Writer-mind tackles technology

Sorry, gang — no new fiction this week because, well, The Gravity of the Affair wrapped up in 12 installments. If you missed it, click on the title and see what all the fuss was about, because it won’t be up on here forever. The novella is also a great primer for some of what you’ll find in The Daedalus Incident, which is coming in print and audiobook in just two weeks. (It’s already available on Kindle, Nook and Kobo, by the way.)

The Gravity novella does a great job of introducing the whole notion of sailing ships in space, one of two settings in The Daedalus Incident. The other setting is a 22nd century Martian mining colony, which prompted a lot of thought and writer-mind imagining about what our technology might look like in a century.

That kind of technological prognostication wasn’t easy. In fact, if you and I are still around in a century (hey, you never know), I imagine we’d find that the book was wrong on a lot of fronts. Technology often evolves in ways we can’t imagine — and we evolve right around with it. Just look at this article, in which desktop computer makers bemoan the growth of tablet computing and struggle to keep up with changing times.

I started writing about technology for ABCNEWS.com about 15 years ago. Back then, the Pentium III was big news, and laptop computers were ungodly expensive. The Internet was just getting started. Broad acceptance of Wi-Fi, smartphones and MP3 players was well into the future.

That said, there were glimmers. I remember testing a small tablet-laptop hybrid from Dell that intrigued me. It had a flip screen with a stylus that allowed for tablet-style surfing, and could open up for typing. There was no hard drive, so it started up on a dime. Of course, there was no Wi-Fi or cellular on it, either, so its utility was still questionable. I don’t even recall if it had USB ports.

But it was there, and folks were thinking about a time when our devices would be as varied as the people using them. Anybody remember the Palm VII? It was a wireless-enabled PDA. It made the site’s entire tech department squee. It was The Future. I remember writing about the first iPod in 2001 and thinking, “Man, if they released a Windows version of this software, the iPod would be a game changer.” It’s nice being right now and then.

I noted in a recent interview that someone visiting our time today from a century ago would be flabbergasted with all the crazy stuff he’d see. Yet it would be recognizable, too. There would be cars and streets, newspapers and pedestrians, billboards and electric lights. The bare bones of his era would still be there.

That’s how I looked at technology in the future setting of The Daedalus Incident. The bare bones of our day would still be around in the 22nd Century. There would be cars and planes. There would be rapid ways to access data and communications from small, discrete devices. There would likely be e-mail, or at least some form of analog like holovid messages.

But there would also be fusion reactors and nuclear rocketry. There would be laser drills for mining. Space suits would have holographic heads-up displays several iterations more intuitive than Google Glass (which is a great start, really). We already have 3-D printing, so developing finished materials on site at a Mars colony would be relatively easy. We’re not talking Star Trek replicators quite yet, but pretty close.

And yes, there’d be a reality holovision show about space travel. Because I don’t think our culture will ever tire of stuff like that.

I did a lot of research into what could be in store for us, technologically, in the coming decades, but nobody is going to get it all right. I certainly didn’t. The joy of it, though, was creating a kind of future I wouldn’t mind seeing some day.

So sure, maybe the desktop computer will go the way of the 8-track player some day. Maybe we’ll miss that, maybe we won’t. Heck, do you miss the gigantic furniture-sized televisions that used to hunker down on your grandma’s living room floor back in the 1970s? Didn’t think so.

Given my background, it was a really fun exercise to play around with future tech. It’s that kind of thing that keeps the writer-mind sharp.


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