My ten-year-old self would have died at the revelation that this was coming one day.

Dear Bob:

If this letter reaches you sometime around the summer of 1979, then you have already wondered what it would be like to receive a letter from your future self. Well, wonder no further, because this is it. That’s right, Bob – I am you in 2011, thirty-two years in the future. As I recall, your summer days consist of reading a lot of MAD Magazine, listening to Alice Cooper, and watching as many Brady Bunch episodes as you can find on TV. They say the child is the father of the man, and in our case it’s true. You’ll still be enjoying those same interests in 2011. But you won’t believe how things have changed.

Some of what I say may be hard for you to understand, because the technology you use is going to change so fast that whatever dazzles you in ten years will be obsolete a decade or two after that. For example, take your record collection. By the time you’re in high school, most people will listen to their records less and less, preferring instead to take their music with them on portable cassette players. In college, you’ll see your first compact disc, a little silver record smaller than a 45 that is read by a laser instead of a needle. The sound will be incredible, and you won’t need to flip a disc over to hear the whole album anymore. What could be better than that, right? But that’s nothing. In 2011, I hardly use compact discs anymore. I have an mp3 player, a little box about the size of a wallet, and it has far more music on it than you currently have in your entire collection.

Yes, Bob, all those Alice Cooper albums you have (along with 15 more that he’s released between your time and mine) will be available wherever you go at the push of a button, and they’ll sound better than anything you’ve heard. Speaking of Alice, I’d advise you to stop wasting your time watching The New Soupy Sales Show every night at eleven just because you found out that Alice was on one of the shows. First of all, I hate to disappoint you, but you never do catch the show that features Alice. Second, he only appears in a silly skit for a minute or two. Finally, and most importantly, one day there will be a service called YouTube, sort of like a TV show that you control. You just search for something, find it and watch it. Don’t get too excited – you’ll have to wait about 25 years or so for it. Anyway, when it is available to you, you’ll do a quick search and find that clip of Alice with Soupy Sales. And believe me, after you see it, you’ll kick yourself for having spent a whole summer waiting for it.

I know you’re already jealous that a family down the street has a VCR. Don’t worry, you’ll have one in a couple years. You’ll eventually tape all 117 Brady Bunch episodes and even all 45 Monty Python’s Flying Circus episodes, too. And would you like to know where all those videotapes are now? Gone. Because when the 21st Century comes around, you’ll have all of those on DVD, which is to VHS tapes what CD’s are to records. And even the DVD’s are starting to go now. You’ll be able to watch all of that Python on a service called Netflix, which is a lot like YouTube, only better. And you’ll carry around all the Brady Bunch episodes on your mp3 player. Yeah, it plays video too.

As for MAD Magazine, you’ll be happy to know that I haven’t parted with a single issue. They’re all neatly arranged on a shelf in the basement. However, you may be surprised to know that I’m considering selling them. Let me explain, at least as best as I can. I want you to keep your eye on a computer company called Apple. In fact, try persuading Dad to buy as many shares of their stock as he can afford (they’ll go public by the end of next year at $22 a share. Trust me, it’s a steal. And don’t worry when it looks like they’re going to tank in the nineties. You’re in this for the long haul.). They’ll introduce a line of Macintosh computers in a few years. You’ll actually own one yourself one day. And they’ll also make your mp3 player, which they’ll call the iPod. But it’s the iPad that will change the way you think about all those MAD‘s.

Picture a device about the size of a notebook, only instead of opening, one side of it is a screen. You’ll be able to do all kinds of cool stuff with it, including accessing the Internet, which is like an incredibly enormous, electronic encyclopedia with all of the world’s knowledge available to you around the clock. Really, all the magazine clippings about Alice Cooper you’ve kept are a drop in the bucket compared to what you’ll find on the Internet. Anyway, the iPad can also be used as what we call an e-reader. Basically, you enjoy books and magazines electronically instead of flipping real pages. One day, MAD will put PDF files of every issue through 2005 on a single DVD. In turn, you’ll be able to put all of those on your iPad. So if you can envision your entire MAD collection compressed into the space taken up by, say, two physical issues, that’s one of the technological joys you’ll be experiencing in 2011.

Well, I think I’ve given you enough to chew on for now. I suppose you might be curious about the personal details of your life thirty-two years in the future. You know, do you ever get married, do you have any kids, what sort of a career do you have, and so forth. Let’s just say I know you’ll be pleased. Anything more might be too much of a shock.

Your self,

Bob, 2011

P.S. – If you ever think about hiding something you’re not supposed to have under your dresser, don’t. You’ll lose your school tie in a couple years, and Mom’s going to look under there for it.

3 thoughts on “Future Shock

  1. Bob,

    I love the concise way that you’ve managed to encapsulate a few generations of technology. I often wonder how we managed! You know, I really think we’d be o.k. with what we used back then (i.e. real books etc, but they are so much cooler now with a shiny screen too.)

  2. Heh-heh. That warning is a reference to a real event, perhaps the subject of a future post.

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