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Monday, January 01, 2018

2018 - First Post For The Year! And Tech in SF!

Today I'm heading for the Apple Store in Chadstone, lugging my laptop and my iPad, in hopes of buying a new iPad, since the old one is refusing to run my sim card. My nephew David, who knows his tech, agrees with me that it's just too old to do some things. I got a brand new sim card from Optus, my provider, which worked for a couple of days, then again, the "no service" message. So it's not the sim card, it's the place where the sim card is located that's the problem. It works fine with wifi, but I don't have wifi at home, and I need my device to work on the train and other places where there isn't any wifi. I write on my way to work or wherever I'm going.  I'm giving it to my brother-in-law, who only needs it to watch sport on Foxtel in bed, and has wifi at home, so doesn't need the sim card. So, one iPad not going to the rubbish dump!

I'm hoping to pick up one of the new 256 g models. My current one is 64 g. My first computer, an Apple 2E, had 4.5 megabytes. My next, one of those clamshell Apple computers, had 3 g. I was thrilled! It let me go on line. It did lots of stuff my poor little 2E just couldn't. The 2E still works, by the way, it just doesn't do what I need it to do now. And no USB sticks to move the files, it uses floppy disks. Fortunately, I moved the files important to me when I got the clamshell, which allowed me to attach a floppy disk drive. There was an entire novel I had written with a friend which really isn't publishable, but I would hate to lose it after all the work we did.

 It really brings home to me how technology has changed and improved since I was growing up, when computers filled rooms and nobody had one at home. I'm remembering Barbara Hambly's novel The Silent Tower, the first of her Antryg Windrose trilogy, in which a character has an impressive computer with 20 megabytes on it - wow! It's still available, of course, and she really can't change it now without a major rewrite. Not worth it - it's a wonderful novel that just has to stand as it is. (And if you haven't read it, but love Dr Who, get it! Antryg Windrose is basically Tom Baker's Doctor with cheap jewellery instead of a long scarf. Barbara Hambly loves that Doctor and hasn't denied that's who Antryg is.)

I'm rereading Ursula K. LeGuin's amazing The Lathe Of Heaven, in which a man has "true" dreams, one of which brings back the world after it was destroyed. It's set in the future, one with typewriters. Again - not worth it, for such a fabulous book. If she rewrote it to exchange typewriters for computers, the entire book would need reworking.

In fact, a lot of Golden Age SF would need rewriting. Mind you, some books predicted things we wouldn't have expected. For example, there's a short story, "A Logic Named Joe" by Murray Leinster, predicting the Internet; it was written in the 1940s. It was really just a humorous story centred around a glitch in a device - a "logic" - that enabled you to use it to look up stuff, such as how to commit a foolproof murder. Heck, it predicted Google, when you think about it! I'm sure Murray Leinster would have been surprised to think he was predicting anything. He just came up with a "what if...?" idea and ran with it.

By the way, go and check out Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, written in the 1970s(?) and filmed for TV in the 1980s. The Book looks like an ebook. I wonder if Douglas Adams considered that there might be a device that would store more than one book? Still, if there were ebooks in that time I don't know about them. I was around, studying librarianship and quoting bits from the novel with fellow students over coffee at the Druids' Duck Inn. The best I can recall, when I was already working in the early 90s, was the CD ROM, which you had to put into your computer. How excited we were over that!

 I was working as a replacement librarian in a school library which had a CD ROM computer for encyclopaedias and such. It was stolen one night, after my colleague and I left. The library was literally in the centre of the school(in the days when Principals declared that "the library should be the centre of the school"), so no windows. It was black when you turned off the lights. The careers teacher had an office in the library and wanted to work on when we left, so we left the door open. By the time he left, locking the door behind him, someone had crept in, stolen the computer and let themselves out.

Nobody in the pub would pay for that computer now.

I imagine even my new toy will be well and truly out of date in a couple of years, but I'm loyal to my toys. I haven't even thrown out the 2E, which I can still use to play basic games if I want, and which has a Star Trek screen-saver on it.  Sooner or later it will have to go, but it will be a long time before I dispose of the iPad I plan to buy today.

But it's probably just as well that my fiction is mostly fantasy. I have done a small amount of light SF - a very small amount, in a children's chapter book called Grey Goo, based on an article in New Scientist suggesting that a food replicator, like the ones in Star Trek, was possible.

 I would be so embarrassed if a story I wrote predicted the future and was completely wrong when that future happened.

Anyone out there know of some fiction that has what is now out of date technology in it?

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