User Input

User Input: Ultimate Vaporware

Thirteen years later during a psychotherapy session, it was discovered that little Jimmy had walked in on Mrs. Breadbox showing her loaf to Mr. Coffee.

When I woke up this morning and started getting ready for work, I let my hover-bed drift me gently into the sonic shower, let the Wardrobatron 3000 select the appropriate shiny silver jumpsuit for me to wear, then strapped on my jet pack and zipped off to the office. Then I woke up and realized it was still the 1940’s and it was all a dream. Shortly thereafter, I woke up from that dream and realized I had spent far too much time the night before on the phone with Deartháir while drinking bottom shelf scotch and nuking incandescent light bulbs in a 30 year old microwave (that last one is more fun than it sounds, and it sounds like hella fun to me).

We had lofty visions at the end of the second world war. The Military Industrial Complex had birthed an unprecedented era of technological discovery and advance. We started to build more machines that go “bing”, and we dreamt of a future where robots meant nobody had to do any real work but gender roles still maintained a strict separation. According to Moore’s Law, I should be composing this on a modest computer that runs at 2000GHz, has 16GB of RAM, and cost around $90. Some of our expectations from three score ago may seem a little pie-in-the sky even today, but sometimes I wonder if we shouldn’t be further along. Why don’t I have a cell phone that works everywhere, including the moon? And why can’t I go for a vacation on the moon to try it out? Why doesn’t my car drive itself, and why haven’t all doors been replaced with Jetsons style sliding wall panels that respond to biometrics? And where the hell is my effing jet pack? Probably next to my copy of Duke Nukem Forever.

What predictions of the future do you recall from your childhood that have fallen pitifully short? And what do you find surprising that we don’t have yet?

[FYI: “User Input” is the AtomicToasters Question of the Day™ asking you, the teeming millions, to answer our pressing questions.]

  • I will go with the obvious: HOVERBOARD

    Seriously, What. The. Fuck? Can it be that hard to make a wheel-less skateboard that hovers over everything? Goddamn! I know, I know, wait 5 more years…

  • bzr

    Remember the Phantom? It was supposed to download PC games from the Internet and play them instantly with a keyboard and mouse, back before XBOX Live and PS3 Home let you do any of those.

    <img src="http://media.arstechnica.com/articles/culture/true-infinium-stories-the-73-million-phantom.media/prototype.jpg"&gt;

    • Sadly, its name was entirely too appropriate.

    • name_too_long

      Last I'd heard the company was still around, though they'd scaled their products back to a vaporware wireless keyboard.

  • Charles_Barrett

    I'm still waiting for the Orgasmatron…

    <img src="http://i189.photobucket.com/albums/z33/BluzBrotha/Sleeper_Orgasmatron-02.jpg&quot; width=500>

  • Considering the never-ending construction in front of my office, I want a giant road laying machine. I also want a flying car! Well, that and some of the other stuff in this video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8jZtwRJnRs

    It's amazing how much of this has actually come to fruition.

    Oh, and as far as that flying car thing…people have enough trouble in two dimensions, I can't imagine the mayhem in 3D.

    • Yeah, the last thing I want to see is Billybob bouncing off my building because Jolene got him a shiny Harley Davidson jet pack. I have enough to worry about driving to work.

  • tonyola
  • In fairness, we're getting pretty close on the whole Luke Skywalker hand/Robocop thing.

    …not that I do any of that stuff for a living or anything…

    • Deartháir

      I'D BUY THAT FOR A DOLLAR!

      …sorry… I had to.

  • Shoot, forget Flying Cars and Hydrophonic Pizza. I'd settle for the basics: a world where Chemistry has made hunger a thing of the past, Medicine has cured all our ills affrodably, and Our Friend the Atom has provided limitless power to fuel our travel, entertainment, and living needs.

    Instead we are ever stuck with more of the same. Well the limitless power thing could almost ave come to fruition if it weren't for all the damn NIMBYs everywhere. And Laywers. And Politicians.

    • Deartháir

      It's a pity we don't have any pieces of land that were miles and miles from civilization, which might be appropriate for nuclear reactors, such that the NIMBY's have nothing to complain about. Like, say, the entire province of Saskatchewan. Or Kansas. Or Detroit.

      If only we had places like that.

      Look, I'm all in favour of wonderful alternative energy sources like solar and wind power, but the simple fact is, until they make a few Next Great Leaps Forward, they simply aren't efficient enough as energy collectors, nor cost-effective enough to be used on an individual basis. The province of BC relies on hydro-electric power, which is relatively clean, except for that whole "flooding an entire mountain valley and disrupting an ecosystem" thing… but if you tried to set up a dam like that in Saskatchewan, you'd flood the whole damn province. Nuclear remains the only viable energy source for the foreseeable future, but because of carelessness like Chernobyl and Three-Mile Island, nobody trusts it. Even though, as an example, the CANDU reactors have been operating virtually trouble-free for decades, not only in Canada but in many other nations as well.

      • We have nuclear power plants here in Kansas, and no one seems to care a whole bunch. I'd be up for a backyard reactor, if someone had the whole logistics/end of life thing worked out.

        NIMBYs can generally be any one of us, when you add poor information and more than three idiots.

        Does CANDU mean they run on bacon?

        • tonyola

          There's a major FPL nuclear power plant just south of Miami (Turkey Point) and people aren't particularly bothered about it. There was concern during Category 5 Hurricane Andrew in 1992 which basically passed right over it, but there was no damage to the containment structures.

      • The thing about NIBYS is, these days they have effective tag-team allies in E-tards. Because Kansas IS a wasteland miles removed from anywhere. And while a few farmers would lose out – and I'd indeed be sympathetic and support remittance of ample compensation to their cause – a NIMBY blockade they could not be. But the E-tards will swoop in and decree how important every last shriveled piece of chaff is, how fertile and vast these plains, what a natural treasure to keep from descecrating…

        …the thing is though, they would be right…

        …and yet we as a society, much like our consumer credit addiction, just want to take take take more more more without any thought as to how it will be "paid" for.

        "Don't build that damn reactor here – build it somewhere else! Just make sure to build it, m'kay, my burrito isn't gonna nuke itself". What we don't realize is we're living in another NIMBY-E-tard's "somewhere else".

        The safety record of nuclear plants is, on the whole, astounding. So many are running well past their original design lives. And they are continuing to do do, because nobody will build (allow) any new ones. Of any sort. This situation is untenable. And fucking scary.

        • I understand your argument and agree. At the same time I like my Kansas and its "wasteland."

      • I read somewhere on the internet where there's a guy in the California desert who's all butt-hurt about plans to build a huge solar array. Seems the desert tortoises might be disturbed, and some cacti and weeds would be bladed. The dude says everybody should have rooftop solar panels instead. There is also concern about windmill farms, seems raptors and other birds get knocked out of the sky by the turbine's big vanes. There seems to be no pleasing some people. Let's just build more coal plants and say the hell with it.

        • tonyola

          There are also complaints about the noise that windmill farms make. Where are the fusion powerplants? (Yes, I know there are still some big technological issues to overcome with fusion.)

          • In their defense, I used to think the wind turbine NIMBYs were the lowest of the low, until I saw a few videos. Like this one:
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zu6E2EJ1hMk

            Can you handle the other videos from the same user?

            It's as if the sun itself were a flourescent tube with a bad ballast… honestly, just watching that for a few seconds is almost enough to make me snap. I couldn't imagine living there and having my sanity and livelihood ripped away. Keep in mind, these people had houses for years – if not decades – before the turbines went up…. in some cases a literal stone's throw away, with no determined need for – or goodwill offer of – a property buyout. Crazy.

          • tonyola

            Oh, that flickering would be annoying. A nuke plant cooling tower might cast a shadow too but at least it doesn't flicker through the windows.

          • I'd move. Like the next day one went up. That would drive me to kill in a matter of minutes.

          • Mad_Hungarian

            Wouldn't it be like that for only a short while each day, during the short interval when the sun, the wind turbine and the house in question are aligned? I wasn't overly impressed with their videos of the sound either; the traffic on my street and the cicadas on a summer night, and for that matter the sound of my own heat pump directly adjacent to my house, are louder.

        • Windmills seem to be killing bats too. Something about air pressure differentials exploding their brains. I stopped reading the article halfway through and realized we are in fact, all doomed.

    • name_too_long

      You can blame the eco/organic freaks for a good deal of World Hunger.

      Thanks to their hyperbolic idiocy nations with severe food shortages have refused aid grains since they're GM Crops (which have already met FDA approval). Basically they've decided to let people starve to death right now because wingnut and dipsh*t claim that it could contribute to obesity in 20 years.

  • I'm astounded that we still have broadcast and cable TV. Television by-the-show, hosted on the internet, infinitely scalable and adaptable to any demographic, while giving a much better idea of who is actually watching, revenue tied to a possibly paying viewership, and programmable advertising. No schedules, no lineup conflict, no competition in a timeslot.

    • tonyola

      As of past February, about 40% of Americans are still without broadband access according to the NTIA/Census Bureau. Broadcast TV and radio are on their way out, but it'll be some years yet before they go completely. As long as the advertisers keep pumping in the money, broadcast will still be around.

    • I have a TV, but only internet.

      I get enough TV via hulu, netflix and bittorrent to keep me satisfied, aside from the occasional live sporting event that I care about.

      An interesting question is whether you'd rather pay $75-100/month for unlimited HDTV (as it is now) or pay roughly the same amount piece-wise for your content, commercial free.

      • I'd definitely pay for ad-free, and usually constitute a vast minority of one.

    • Deartháir

      You know, for most of the shows I like, I just download them and watch them on my AppleTV (the old, good one, not the new crappy one). But I still like having broadcast TV. Sometimes I just don't know what I want to watch, and even with a couple TB of TV shows, sometimes it's nice having the limited choices of cable. Otherwise, I'd probably never watch Iron Chef, as a for-instance. If it's on, I love it, but not enough to go out and get it.

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  • You'd be surprised how well DSL does with streaming. I'm only pulling 3mb down and it's good enough for Hulu and netflix.

    • P161911

      I can only get HD about 25% of the time, when it is available, on Netflix Instant on an XBOX360. It is almost always watchable sometimes it looks more like an old VHS tape.

      • Have you done the silverlight streaming test? I had dropouts and found out the ATT had goofed something up. They had to do some black magic on their side to make it consistent.

  • I'm still waiting for the shiny silver jumpsuits.

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