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An 80s Space Odyssey

by leet


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It was genuinely awe inspiring to hear that mankind had landed a washing machine on a speeding comet yesterday. I hope it proves more reliable than the one I bought last year, which has struggled to cope with the rigours of the Thompson laundry. Our repair man (with whom I have struck up a good friendship) tells me they don’t make ‘em like they used to. As if to demonstrate, he picked up the washer and wafted it around the utility room exclaiming: “see, nothing to it. Made to a budget”.

There seems to be a paradox here; as technology and manufacturing tolerances have progressed, the build quality of white goods has gone the other way. Our British-made Servis tumble dryer is a 1997 vintage and continues to provide sterling service. My mate would certainly not be able to lift and swing it around with the same vigour. Built to last, by engineers dressed in brown smocks brandishing oil cans and big spanners no doubt.

Back to space exploration, let’s hope that the Philae lander proves up to the job. It was launched in the noughties, developed in the nineties and based on space tech from the eighties. Most surprising was the enterprise that got it up there in the first place. Not the vainglorious NASA or pioneering Chinese, but a collective of boffins (what is the plural of ‘boffins’ – a bevy?) corralled from an alliance of European nations including the good ole United of errr….Kingdom. Yeeee-haaa!

More of European co-operation another time, but what a phenomenal achievement.

All of this takes me back to my childhood in the early 1980s when we would regularly gather around the Rediffusion set in class to watch a shuttle take off before running home to sit in front of the TV and see our future through the eyes of Buck Rogers and Metal Mickey. Indeed, a US producer by the name of Glen A. Larson dominated TV schedules with essential viewing that included Knight Rider, Battlestar Galactica and my Monday night treat, all the way from Hawaii – Magnum P.I. This was a time when anything seemed possible and people’s imaginations were fuelled by teleportation, polyester jumpsuits and laser guns. Theme tunes were awesome and we marvelled as calculator watches, handheld Donkey Kong games and even talking cars became available to the masses. When Austin Rover launched their Maestro with an onboard computer and the synthesised voice of Nicolette MacKenzie in 1984, I pleaded with my dad to buy one. I would be Devon Miles and he could be Michael Knight (without the perm) and we could cruise up and down the M6 listening to Nicolette warning us about our seat belts and the rapidly rising oil temperature. Rightly, he didn’t follow my advice on the basis that the car was utterly crap.

Back to the modern day and it seems the only thing that television inspires from the current generation is wanting to be a pop star or going into the jungle to eat possum’s balls. Infamy!

So, what is the point of this blog? Well, I started with one ending in mind, but having written down my thoughts, a dark mood has come over me (it’s probably age) and have concluded that we have no hope…or at least a major challenge to rekindle some hope at least!

The kids of the 70s and 80s grew up with a passion for science and adventure, even if they didn’t really know it at the time. Unfortunately, I don’t see the same qualities in today’s generation. Sure, they are fed a diet of science and computing at school, but are they really fascinated by what may be possible? Nor are they very practical or cognisant of risk. Most children prefer being holed up in their bedrooms rather than building bonfires, constructing water pistols out of fairy bottles or putting chains back on a Raleigh Chopper. I think it is all very sad, but perhaps a sign of the times.
In 2040, will we be sitting down to watch a soap opera about a mixed human and robot family living on Mars or series 36 of the X-Factor?

by leet on 13/11/2014

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