Re: tech miracles of the year 2000 as seen from 1950

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Sun May 13 2001 - 21:30:33 MDT

At 01:08 PM 5/13/01 EDT, Spudster wrote:

>Wow, so much for analysis and prognostication. Basically, the article
>suggests that the technological forecasting is always wrong and always
>hideously, overly optimistic.

Some elements are just silly journalism-meets-Flash Gordon comic strips
(with sly `Orwellian' asides), but other parts are moderately startling:

>Nobody has yet circumnavigated the moon in a rocket space ship, but the
idea is not laughed down.

Doubly wrong, alas; although it was done within less than 30 years, to do
it again *is* now laughed down.

>Men and women of 70 in A.D. 2000 look as if they were 40.
>Wrinkles, sagging cheeks, leathery skins are curiosities or signs of
neglect. The span of life has been
>lengthened to 85.

Close enough on both counts, if you live in a comfortable Tottenville.

>Automatic electronic inventions that seem to have something like
>intelligence integrate industrial production so that all the machines in a
>factory work as units in what is actually a single, colossal organism. In
the Orwell Helicopter
>Corporation's plant only a few trouble shooters are visible, and these
respond to lights that flare up on a
>board whenever a vacuum tube burns out or there is a short circuit. By
holes punched in a roll of paper,
>every operation necessary to produce a helicopter is indicated. The
punched roll is fed into a machine
>that virtually gives orders to all the other machines in the plant. The
holes in the paper indicate exactly
>how long a reamer is to smooth the inside of a cylinder, just when a
stamping machine is to pass a sheet
>of aluminum along to its neighbor with orders to punch 22 holes in
indicated places. There are
>mechanical wrenches that obediently turn nuts on bolts and stop all by
themselves when the bolts are in
>place, shears that know exactly where to cut a sheet of metal for a
perfect fit. Every operation in the plant
>is electronically and automatically controlled.

This is wonderful! Rather than gibe at the writer's failure to foresee
transistors, let's consider this a sort of drastically wrong-scale and
slightly too early view of Drexlerian nano-assembly matter complication.

Damien Broderick

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