During my student teaching practicum, I had the pleasure of introducing some teens to the work of the Transcendentalists, Thoreau in particular. For those who are unfamiliar or forgetful, Thoreau is the nineteenth century writer from my native Massachusetts that opted to spend an extended period in isolation at Walden Pond living a rugged, simplistic lifestyle. He wrote extensively, ranging from travel literature (Cape Cod) to the philosophical (Walden) to the political (Civil Disobedience, A Plea for Captain John Brown). One class I started off by having each person make a list of ten things that they would bring with them (we were reading excerpts from Walden). Not ten things to be included amongst other stuff, mind you. Ten things- that’s all the car has room for.
It was one of the more fun days I remember from the experience. I later expanded on the idea for a larger assignment, supplying them with dimensions, a budget, and the instructions to furnish a college dorm or starter apartment as minimally and comfortably as possible. It was well-received.
I think of this now because I was hit by the obvious tonight. A coworker asked me if I was following the Olympics, and I reminded them that I had declined the charge for cable subscription during my time here in the south. During the course of our discussion, they were rather incredulous (and I increasingly surprised) at the prominent role my computer has attained these past few months.
I know there is a collective sense of disappointment when we look to films such as Back To the Future, Part II. By their projections in 1985, the iconic DeLorean would be capable of flight and run on garbage (see Mr. Fusion) come 2015. But, study the film more closely, and some of the film’s fancy is rather crude (a slide projector to splash scenery on the wall, for example).
Is a laptop not truly impressive? Mine serves as a printing press, newspaper, radio, television, DVD player, calculator, mall, filing cabinet, atlas, calendar… and most recently, a Sega Genesis. I haven’t made any fast-food trips recently, so when the urge to buy a PC game package of the Sonic the Hedgehog series for $10 struck, I indulged. Hey, I don’t go out and party on the weekends.
This is the technology we were promised by science fiction all those years ago. We may not have food replicators, but how far off is a microwave, really?