Our First Steps
Recently, my mother gave me a box containing my grade school homework. Seeing these old papers brought back memories, and I spent two hours looking over my past accomplishments. Wow, my penmanship was terrible. Yeah, it is still bad.
It is difficult to see myself as a child struggling with simple concepts like arithmetic. However, in reading these chaotic documents, I saw hope and improvement. Fortunately, I overcame my flaws and learned much from those early homework assignments. Yet, my old homework stands out as a beginning.
We all have to start somewhere. But how? We listen to advise, do research and then do our best. The result reflects our experience and cultural values of the time. Plus, we add in our own thoughts and passions. As we grow older, our efforts and society improves. For example, computers are much better.
Like an old computer, my homework stands as an old landmark. It was crude, unrefined, and full of errors, but I did my best. So now, let’s think about that old computer. Who made it? Probably a group of people aged 20-65, and they worked really hard.
What were those people doing when they made that computer? They were doing their best. How about a computer builder that reached its peak in 1980? Meaning a person was born in 1915, grew up in the 1920-1930s, and worked until age 65, which was in 1980. Their best work came later in their career because they based it on years of experience. That person has long since retired, but we can still find their old computers on eBay.
Let’s examine the popular book, I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov. It appeared in 1950 and was groundbreaking. But… there are some flaws, and it is a dated read. We now consider this work to be a “classic.” Aspiring writers read this book, get ideas and discuss it in their writing classes. Readers “get a look at a classic book.” If Isaac Asimov was still alive, he would consider this work one of his best and proudly discuss it. Yet, he would probably admit it needs some “updating.” However, Isaac Asimov has passed away, and we only have his book. As readers, we could criticize the flaws or appreciate the forward-thinking concepts.
People today are standing on a foundation of first steps like I, Robot and older computers. Society’s prior works were the best we could make it at the time, and it reflects that time. For example, remember when people said: “you are the weakest link” from a popular entertainment show? What a “dated term,” but it was popular and appeared in famous works of the day.
The same was true for my box of homework. I referred to popular television programs and discussed what I thought the future would be like. In one story, I wrote about connecting a microphone to an Apple II computer which would allow it to operate a car. My idea seemed so simple and obvious. All I needed to do was say, “drive me to the store.” I got ahead of myself.
My homework could be considered a “brick in my foundation.” But it had many flaws. There is an analogy. Do you remember the movie Electric Dreams? It was not a widely accepted movie, and I doubt my four blog readers would know anything about it. The movie centered on a computer that becomes intelligent and the owner who romantically competes for a neighbor. While I enjoyed it when I first saw it, the plot and visuals are dated.
Is that movie an “inferior quality brick in our foundation?” Hmm, perhaps it is. The people who made that movie did their best, but they got some things wrong. Does this mean we look at this movie as an example of what not to do? On the contrary, I think we should enjoy it for what it is. A dated computer movie. What can we learn from this? Computers do not make excellent characters.
We have to use the proper perspective when experiencing past works. Like Isaac Asimov, I did my best on my old homework. Yet, we have many examples, like Electric Dreams, that make us shudder when we watch it. Will this blog be a less-than-perfect example? Only time will tell.
You’re the best -Bill
January 19, 2022
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