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Meanwhile, written by Simon Jones. 2007, the future, the past
 

I'm not one for New Year's resolutions. I might be, but I'm a little forgetful. I forget to make them, then I forget what they were anyway. Perhaps the fact that I don't make such resolutions could be taken in some way as proof of the fact that I am essentially a happy chap. Happy enough not to require a resolution to change my life in any significant way. Or maybe not having a list of resolutions shows instead that I am lazy. It's difficult to tell.

Looking ahead at 2007, I find myself amazed that we're here already. When I was a young boy reading books about the future, complete with brightly colored illustrations, 'the future' was the year 2000.

In the year 2000, the world was going to be an entirely different place filled with technologies far beyond that which surrounded me in my day-to-day life of the late 1970's. It wasn't going to be 'Buck Rogers in the 25th century' or 'Star Trek', but it might just be somewhere between that and 'Space 1999' where humanity was already zipping around space interacting with funny ladies that could change into birds and other animals in a puff of cosmic magic. Back then from my animal wallpapered bedroom with my mono record player and AM-MW radio on which I could often hear the music of ABBA and Boney-M, the future, as close as it might have been, was still a long way off.

In the year 2000, my book of 'the future' informed me, cars would no longer have wheels. Instead they would float about a foot or so off the ground and whiz around almost silently. This seemed entirely possible as Luke Skywalker's dad had an old one of those cars in the recent film Star Wars.

My parents would probably not get their floating car until everyone else had already owned one for a while. It might be as late as 2004 or 2005 before Mom and Dad floated their way around the mean streets of Chelmsford, Essex. But they would get there in the end, I was quite sure. While my friends' parents all seemed to get new cars from time to time, our family car always seemed to be a motoring evolutionary cycle behind everyone else. I would always be excited about being driven anywhere by James' dad because this would give me an opportunity to play with cutting edge automotive technology at its finest... electric windows! Oh yes, the cars of 'the future' were going to be truly awesome.

In 'the future' air travel was going to be something that was almost literally out of this world! By the year 2000 flying to Australia would take just 4 hours thanks to the new breed of long haul planes that would launch us into a low orbit where great distances could be travelled with very little energy consumption. The supersonic Anglo-French jet, Concorde, was already taking people across the Atlantic in less than half the time of a traditional jet airliner, heralding a new beginning in the evolution of air travel. It wouldn't be long until New York was the same distance away from me in time as London was by train. "I'll go there for a day to see what it's like." I thought to myself, remembering of course, that I'd have to be home in time to catch the latest episode of 'CHiPs' or 'The A Team' on TV.

In 'the future' we would all work less, as things called computers would take on mundane tasks allowing us more time to enjoy the world and each other. Robots would replace waiters, shop assistants, and school dinner ladies. Evidence of these great leaps forward weren't hard to find either. The task of watering the garden could now be performed by sprinklers and cars were already beginning to be built by machines with giant robotic arms, freeing the men who used to have those jobs to spend more time with their families, who must surely be happier now that dad no longer has to go to work.

At the time I quietly hoped that dad's job in London might be taken by a robot soon too. That way we would see more of him than the brief moment where he said goodbye in the morning and when we stayed awake on Fridays waiting for him to bring us comics when he got home from work. "What would comics of the future be like?" I wondered.

And here we are, 2007. Seven years into 'the future' of my childhood days. The floating cars, the inter-orbital flights, they never arrived. But we do have the internet, and the ability to have face to face conversations with people all over the world. Heck, it might even be argued that some shop assistants have indeed been replaced by robots that are yet to be programmed with emotion and humor. But all in all, the future still seems a long way off.

While there are some gloomy prospects on the near horizon what with Iraq, climate change, and other such concerns, I think maybe as this new year begins, I might just go out and find myself a children's book about 'the future'. A book full hope, excitement and brightly colored illustrations of the years ahead. Something to remind my adult self of the wonder that sometimes escapes us all as we grow older and more based in the reality of our todays rather than the fantasies of those tomorrows we can't yet see.



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