For my old weblog material, visit www.kschroeder.com/archive
Jan 30, 2008
A lot of people want to know what tech foresight is. Short answer: it's more money than I make from writing--sometimes
I've just been asked to do something at Boskone on technology foresight, and I thought I'd ask you guys what you'd like to see. A one-man show? A panel? Powerpoint? Hand-puppets? Really, this is just an pretext for me to try to convince you to register on my site, so you can comment. The mind-boggling inconvenience of doing so is keeping people from posting their glowing, effusive compliments about my excellent new site--but really, there's not much I can do about it without inviting the spambots back in. Best idea: go get an openID token, and then you won't have to bother with registering here.
I'll be writing up a lot more about foresight, some of it here, some of it there in the sidebar files; but Boskone is itching to know what I'll do for them. Really: suggestions? Requests?
Jan 29, 2008
First in a series of recycled blog posts from years past
All my old posts are archived, but they're not exactly easy to hunt through. There's some stuff in there that I'm really fond of, though; so I'm going to periodically re-present these gems as part of my Retro Replays series. Starting with one of the best:
Ah, the naive influences of my youth...
When I was a kid my dad had several boxes of old Mechanix Illustrated and Popular Mechanics magazines, dating back to the 1940s and 1950s. So, almost before I could read, I was eagerly looking over the illustrations of articles like the following:
Like many of the articles, "Flying Saucers for Everybody
(Mechanix Illustrated, March, 1957) was written by a Mr. Frank Tinsley,
who as it turns out was a frequent and enthusiastic contributor of SF
to magazines such as Amazing Stories. I believe he was also an
illustrator who did some work on the Tom Swift books. One Mechanix
Illustrated article that I fondly remember was the (partly prescient,
partly off-base) article "Fortress on a Skyhook" (MI, April, 1949).
Part of the illustration is reproduced below:
The article claimed that the U.S. Defense Department was seriously considering space-based nuclear-missile platforms. Tinsley included detailed sketches of a method for what we would now call heavy-lift launching of prefab space station components. Of course, the rockets in question had that perfect, curved V2 profile to them. Just the thing to set a kid's imagination going.
The funny thing about these articles is that they came to me out of what was, for a young boy, an unimaginably distant past. They were visions of the future that hadn't happened--that had already become overgrown, and now lay steeped in dust in basement boxes. I suppose knowing this gave me a somewhat jaundiced view of technological development, which the Apollo project briefly succeeded in wiping away.
Most of Tinsley's ideas were vaguely workable; some were positively Utopian. Not all of the articles I grew up with were believable, though. Some were nightmarish, and some, like the one I'll leave you with below, were ludicrous and painful at the same time, even to us in the unenlightened sixties.
This article was entitled "Can we ATOMIZE the ARCTIC?" Tinsley didn't write this one; it was penned by a Wallace W. Ashley and Elmer V. Swan. According to them, Professor Julian Huxley had proposed the idea of using nuclear bombs to melt the polar ice caps. This would moderate our northern climate, eliminating pesky cold snaps and opening up shipping across the top of the world.
My scans below don't do justice to the two-page spread that begins the article. On the left we see a full-page illo of nukes shattering the ice caps. As your eye pans right across the page, the sky becomes filled with a radiant glow (presumably the permanent background radiation that will keep the arctic comfortably warm for its new inhabitants) while basking under it is a new urban Center of Commerce.
Left-page panel: nuking the whales, er, icebergs.
Right page partial-panel: the radioactive sky.
Of course, this was published in May, 1946 (in Mechanix Illustrated, natch). Hiroshima and Nagasaki had just happened when the article was commissioned; let's hope the authors and editors hoped to inspire a more peaceful use of nuclear power than that which they had just witnessed.
To me though, this and the other articles formed an indelible early lesson: that the future goes obsolete faster than just about anything.
P.S.: If you like this sort of thing, you should visit the A.C. Radebaugh site, The Future We Were Promised, which is absolutely wonderful.P.P.S:
As a bonus, here's another image from the "Fortress on a Skyhook" article, for your viewing pleasure:
Jan 28, 2008
Better tech, less spam
...And that about covers it. The old blog turned out to be perfect spambot chum; it was getting eaten alive by them. Anyway, it didn't use up to date RSS or ATOM, and that made it invisible to a lot of legitimate web tools, like RSS aggregators.
The fact is that there was tons of information on the old site, but it was all buried in blog posts that you had to search through. This time around I'm going to be building separate static pages for my books, and there's a calendar app that puts my appearances etc. in one easily-found place. There's a home page where I can highlight stuff (like the upcoming Pirate Sun), and I can add new sections as I want.
There's still a lot to do, but I hate those tacky "under construction" signs that people put on websites. If a page is empty, you can assume I'm working on it. If it's a bit clumsy looking, you can rest assured I'll improve it. In particular, I'm slowly adding more graphical stuff and navigation options. Obviously, the book pages aren't complete yet--but I want them to look really good, so they'll take some time.
In order to keep the spambots out, I've had to require that you login to comment. Luckily, it's easy and fast to create yourself an account, and I'm hoping to institute OpenID login in the near future.
Anyway, here it is for good or ill. The site's scheduled to go live on Monday, Jan. 28, 2008. We'll see if it crashes big-time in the next couple of weeks, or turns out to be stable. Opinions? Let me know.
Jan 27, 2008
Dr. Dobb's Island, Friday at noon--be there!
Friday, February 1, 2008, I'll be interviewed by Mitch Wagner of Information Week. The interview is going to happen inside Second Life, so if you're a member, come on over to Dr. Dobb's Island at 12:00 noon Pacific time, and find your way to the amphitheatre. I'll be chatting with Mitch for half an hour or so about my various obsessions--augmented reality, green tech, and wild new directions for science fiction--and then we'll open up for questions and comments from the floor. It should be a great time.