And now it’s back to the future


My husband bought an antique Royal typewriter in the UK this last summer.

It is so heavy, I cannot even lift it. You have seen them in the reporters’ room of newspapers in the 1940s, if you ever watch old black and white movies. He lovingly described the advantages of this’ monstrosity. “Can’t you see, how gorgeous it looks? No flashy and smooth lines, just an upright solid machine? No spell check. No mailbox to open. You can feel every word you type.”
But after all the plaudits, the ‘machine’ had one little draw back, no typewriter ribbon! So I joined him in the search and we must have called ten different stores. Eventually we found that .H Smith offered a service which would order typewriter ribbons, so problem solved.
At the same time as my husband is going down memory lane exhorting the ‘good old days’, I was thinking of my three-year-old grandson who, like all modern children, switches from TV channels to DVDs and plays games on his mother’s computer, whenever it is free and often asks: “Can I have one for my birthday?”
Suddenly Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World or George Orwell’s 1984, today, seem not so far fetched, as they did when originally published. Not to forget Hollywood’s take on the automated future world with movies like I, Robot or the very scary Equillibrium, where literature, art, scent etc are banned on pain of death and mankind takes a daily pill in order to be unable to FEEL!
In New York, a recent exhibition called NextFest showcased a robotic future with mechanical chefs, the smart fridge that tells you, when the orange juice is running low or a T-shirt to give you a comfort hug! NextFest featured no less than 160 futuristic innovations.
In less than two generations mankind has leapt into the machine age with the latest European poll indicating children begin using mobile phones – extensively – from the age of ten. In Dubai, it seems the fashion among pre-teens is to talk on their mobiles, while roller-skating through crowded malls... now that requires a certain kind of skill! Primary school children are being given homework for the computer.
I suppose it is just as well to become computer-savvy at an early age, for in 2006 we are in the midst of another revolution.
Think about the computerisation which we take for granted. Our car tells us we are near an obstacle or reaching the speed limit. It has so many electronics that you have to take it to a special garage to have the tyres pumped. The parking meters are solar-powered.
Security is a paramount issue both at home and at work. Alarm companies monitor our homes in Europe, while night lights automatically switch on at our Dubai residence.
Entry to some offices can only be only gained by swiping a magnetised ID-card, or by pressing a finger against a tiny scanner that matches your fingerprint with those on record. The washing machine has umpteen programmes and the oven talks to you.
As for the travel business, it i in the forefront of the machine age. There are e-ticket check-ins at most major airports. Security machines ensure safety flights. Onboard, multi-channel entertainment systems offer us a bewildering choice of movies and music channels. Computers are essential for the pilots to fly the giant aircraft. Maybe one day they will be pilot-less. What a scary thought!
Supermarkets have almost replaced the little corner shops, but progress might regress and in years to come, they may just become warehouses as more and more people in Europe, for instance, are shopping on the internet with home deliveries.
In fact, the internet appears to somewhat be taking over our lives. You can choose a new car on the internet and play around with the colours to find one that suits your taste, you can buy and sell articles and here is the rub, arrange your travel.
I know that I sound like an old record, but I repeat, the small travel agent will become a dinosaur, unless he embraces the benefits of the internet. Even the colourful brochures we love, which sell the various destinations, will disappear within four or five years, as airlines seek cost-savings and realize that the web will do the job.
Some multinational hotel chains have, in fact, already replaced print brochures with e-versions.
I don’t think the future of travel lies in the stars. Perhaps a few too-rich people will indulge their fantasies to buy a lift on a Russian space rocket, maybe there will be near orbital rides from the proposed Rocket Station at Fujairah, but just remember that in the 1960s, when the Americans landed on the moon, many entrepreneurs were planning hotels there. I sincerely hope such ridiculous plans were soon dropped!
It is no good talking about space travel when it takes three hours from check-in to take-off at modern international airports today. I know, come next holiday time, we will forget the queues which seemed endless at Heathrow and those dreaded announcements: “This is your captain speaking. I am sorry, we have to wait another hour for the passengers, who are still waiting to pass through security”.
Makes you think: “If you have time to spare, go by air!”
Here is a positive news flash: Mobile phone crime could be wiped out .by a new system that makes stolen mobiles useless. When a phone is stolen, a ‘self-destruct’ message is sent to it that wipes all its contents and locks the keys, so no further calls can be made.
If the thieves try to replace the sim-card, the mobile will emit an ear-piercing scream – I particularly liked that bit!
This new service is called RemoteXT and has been welcomed by both police authorities and mobile phone companies. Every year, around 700,000 mobile phones are stolen in Britain alone, costing consumers around GBP390 million ($731 million).
I hate to say it, but we have just had an electricity cut and I now have to finish this article on my better half’s Royal manual typewriter.
Speaking Out by Jonna Simon