There was a time when people (women) did the laundry down by the stream, pounding the clothes with rocks. Then came the washtub and washboard. Then the wringer washer. Then the automatic washer. The automatic dryer replaced the clothes line. Trust me. I don’t want to go backwards (even if the clothes did get cleaner in a wringer washer) but sometimes I wish I could yell "stop!" and take a breather from how fast the world is changing.
Especially when it comes to my stories. Because most contemporary stories are written in the ever-present "now," we writers have to stay abreast of what's going on in the world.
Trust me. It ain't easy.
The world is becoming more gadget crazy every day, and technology just keeps bringing us more and better gadgets than we know what to do with. Some of those gadgets change the face of society so rapidly that your stories are dated within just a few years. Think about it. How long ago were cell phones the new thing? No one had them twenty years ago. Now everyone does. Well, everyone but me, but only because I don’t want to be in-touch 24/7. That and I know how reliably I lose or break things. And I’m sure that when I needed it, it would either be dead or home in the recharger. (Or if they follow the current trends, it will be so damned small I won't be able to find it.) So though I do think it’s très cool when I see someone in a big box store call their mate or their kids who are on the other side of the store to coordinate with them, it just seems like more hassle than it’s worth to me.
Land-lines are going the way of party lines. And dial-up internet? Fuggedaboutit. Boombox? Nah. (See my IPod?) VCR? You can’t give those tapes away. Yet each of these were once state-of-the-art innovations.
If your character uses a VCR, your story is now dated.
Soon, any character who complains that he has 100+ cable channels but there's nothing on TV will be old school, because TV on demand is already here.
How long will it be before having a character pick up a book instead of a Kindle or Nook dates the story?
I remember seeing a Columbo episode (way back in prehistoric days) where he proved the suspect was the murdered because a traffic cam ticket (complete with picture) proved the suspect was where he claimed he wasn't the the critical moment. It was brilliant stroke of plotting at the time. Now it's common to see fictional cops track someone by the tolling sticker on their car. If your car is equipped with On-Star or Lo-Jack, they can pinpoint its location. How long before every car sold has built-in GPS? How long after that will they be able to tell not just where it is, but everywhere it's been?
If you have a cell phone, you're even easier to find because they can triangulate your position from the cell towers.
High-definition TV isn't going to be dominant for long. 3D TVs are already here and as low as $1k on Amazon already. How long will it be before we have hologram movies? And after that, will the audience be able to wander through the hologram, watching whatever they want, almost like a participant? From there, it's not hard to envision the leap to Star Trek's holodecks.
I probably won't live to see it. Then again, I know people who never imagined they'd have a box-like appliance that would cook their meals in minutes.
I don't want to even go into how fast DNA-science is improving.
Woe to writer who ignores these tecnological advances because they're already common enough that readers will question why the authorities aren't using these methods to solve their problems.
Can you imagine what next year will bring? Or the year after that?
Wouldn't a crystal ball be nice right about now?
And it's not just technology that changes. A critique buddy of mine informed me that it's a rare under-30 woman who wears panty hose. Not sure how universal that is, but it reminds me to check whether societal attitudes are different if I'm writing a character out of my age group.
Those attitudes are a major component in this widespread embrace of new technology.
For instance, let me tell you about the refrigerator the daughter of a friend of mine just bought. It's Wi-Fi capable. Seriously. It can tell her the weather outside and look up recipes. It has speakers for the built-in radio. It can twitter, for crying out loud.
It has both her mother and me scratching our heads and wondering "why?" But her daughter is a different generation and doesn't find it nearly as incomprehensible as we do.
The future is here, folks.
Fortunately for my sanity, some things don't change quite so fast.
One of my favorite stories is the one where, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, NASA scientists finally got to ask Soviet scientists how they solved the problem of pens that wouldn’t work in space where there’s no gravity. (If you didn’t know that the pens that will write upside-down are compliments of NASA, now you do.)
The Soviet Scientists' reply?
“We used a pencil.”
I love that sort of out-of-the-box, low-tech thinking.
So what technology amazes you? And have you thought about how to incorporate it into your stories?