Sotto Voce.

"Qui plume a, guerre a." — Voltaire

My 2010 Moment

I had the great good fortune to be an SF-lovin’ teenager during one of the Golden Eras of SF cinema, the early 1980s — The Empire Strikes Back, Blade Runner, Star Trek II, Tron, Aliens . . . movies that redefined, and in many ways continue to define, the boundaries of cinematic SF. One of my personal favorites from that era, though, is often overlooked and generally underrated: 2010: The Year We Make Contact.

Now I’m going to risk apostasy by saying that I have always found 2001 to be a ponderous, pretentious piece of eye candy that smothers a decent SF story under a thick slathering of fake profundity. Great SFX, sure, but so what? Would you really want to travel to Jupiter in an awesome spaceship with only a couple of cardboard cutouts for company? Open the pod bay door please, Hal.

On the other hand, I think 2010 is a nimble, crisp story-well-told that puts interesting characters into a profound situation and captures their believable reactions. And it had a great score by David Shire, one of American cinema’s most undervalued assets. It’s one of those few movies that, whenever it pops up on TV, I’m doomed — I’ll have to watch it to the very end. And the SFX hold up pretty well after a quarter century too.

But the part that had the most lingering effect on me was this ten-second scene in the middle of a montage. Dr. Floyd (Roy Scheider) is boning up on his studies as he prepares to tag along with a Soviet crew traveling to Jupiter to find out what happened to the Discovery and astronaut Dave Bowman. See what he’s using? It’s the then-brand-new Apple IIc, the sexy cousin of the //e that I and all my friends were using at the time. But see, he’s using it at the beach! No plug! (The IIc didn’t have a battery.) And look at that tiny monitor!

The first time I saw the film, I asked myself: what will my Apple computer really look like in 2010? I made an appointment with myself to report back in a quarter century. At last it’s time to make my report.

That I would be using an Apple was never in doubt (such faith!). But other than that, everything was wide open. And I think it’s fair to say that the computers we have today — not just the Apple ones — are more science-fictional than my friends and I dared imagine (or secretly hope) back then. I don’t think there’s any doubt that Dr. Floyd would be using an iPad. But what about me? Well, I ended up eschewing the iPad in favor of a new iPad Nano — er, excuse me, iPod Touch — because I really need the extra portability that comes with the pocket size. Paired with the BT keyboard, it is absolutely my ideal field computer. I can write and edit complex, heavily formatted documents with it just fine from a coffee shop. That the Touch has scads more memory and processing power than the IIc goes without saying, not to mention the colossal internal storage (no floppy disks!) and external storage available on the Internet, which has come so insanely far since 1984, when I used my //e as a dumb terminal to dial up BBSs and my friends across town using a 28.8k modem.

I mean, heck, I’m reporting in from the future on a blog. Just imagine:

@heywoodfloyd: hey wake up! Getting weird signal fm Europa #leonov #monolith

My home machine isn’t as cutting edge, though it is still white and made of plastic and has an Apple logo, and it still could kick sand in a IIc’s face (if it were so inclined, which it isn’t). And it still has a few more miles to go before I trade up to something silver again. And if I really do start pining for something silver, I still have my trusty 12″ PowerBook in the basement. Man, now that was a computer.

So that’s my Report From the Future: the Apple computer that I will take to the beach in 2010 will fit in my pocket, will have no buttons, will carry entire libraries of books, music, movies, and TV shows inside, and will let me talk to anyone in the world right from the beach where I’m sitting reading Omni magazine and dreaming about traveling to distant worlds.

Talk about something to look forward to.

Categorised as: Life the Universe and Everything

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