastbound bag and a westbound bag, or it might be a whole bunch of different bags.

        Along with the end of RPO service they switched more to the model Orvan described. Mail from a whole bunch of tiny local post offices all gets trucked to a larger postal facility, sorted, and then sent off again, often taking a three day round trip.

        Making this all worse for timely delivery is that the mail pickup times often seem to add a day delay. I find I can often get two-day local delivery times – but only if I deposit the mail in the slot inside one of the post offices that does sorting. Once, only once, have I gotten one-day delivery, and that involved putting the mail in the slot in the post office just after they opened one morning – and I’ve not managed to repeat that feat.

        1. …and sometimes you hit the jackpot.

          A few years ago I got a letter from Australia. The postmark was three days before.

          It must have hit *every* connection at just the right time; normally it takes one day from the General Mail Facility in North Little Rock to my town. One of the postal stamps said it had come in through Houston, which would normally be another full day from NLR to Houston via truck… but sometimes mail moves “space available” by air…And it would be another full day of flight time from Houston to Adelaide. Even if it gained a day going across the International Date Line, that’s haulin’ some mail…

        2. Until the last several years (I’m not sure how many, but less than 20), the post offices in Northern Kentucky had separate slots in the wall for local vs non-local mail. There was no explanation of what those meant posted anywhere that I ever noticed, though i suppose you could ask at the counter, but I expect it did help when sorting was done manually.

          1. My local post office has local/non-local slots, and separate mailboxes out in the parking lot.

            I’ve watched postal workers dump them all into the same bag; they go to the GMF to be sorted, then come back for delivery.

            1. These, at least at one time, were actually used correctly, because when I had a PO box for a while, it turned out there was something wrong with the routing, so I dropped a letter to myself in the local slot and it showed up the next day. When I sent one from another city, it never did show up.

              Contacted the local postmaster, who send a trace letter, and it finally got there in something over a week, but that at least cleared up the problem.

            2. Those are probably remnants of an earlier era, before your local PO evolved into a mere GMF collector. Think of them as vermiform mail collectors or possibly as psuedoboxes..

              1. Vestigial.

                Think of them as vermiform vestigial mail collectors or possibly as psuedoboxes.

                Sigh. Brain wants more regular sleep. A few hours here and there is not working as well as Brain had hoped.

  17. *lights up*

    Make a new category for the mysteries!

    “A Near History”– a little note that says something like ‘this book is set before the internet or cellphones, but isn’t really a “historical” novel– much like Agatha Christie’s classics, it is enjoyable if you’re not expecting modern technology.”

    1. I like that idea.

      I love–LOVE–Elizabeth Peter’s Vicky Bliss series. Except for the last book. See, the first several of the series were published in the late 70s/early 80s, and then there was a gap of a few years, with the second-to-last book being published in 1994 or thereabouts. Peters never really established a set “time” for the series, but it’s clear that it’s a bit timeless, because you have mentions of the Iron Curtain in the first several books, and then it jumps to post-Soviet world in second-to-last, where in the novels themselves it’s only been a few years. (This didn’t matter, though, because the USSR/Cold War/Iron Curtain were only ever mentioned in passing, and as a reason for one minor character in one book’s motivation.) All the same, it worked all right, because when all is said and done there weren’t massive differences between 1978 and 1994 on a lot of levels. (The change was coming, but it hadn’t truly struck yet.)

      The last book, however, was published in 2008. So suddenly we go from a very, very analog world-setting to cell phones, social media, and widespread Internets. (And far, far too many Lord of the Rings movie references.) And despite the author addressing this in a foreword–that she was just gonna roll with it, like she always had–it was just too jarring for my tastes.

      Honestly, I rather wish she’d left it far more nebulous, and near-past. It suited the characters and their adventures far, far better…

  18. To show how difficult it can be even for ‘visionary’ writers to predict changes – I remember a science fiction novel set in England. The administrator of industrial things was presiding over a failing economy. One of the things that he was very concerned about was the loss of skills due to automation. They had automated laths and other machine tools but the TAPES were getting old and failing and they had no new skilled master craftsmen to make new ones. The author lived in an analog world and had no vision of lossless digital copies.

      1. It’s way more complex than will fit into a blog comment, but I’m fighting a bit rot problem at a client site right now. It turns out that in the interests of speed and benchmarks-for-marketing, modern hard drives (spindle and SSD) and most file systems either don’t check for errors or ignore them if they do.

    1. My favorite is the space ships where astrogators (a word not recognized by spell-check, BTW) are still using slide rules (yes, RAH did it).

      1. Perhaps it is we who err, by assuming what Heinlein’s engineers refer to as “slide rules” are the mechanical devices we have known. It might be that his engineers and astrogators are actually employing pocket computer programs (appa) which they’ve nick-named “slide rules” because of the way they so effectively replicate the utility of analog slide rules, just as most Windows computers offer calculator settings for “standard,” “scientific,”conversion” and other functions.

        This message brought to you by the Foundation Upholding Driven Justifications. “When you absolutely need to force an explanation, think FUDJ!”

        1. It’s entirely possible that, even in the near future, a collapsible wand that would fit in a shirt pocket could contain a pretty powerful calculator, and even have a respectable-sized display, if new flexible screen technologies are used. This could indeed become known as a slide rule, if enough engineers applied a sense of humor to it.

          However, I’d be more likely to believe that Smith’s less formal, “slipstick” would be the nickname used, since it was ALREADY a nickname for an item used for calculations.

        2. That’s a very good point, as I was reminded by reading through the “FAQs for Hackers” article linked somewhere around the thread (thanks whoever you are, because I’ve forgotten now).
          We still use a lot of terminology from the early days of computing for things that are similar-but-not-quite-the-same.
          However, IIRC, the astrogators were described as sliding the whatchmacallit around on the stick.
          I still have my HS and college slide-rules, plus my father-in-law’s from his graduate program in the forties (pilot going up for officer, had to go to school, so he took an MS in MechE).
          Anybody still have one of the round ones?

          1. I’ve not seen a round “slide rule” for trig & such since the early 1980’s, however the pilots here will assure you that they carry a ‘flight computer” that is in essence a circular slide rule. Why? No electrical dependency that can fail. The thing always works.

          2. My dad had one. Guess we will find it when we go through their full estate when mom passes; in about 20 or 30 years (83, going strong, from long living genetics with no decline in mental state), yes still wishful thinking, but still …

      2. It could just be that all that radiation in space plays havoc (especially when doing FTL stuff) with semiconductors, and they just don’t trust computers out there. 🙂

      3. The slide rules don’t bother me, but the needing to manually input things in binary does make me twitch. (They can go between star systems, but need to do so in machine code? Oh, Grace Hopper, how needed you are…)

        1. Excellent point. FWIW Ada was developed before most were written (for those not familiar “ADA” is one of the first non-binary programming languages developed by Ada Lovelace). The authors should have had an inkling that non-binary entry into computers was possible. For that matter, RPG, COBOL, Assembly, go back at least to 50’s and 40’s, if not older. I haven’t studied the history of programming languages. Know the latter list were old when I started learning programming in the early ’80’s (and not in the way program languages are old in less than a year now) and Ada is (was?) mentioned in introductory classes.

  19. I had the same thought about those “unsalvageable” mysteries that everyone else has had, but I wonder to what extent the main obstacle to doing that is in the mind of the author: this was written to take place NOW, and it “feels” wrong to make it a historical novel, even if it might be a good one. I’ve seen this in a number of attempts to update older YA novels for the new generation. Really, there was nothing wrong with them as period pieces, but I suspect the authors (or maybe the publishers) just can’t get past the fact that they were supposed to be about contemporary kids, and they’re trying to force it on something that doesn’t fit.

    I’m not sure if I’ve ranted here about the attempt to “update” Lois Duncan’s “Down a Dark Hall,” but that was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever run across. The entire second half of the book is about the heroine trying to make a phone call; if she had a working cell phone, the book would end. If she could text someone, email, post on Facebook, send a tweet, same deal. Thus, the update to the story more or less consisted of saying, “Well, of course she has a cell phone, and an email address, and a Facebook account, but here’s why she can’t use any of them.” Apparently, it was believed that kids would have an easier time relating to that than to a simple statement that “It was the 70s.” (And that’s leaving aside the various cultural issues that couldn’t be updated; I have a hard time believing that a parent in the 2010s would be sanguine about not hearing from their kid for months).

    On the other hand, I do have one piece that I think really is unsalvagable: a near-future story that I started back in about 2000. The future took a different route, but not such a different route that my story could be an alternate history (the way Fallout is “the future seen from the 50s” or much of the cyberpunk genre is “the future seen from the 80s”). No, this is not different enough to be interesting, just different enough to be wrong.

        1. Ha! I’m just remembering the first time I read Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin, which is set at a college in the early 1970s, and how long it took me to twig to that fact. One of the first things that happens (as the protagonist is moving into her dorm room) is that some of the other students mention the ghost that lives in her room, and when she asks “what class?” they reply “99.”

          Which was *my* graduating class, though a century later. So I had a subconscious cue to the wrong era entirely, even though careful examination would have shown me my error. (Another comment, something like “the last time the administration listened to the students was in the fall of ’68, when they occupied [whatever] and demanded [silly things]” wasn’t much help either, because setting the novel decades later would just make that comment funnier.) When I finally twigged to the actual date, it was a moment of “oh, *I* get it!”

    1. I’ve wondered about “minor” alternate histories. Not a (seemingly) big huge change, but a change. Ponder…

      If the Watergate bunglers had taped the DNC HQ door unlocked/open competently (the tape showed, thus revealing something fishy was going on).

      If the transistor had been delayed (or advanced) a mere year.

      If the suggestion of the use of nitrous oxide for anesthesia (did the term exist then?) by its discoverer and early experimenter had been heeded… instead of a 7 decade delay.

      If Isaac Newton in doing work on color had managed to NOT accidentally use two items with the same index of refraction.

      And so on. Nothing seemingly major… but effects ripple.

      1. Joe Poyer wrote one of the first “techno-thrillers” back in 1971. It was called “North Cape.” It was a rocking good read, too, It was good enough it has a sort of fan underground, but you almost never hear about it.

        Poyer used the very latest real world and likely near-future tech, and wrote a Cold War story “fifteen minutes into the future.” It was a logical progression of the technology of the day… and Poyer swung big… and missed. He missed so hard the book is more “alternate universe SF” than “technothriller.”

        What happened was, Poyer got blindsided by the sudden advent of small, powerful computers. When he was writing the book computers were not something you could put in a plane, not at least useful for much. So Poyer’s pilot was meatware plugged into a mechanical pharmacy, turning him on and off as needed through a two week mission…

        On its own, the book is a fascinating window to a might-have-been had the microprocessor revolution been delayed for a few more years. And it’s still a good read.

        1. What I’ve always found interesting is how some science fiction authors stories hold up far better then most. It doesn’t seem to get much attention but I’ve felt Cordwainer Smith’s works are still quite good even though he passed back in ’66.

        2. Fun thought on the techno-thriller thing: once upon a time, and sadly I forget where/what it was called/all that pertinent stuff…sigh…Anyway. I once read an article/paper that argued for Dracula being the earliest example of the techno-thriller. The argument was that the protagonists/heroes used the latest tech–telegrams, typerwriters, trains, letters-with-a-fairly-quick-and-reliable-postal-service–and it was this that ultimately allowed them to gain the edge of Dracula.

          Fun idea, at least. 😀

          (I realize it’s not much to do with the actual comment, so my apologies. I’ll have to check that one out, though–I’ve never heard of it!)

          1. I’ve mentioned it here before, from the Kitty werewolf books.
            (first couple are very solid enjoyable reads–I’d definitely suggest at least the first one, and then buy until you finally finish one and go “that was alright, but I’m not really itching for the next one.” Don’t binge-buy the whole thing based on my review!)

            1. Poking around a bit says it’s in the second book; it’s about four paragraphs out of the entire thing, and it appears that her publisher REALLY needs to do some work on taking down the dang novels from websites. (as in, flatly republished, popped up in a search and I thought it was one of the short stories she has on her blog. By the way, avoid the blog. You’ll be happier.)

    2. One of the first free books I got for my nook was a mystery set in Wisconsin in allegedly current times, yet the main character was still using a party line phone.

      1. I know this discussion has happened before, but the first, last, and only party line I encountered myself went private in 1980, if not 1979. In living memory… but not what I’d say is current times any more.

        1. I’m not sure about the exact year, and I THINK it was optional at the time, but we got off the party line and onto a private line somewhere between ’76 and ’78, I believe.

        1. I’m not positive, but I think the last one in ND was in the very early ’80’s. I don’t think they even issued any more sometime in the ’70’s

      2. Looking at the wide variant in “end times” for party lines, I would think that one’s personal experience would certainly affect how one viewed a “near historical” work that differed in some such detail.

    3. On that note- a friend i went to film school with was looking to borrow some airsoft guns as props to shoot a long trailer for his cyberpunk film… and when i asked what he was looking for, everything he listed was straight out of 90s action films because those were the only firearms he knew by name. It was fun explaining to him that many of them weren’t even manufactured anymore and had fallen out of use….

    4. I have tried to make a collection of the different editions of Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys (at least of a few titles) to track the changes made in the venerable kid-lit series world.

  20. where is my flying car? WHERE are my moon colonies?

    Because that quote brings back happy memories of my Boston days when I knew the band: Moon Colony by ScissorKiss

    Where’s my silver hair
    My silver clothes
    My cyber implants, baby
    Where’s my silver love

    Where’s my silver home
    My silver car
    My silver spaceport, baby
    Where’s my silver love

    Where’s the future you promised me…
    My moon colony

    Where’s my silver love

    Which came out of the question, “Where is my flying car?” on the old Boston Netgoth list.

    1. Well, there is some good news for goths at least… Cruxshadows is doing seemingly randomly placed shows in the US… its not a tour but… ehh, they will be close enough to me to go see.

      1. I last saw them in College Station Texas…well, I moved to Atlanta in late 2010 so at least 7 years ago.

        My favorite show with them was one in Boston around 2003 or so when I got to have sushi with them after the show. I sat across from Rachel and spent the whole time coveting her jewelry.

  21. Three out of four of my grandparents were removed from school when they 9/10 years old and sent to work in 1930s during great depression. They had proper dickensian childhood and only one of them was willing to talk about their experiences.

    Concept of teenagers was created during the twentieth century, prior to then, children started work around 10/12 years old, only posh kids with rich parents got to be teenagers.

    I believe twentieth century is one of most consequential eras ever experienced by humanity, equivalent of when humans switch from hunter gather society to agriculture and permanent settlements ten thousand years ago. Internal combustion engine, electricity delivered safely to homes and businesses, and penicillin have all combined to transform the human experience.

    And now we have internet, which has been blowing my mind for about twenty years. Humans from around the world can instantly communicate with one another and all knowledge of world is at our finger tips now. Internet can seem mundane but it is one of humanity’s finest, consequential, inventions.

  22. My perspective is a little odd. My family has long generations AND both my parents were history teachers. So I have a stretched perception in a couple of senses.

    What strikes me is that the Progressive Left spent much of the 20th Century fighting bitterly against technological progress. And, in many ways, they managed to bring it to a halt. We didn’t stay on the moon; they bitched and whined enough to stop us. They started trying to make air travel as unpleasant as possible the moment the common man could afford it, and never stopped trying to re-regulate it into an Elite activity.

    They missed the video revolution, and the computer revolution(s). They didn’t have any CLUE what a difference it would make when people could own movies.

    ( aside; I got in on the very end of that transition; when I went to work selling video for Suncoast, we still got the occasional Senior Citizen who woke up that morning with the realization that that damned thing the kids had wished on them so they could see the grandkids’ softball games meant THEY COULD OWN MOVIES! They would spend $500, at $15-$20 a pop, and you never saw anyone happier to spend $500 in your life.)

    The Progressives loved tel the rest of us what was a classic movie and what wasn’t, and controlling who could see what with museum retrospectives. And now they are torn. On the one hand they can own their own classic collections. OTOH< so can everybody else, and a lot of them don't agree with their betters about what is Great.

    And the Progressives never saw the computer revolution coming. Computers were geek territory. Oh, the Cool Kids moved in on the Geeks and subverted them quite quickly once it became obvious that they were important. but they didn't manage to strangle the internet in its cradle (and I think looking back we will find that they managed to do that with a lot of technology that could have changed the world), and so little things like the 60 minutes smear on Bush came crashing down around their ears.

    And they missed that indie is making dead tree publishing just ONE of several ways to get your message out. And they don't control it.

    They must really be eating their own livers.

    1. never stopped trying to re-regulate [air travel] into an Elite activity
      Well, it’s not so much restricting it to an elite activity, as making sure it’s not comfortable for anyone who isn’t an elite. They don’t mind you traveling en masse to see Grandma for Thanksgiving, just so long as you feel like cattle while doing so. It’s why they want us out of our own cars – that’s entirely too comfortable and self-directed method by which to travel.

  23. “Kids being raised by strangers.”

    Not that far from having them raised in special crèches like the Mules, eh?

    “I realized that two mysteries I wrote in the late eighties are now unpublishable and unsalvageable, because the murder/solution depends not only on there being no cell phones, but there being no computers.”

    You could always toss them out for everyone to look at, and see if someone else could make a going concern out of them. With the stipulation that you’re both co-authors, of course. Ooooo, or maybe make their re-write a contest with everyone paying a $20 entry fee?

  24. (My grandkids could very well live in one, but never mind.)
    You did that wrong. There’s supposed to be eyerolling and sighing and a bit of despair, as you add, “If I ever see any…”. 😉

    1. And here I thought my relations didn’t read the blog? Because I swear I’ve heard that (and that tone) before. Maybe once or a million times.

  25. I’m still holding out hope for white boots on red sand in my lifetime. But I’m sure itcwill be Bezos or Mysk rather than tbe government that does it.

  26. In general, I really like the idea of more people working from home thanks to the internet, not just for the greater opportunities for everyone and all, but more real diversity – the better chance for odd, unique ideas/products to thrive.

    I do have one concern, and I’m looking at myself when I say this, and that’s isolation. It’ll be much less likely for little snowflakes to run up against reality and get a lot of their indoctrinated nonsense blown away. (Not their fault, btw, I blame their schools and the media.)

    One of the best things I ever did was to get a real world job, in a huge corporation (with a pretty good culture – that’s important), where I had to produce real results and take on more and more responsibility, and where I was surrounded by a wide variety of people, of all different levels and backgrounds, and I could really see that character is far more important than brains or education.

    Of course, anyone starting a home business is going to get some reality checks (like just how much goes for taxes, and how other regulations will hurt), so that’s worth something.

    1. Even if you’re not a snowflake, too much time alone can really mess with your head. I usually end up spending most of January-February alone for longer stretches of time, and even if you like to be alone to work it can get you in an unhealthy depressing place if kept up for too long.

    2. The problem with work-from-home isn’t “working from home”, it’s that management is still buried in the past. Too many pointy-haired-bosses whose insecurity manifests by micromanagement. It’s not enough to turn in work that’s prompt and correct; they want to *see* their people with their noses to the grindstone.

      I used to think this was something that would change as managment types became familiar with the idea, but they seem just as resistant as always despite the potentially enormous cost savings that could be obtained from some jobs.

      On the other hand, we probably have a slightly smarter group of managers who think “if our employees can do this at home for $X, why can’t we just outsource it to India at 1/4 $X?

  27. My great grandmother was the first of her family born in America, in 1901. She died in 2002. Her older sister was born on the boat on the way over. By the time she passed we had not only sent people to the sky and beyond to the moon, we had sent people to the deepest part of the ocean and brought them back alive. Horses were the primary power source on the farm, then steam tractors, then gas/diesel. They used to cut ice in the winter and put it in the cellar with a bunch of straw so they could store food through the summer. So many changes in one lifetime. I can only imagine what I will see by the time I pass.

    One of the things that I find dates so many books written in the last half of the 20th century is how having a cell phone would completely change the story. Not even having internet access on it, just the ability to make a phone call to anyone at will. It completely blows the storylines out of the water if trying to update them to modern times.

    1. One of the things that I find dates so many books written in the last half of the 20th century is how having a cell phone would completely change the story.

      That’s one of the fun bits of watching old shows like The Rockford Files: thinking about how he wouldn’t have this problem if he had a phone in his pocket.

      ‘Course, with Perry Mason you get the added joy of tailfins…

      1. I was watching an old episode of Magnum and thinking that if Thomas had had a cell phone the scene (and by extension, the episode) would have gone very differently.

      2. I think, conversely, that Batman, for example, would make a much more plausible character if his stories were set in the late 1930s or early 1940s. It’s just too hard to explain how he maintains a secret identity given present-day technology.

        1. Nod, in the Wearing The Cape series, few Capes (Superheroes) have Secret Identities and nobody expects “Secret Identities” to remain “secret” for long.

          In the second book, the Main Character is shocked to find out that the Chicago Mob knows her “Secret Identity”.

          While she is in a panic about it at first, it’s not a big thing as the Chicago Mob wouldn’t dare attack her friends & family.

          In that world, there was a Cape killed by Mobsters while off-duty along with his family. An unknown Cape completely wiped out that Mob leaving no survivors. No Mob leader wants a repeat of that. 😈

          1. Thanks. I just downloaded the first book. Next on the reading list. Just finished “Through Fire” and in the middle of “Bubba The Monster Hunter.” Hartness’s stories seem like a redneck parody of Correia’s and I probably wouldn’t enjoy them if I hadn’t read the Monster Hunter series first. Need the contrast to appreciate the humor. Kind of like a National Lampoon’s “Bored of the Rings” thing.

          2. What they have are “private identities”: just secret enough that they can get a coffee at Starbuck’s without getting mobbed.

        2. He WAS a more plausible character back in the beginning (and I prefer the “new” comix that keep him in that time period, but with all the new tech for him to play with).

          The character of Batman made his first appearance in the pages of Detective Comics #27 in May 1939. In Spring of 1940, Batman #1 was published and introduced new characters into Batman’s pantheon, most notably those of Catwoman and Batman’s eventual nemesis, the Joker.
          Batman (comic book) – Wikipedia

      1. Most camping locations (and Scout camps) are cell phone dead zones. That’s mostly a function of the terrain, though I suspect they will hold out against cell phone towers for as long as possible.

        Yosemite mentions it in a few signs. It’s important to know that if you’re getting out into wilderness, however tame, that you *can’t* always access help. (Though they did have a PSA that included a panicked voice-over 911 call from a hiker whose buddies got swept downstream. Water’s the biggest killer in Yosemite, even more than falls.)

        1. Yellowstone. Except for Old Faithful and leakage from Gardiner (North) and West Yellowstone. Cell phone coverage is non-existent. Oregon, get into coast range or cascades, don’t count on it. Heck my grandparents place in Drain/Yoncolla area it is hit/miss based on which carrier one has, and the towns are just off I-5.

          On top of that GPS, especially car versions, and hand versions make sure you have the correct maps downloaded, can and have been death traps anywhere off freeways, or in towns. Latter, even if you have the correct map versions downloaded, it is really easy to not get the satellite coverage needed for 100% accuracy. Let alone the battery failure rate, which is usually faster with colder temps. If you are in wilderness, have map and compass backup and know how to use them. OTOH GPS on CA Freeways – OMG, first time we’ve driven that without an argument (not exactly used to 6 lane freeways on our side).

          1. I have a friend whose GPS sent her onto a cliffside single-lane dirt road with potholes and rocks near a California historical park. I told her she should tell the GPS company that, so that they can update their system. (Oddly enough, I think my family ended up on that road once trying to get to the same spot. My mom had to get out of the van to direct my dad on the multi-point turn so that the van didn’t edge off the cliff.)

            Oh, and let us not forget DESERT in SUMMER and people going out on sand-swept roads without water because the GPS doesn’t let them know of hazards.

            1. Yes. Lots of examples. Both GPS & cell phone. Most states Rockies & West; not familiar with points East.

              GPS. Oregon has had way too many “GPS showed us this road between I-5 & the coast” then someone died. What GPS does not show is the road is only passable, even then sometimes iffy, during few weeks in the summer. Not to mention these are narrow winding logging roads, meeting logging trucks possible. News makes a big deal on how those roads were “suppose” to be closed with barriers, during the time of year the deaths occurred. Problem is that is only true for private (obvious reasons), not so much public (BLM, USFS, County, State, even City), even if there is a gate there to close or not. FWIW. Oregon I-5 to coast or I-5 over cascades, use the developed highways. Don’t use the back roads unless you really know what you are doing, & you are prepared for problems, does not matter what time of the year.

              One of the reasons we use the carrier we do is coverage is better; proven by self, we regularly go places we expect spotty or no coverage (including Scout camps). Touting “mostly the same for less or 1/2 cost” is not enough, & not willing to switch to prove otherwise.

    2. Remember: that cowboy outlined against the sky might not be looking down at the cows. He might be texting a picture of them to his wife to put on Instagram.

  28. Interesting that just this morning was having a conversation sparked by the mention of the new Blade Runner movie. We talked about movies setting themselves 30 years in the future because that seems somehow ‘safe’. (The current one is 2040+; the old one was 2010+, iirc.)

    It’s interesting how we see the change around us and speculate how it will make the world “totally different” in … often fewer years than made you an “old, wise man” in the ancient days. Used to be that you died before your predictive failures caught up to you. Not so much now. I fully expect to live to see the new Blade Runner become an anachronism, too.

    I think it’s the Tyranny Of The Present, projecting into the future.

    Feel free to mention those who failed to predict the future, particularly while writing fiction speculating on the future.

    1. I’m re-reading some of the classic sf (at least by one editor’s choice) from 1900 up through the late seventies. It’s interesting to see how far in the future some of the authors thought was “safe” and are now, of course, wildly off base.
      Some went way in the future, and some just left dates out altogether, although the predicted era can be deduced by how MUCH tech and sociality they changed.
      If we’ve passed some prophetic date (1984, for instance), I just pretend it’s alternate history and go on enjoying the story (I think others have said much the same).

      1. I love how the older stuff frequently goes “oh, what the heck– let’s throw in totally not possible current stuff as a minor story note!” like the androids in one of Chesterton’s short story mysteries.

  29. I disgree about those mysteries being unpublishable. After all, we still read Christie. Nearly all of the Matthew Scudder detective novels predate cell phones and the net. The lack of the ability to get people instantly by phone plays a huge role in Eight Million Ways to Die which I finally read this past weekend.

    It kept me in suspense.

    You might take a page out of Tanya Huff’s book. When the omnibuses of her Blood series comes out her introduction discusses the fact that several could have the plot short circuited by a cell phone. Publish them both together with a brief intro and go for it. What bad could happen?

  30. I used to read Enid Blyton’s series, especially the Famous Five, when I was a kid, and it took me nearly into the 80’s before I realized they were not contemporary to when I was a kid and young teen, late 60’s and early 70’s. Part of the deal was that they were only a couple of decades to, the last ones, a bit less than a decade old when I found then, and part probably that my uncle’s farm was kind of stuck in the earlier decades, from maybe about the late 40’s on he had not gotten much new things but did do what had worked then, and with a small place like his he managed. And since those stories mostly happen in the countryside I guess I had just figured they kept visiting a lot of similar places, stuck about a decade or two in the past.

    1. Maybe it’s having history teacher parents, but I never had any trouble with ‘this story isn’t now, it’s (pick a ‘then’). I loved the Swallows and Amazons books (well, not so much PETER DUCK or MISSY LEE) and had absolutely no trouble with the earlier period.

      In fact, I have problems with people who advise against exposing children to books out of the present era. They claim to be worried that the kids will be ‘confused’. I have a sneaking suspicion that they know goddamned well that once a child is exposed to Kipling, getting him (her) to read the political correct pablum the Proggies push is gonna be a bitch.

      There used to be good, well written, thrilling stories written that had Progressive message behind them. But recently? It’s almost enough to make you think that Progressivism is talent-proof.

      1. Good grief! If anything, the kids will be happier…they seem to get the idea that the past is a different place.

      2. Ehhhhhh…there are some things I don’t intend to expose my kids to until they get old enough that Dad’s been able to explain certain things to them. Like “the past is a foreign country, some of the customs were not ones that we should follow, and here’s what they are and why.”

        1. If a kid can read, he’s old enough.

          If a kid is old enough to be read to, he’s also probably old enough. (Obviously, though, you shouldn’t be reading any massacre scenes or bad language. But you wouldn’t be, anyway. I suppose that “Don’t let your kids listen unsupervised to your audiobooks” is a valid consideration.)

  31. I’m learning quantum computing. That’s going to do very strange things as intractable problems become tractable. It’s probably going to require regular-computer AIs to really do it justice, though. Humans just aren’t very good with n-dimensional matrices when n starts getting big – and they get big FAST (1 qubit is 2D, 2 quibits is 4D, 3 qubits 8D, etc…). PBS (of all things) has some great videos on YouTube, if you’re looking for an introduction.

    As a homage to an earlier age, remember (and tell people) that the speed of light is 1.8 terafurlongs per fortnight.

    1. And don’t think that wasn’t a major technical coup. As proven by the number of times Space X tried and lost the booster.

  32. One set of grandparents were born in Montana in 1911 & 1913, passing away 2007 (within 3 weeks of each other). I remember Grandma telling tells of being “rich” because she could ride a horse to school in the snow instead of walking. I’ve seen the one room cabin they lived in as young parents, with a <2 toddler, and new born, without indoor plumbing or well (Montana high country); making their final very small Oregon home a palace by comparison.

    Other grandmother born 1908 (Oregon), talks of taking her shoes off to walk in the mud to meet the school bus, to keep her shoes clean; cleaning her feet at school before putting her shoes back on. When their 4th child had major medical issues, having to leave the older 3 at home alone (ages 14, 11, and 5) with relatives checking in (they were related to everyone in the area) while they spent 3 days on the train going to and coming from specialized doctor appointments (2 days travel, day for doctor appointment); a trip I grew up with as 7 hours round trip by car.

    All 3 lived to see the moon landings, computers, the internet, cell phones, etc.

  33. Things I remember that have gone the way of the dodo;

    I was in a house that had a ‘party’ line. I can vaguely remember overhearing conversations about ‘making sure the line isn’t in use’. By the time I was using the phone, it was gone.

    I remember milk coming in bottles, with the cream on the top.

    I remember patronizing two of the remaining ‘restaurant buildings shaped like something odd’; an ice-cream freezer and a milk can. The milk can was still in business last time I looked (kind of out of the way, though, unless you summer near Salters Point, South Dartmouth Mass.). I gather there are still a few, here and there. It used to be VERY common.

    The house we summered in had wiring dating back to the days when house wiring was solid, covered in cloth, run on ceramic posts, with the positive and negative on opposite sides of a beam. That lasted until my Lady was asked to look at the wring in the basement and advise the trustee if it needed to be replaced. She came up literally grey in the face and said “Call the electrician, NOW!”. The fabric covering had aged off……

    I remember when a long distance call was a serious financial hit.

    My first good record player was one my Uncle had built. It was Monophonic, had tubes, and the turntable could play 78rpm records. When we moved out of my childhood house, Father got the college radio station to transfer his old ’78 Jazz records onto tape.

    I remember my Father’s reel-to-reel dictaphone.

    I remember my Father editing his books (and later his page proofs) literally cutting and pasting. He did that for four, maybe five, books. He jumped on the Personal Computer bandwagon as soon as he understood that on one ‘cut and paste’ was a metaphor.

  34. I’ve often thought about writing a book, “How People Used to Live.” Because I’m convinced that half the generation gap is simply a shift in reference points. Mom and Dad talking about something that happened when you were in diapers…and you’re left wonder just what they’re jabbering on about. Young people don’t get a good history education, what they get tapers off after World War II…and they know it.

    1. Time-Life put out a series in the nineties titled “What Life Was Like” in various historical ages and countries/regions. It’s interesting that they could add one for “Western Europe and America 20th Century” and some young people would find it equally hard to fathom.

    2. One of the reasons I really loved the history professor I had my frosh year of college* was that he explained the Cuban Missile Crisis to us. (Plus how Reagan got elected on vastly similar campaign rhetoric/platform to JFK.)

      *I didn’t have him after that because he died two weeks after finals because of undiagnosed stomach cancer. His son is… a college senior? Something like that. Yes, we keep track. (Plus he’s a basketball player.)

  35. 1988: I bet we’ll have space hotels in 30 years.
    2018: For the love of God, can we get college students to stop eating laundry detergent.

    Life gets easier, but there are occasional plateaus…

    1. I know the laundry detergent trope. I suppose it’s POSSIBLE that it’s true. But I can’t help but remember a series of Doonesbury strips (back before he completely lost his sense of humor) about the Walden residents feeding an especially credulous reporter a load of fragrant bulls*t, which he dutifully reported as fact.

      And I wonder; is there any more to the detergent-eating nonsense than a joke that somebody took seriously?

      1. I’ve heard of several folks trying desperately to find a genuine example of anybody over the age of 3 eating one, and nobody has managed to share one so far.

        1. I got the same sort of feeling about the supposed “bug chaser” parties that were reported first (if I recall) by Rolling Stone. The idea that there were a lot of Gays stupid enough to actively seek to contract HIV never struck me as credible. It sounded to me ( still does) like a case of ‘just how much outlandish sh*t can we get this fool to swallow’.

          1. I had the same reaction, but then talked to an acquaintance that was familiar with that world, who informed me that such things were actually going on, and represented the veriest tip of the iceberg.

            I don’t know how to take that, but if you knew the guy in question…? Well, you’d at least entertain the possibility that such things really were going on, incredible as it may seem. He is about as far into the “gay male” spectrum as you can get, without rounding back on “straight”, and worked in the health care field down in the Bay Area before he got sick of the stress and retired early. Some of the stuff he described having to document was so outre that he had trouble believing that his patients were telling the truth about their activities, but the evidence was pretty clear there in front of him.

            There’s also some documented stuff done by epidemiologists that he pointed me at that lends some credibility to the mass-media stuff. Back in the day, the lurid nature of such things would have been played up, and thus you’d find the reality wasn’t quite so. Today? Nobody wants to admit there is a problem, so instead of telling lurid tales spun from nothing, they’re actually going out of their way to cover things up and make it look all pretty for the rubes in the countryside. Where the truth is, I don’t know.

          1. A female student, I think. Which is surprising, as guys are far more prone to such “Hey! Watch this.” foolishness.

            Perhaps she had been told it was a beauty treatment or that it would cleanse toxins from her system.

  36. I’ll toss in another thought. Part of SF writing is making an educated guess about what the future will look like. Which is often quite wrong. SF of the ’50s was very aerospace/mechanical/nuclear centric. The computer revolution took everybody by surprise. Today, a lot of writing is cyber-centric. And I’m betting THAT will bomb…Moore’s Law no longer matters, it’s software and debugging it that drives modern computer limits (take a close look at major DOD acquisitions).

    The key is figuring out What’s Next. Biological, maybe. Or some breakthrough physics.

    1. Moore’s law may have hit a wall, but there are still some technologies that can significantly increase computing power when the implementation of them is worked out.

      Plus, the rise of cloud computing is going to reduce costs for high-end processing. Local things like display rendering can’t be offloaded to the cloud, but just about anything else can. It will produce serious security challenges, but I think that will just improve the overall picture by those challenges being overcome rather than making it worse.

    2. Asimov said that plenty of people had visualized artificial intelligences the size of planets, but nobody had predicted the pocket calculator.

      I’m pretty sure I saw a story with a “pocket computer” in the 1950s, but he had a point… it’s always easier to paint with the big brush than the small one.

      1. conversely, STTNG predicted the iPad, it just got here earlier than predicted.

        but no, really, no one predicted cheap ubiquitous computing power.

      2. A lot of the problem with things like that inability to foresee the pocket calculator is that one of the truly dislocating things about technological innovation is that you can’t foresee all the implications of a given technology.

        A sobering thing for Science Fiction authors would be to look into Chris Sandstrom’s work on disruption in the technology industry. Thirty years ago, if you’d have written a story set in today’s framework, you’d have included film and the whole silver halide-based photography in your writing. Nobody saw or projected digital, but here we are, and Kodak is virtually extinct as a corporate powerhouse.

        Nobody saw the implications of the CCD chip, not even Kodak. And, that’s why they’re gone. Some things you can extrapolate, but the stuff that’s going to hit from clear out in left field…? Yeah. Not so easy. Heinlein knew what he knew, and he knew computers as huge analog devices that had to be specially designed for every purpose–Which is why he had his characters using sliderules in most of his stories. He simply could not visualize the digital revolution, and that’s not really something which should surprise us.

        Instead, look at the stuff that the writers have gotten right–Heinlein came up with a waterbed that he used in one of his stories, and that supposedly served as enough prior art to help prevent one of the people who actually manufactured the damn things back in the ’70s from successfully patenting the idea. Yogi Berra had it right: “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

  37. “two mysteries I wrote in the late eighties are now unpublishable and unsalvageable, because the murder/solution depends not only on there being no cell phones, but there being no computers.”

    Nonsense. Some people will read them precisely _because_ of that setting. Indeed, I read John Bellairs’ middle-grade books largely because they’re set in the nostalgic 1950s.

  38. I have never met a mystery fan who wouldn’t read mysteries written back in the past. Indeed, that is often the attraction. (Heck, even a bad mystery written back in the past is often interesting.)

    What people won’t read is a mystery set in the past by a writer in the present, who doesn’t know what the heck he’s writing about. (But that’s only if the reader knows enough to know it’s bad. Obviously plenty of readers are perfectly happy to swallow whatever crud they are given, as long as the story is “good” for some measure of good.)

    1. My cellphone rang, and it was Churchill. “Jack, Parliament has just made me Prime Minister. I need to speak with you urgently.”

    2. Reply #1: “What people won’t read is a mystery set in the past by a writer in the present, who doesn’t know what the heck he’s writing about.”
      Many writers of historical-any-genre are masters of their material, and really make you think they could be “contemporary” with their fictional era, although now one can really make that leap because we just don’t live and think the same way. Compare Georgette Heyer to Jane Austen in choice of subject and dialogue, for instance (and GH is very very very good). Dorothy Dunnett is the gold standard for me, but I can tolerate a wide range so long as what’s presented as the past is historically accurate. I hate the ones that move dates and events and people around for dramatic effect: keep things where they were and write better!!
      The other thing that ruins it for me is someone trying to be really “with it” (how dated is that<<?) to the point where the incessant and now unintelligible"contemporary" references are multiplied ad nauseum.
      That can even be a problem in actual contemporary (our era) stories, where the topical cultural references of even a few decades ago have lost their meaning (this is where the Internet comes in very handy).
      The writers who lasted (Christie, Sayers, others) have just enough for the flavor of the period but not so many you get lost in the weeds.

    3. Reply #2: “(But that’s only if the reader knows enough to know it’s bad. Obviously plenty of readers are perfectly happy to swallow whatever crud they are given, as long as the story is “good” for some measure of good.)”
      I recently was gifted with some books by my sister that she was done with, and started one that looked really interesting (a heroine tasked to solve a mystery from Shakespeare’s time with current-day repercussions), but had to throw it against the wall after about 4 chapters; Sis then confessed to having done the same, for essentially the same reasons.
      Out of curiosity, and to see whodunit, I checked it out on Goodreads. Rough estimate: 98% of the reviewers agreed with us. About 3 or 4 claimed it was the best book they had ever read and couldn’t wait for the sequels.
      So you never know how your book will hit the public’s fancy, quality notwithstanding.

  39. “She was born in 1904, in a village that still had iron rings embedded in every wall or pavement near the door, so you could tie your horse, while going about your errands.”

    Sarah, my grandmother grew up in a farmhouse that was 2-3 miles from a road that could take cars. She used to tell us that it was a mini-event in her day when they saw fresh tire tracks, let alone a car.

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