The BBC show Tomorrow’s World played a large part in my childhood. It was a science show, showing us the gadgets and tech that would be a part of our future. Mostly, the stuff it showed seemed to disappear, never to be heard of again. A promise of a utopian, technology-filled future, that was destined to never be real.
I remember, though, first seeing a compact disc demonstrated on the show. It was magical: you could fling it across the room, cover it in jam, and insult its mother, and it would still go back into the CD player and belt out some Elvis. I don’t know what happened to that tech – maybe the military found a use for it – but the super-fragile, vertically challenged, easily scratched version we the public got was still a step up from tape.
I also saw my first robotic vacuum cleaner on Tomorrow’s World. It was one of those things that seemed like we’d never see in real life. It was movie-futuristic. It was a work of the imagination that would never be part of normal working/middle-class homes. It belonged to the rich…or in cartoons of a crazy, unattainable future.
And I was nearly right. It took over 30 years but here I am, writing this, watching Ike the Roomba (yes, we do indeed have to name everything) fumble her way around our floor plan. It still feels like tech that shouldn’t be in the hands of normal mortals, but she’s part of the family now. And, as long as the dogs don’t plot to remove her, I’m looking forward to us having a long and mutually beneficial relationship.
But, as with all cutting-edge tech, this one has introduced a new anxiety in my life. Have you read about what happens when an automatic vacuum encounters some dog poop indoors? It’s a horror story. And a good argument for wooden floors.