Monday, December 24

Horrid Tragedy In Private Life

In 1847, William Makepeace Thackeray published a cartoon in Punch that was so inscrutable, a rival magazine offered a not-insignificant reward to anyone who could explain it:

Somewhat surprisingly, the explanation turns out to actually be sort of amusing.

("Horrid Tragedy In Private Life" could be the title of a latter-day Morrissey track. Or, you know, a much better name for this blog.)

From the same website, an enormously entertaining look at a 1989 book of predictions for the year 2000:

It's so fascinating that (as the website points out) the cellular phone, the personal computer, and the Internet were all invented by 1989, but neither the authors nor the inventors were able to realize the extent to which these three things would revolutionize our lives by the year 2000 (a scant 11 years after 1989), rendering many of the inventions pointless. I guess this is sort of a trite observation, but it makes me wonder what technologies are out there right now that are going to have completely changed our lives by 2019. (I'm gonna go with Dippin' Dots.)

There's an Isaac Asimov essay on this very subject. He describes an issue of, I think, Popular Science from let's say 1880 that discussed various ways in which man would reach the moon. There was, you know, hot air balloon and giant cannon, all the usual suspects, but no mention of a thousands-year-old technology, the rocket. Then in the back of the magazine there IS an article about a "Rocket"...but it's the name of a racehorse.

(Wow. Typing that out just now made me realize that Asimov totally MADE THAT STORY UP.)

One of the predictions on the site is "The World's Smallest Weather Station," a device for amateur meteorologists that would monitor the weather and send the data to their home computer. By a totally weird coincidence, I was just today reading this in a 2005 New Yorker profile of Phillip Pullman:

"He's also an amateur meteorologist; in the back yard is a small weather station that sends readings on temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, wind velocity, and ultraviolet radiation into his laptop computer, via a wireless feed."

Being really into monitoring the weather as a past-time seems like such a distinctly British hobby they should have an etching of Robbie Williams fiddling with a weather station on the back of the ten pound note.

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