Buck Rogers in the 1980’s

Buck RodgersSo, if you hadn’t guessed, I spend a truly unhealthy amount of time online. I work online. I chat with friends online. I play games online. I watch video online. I even met my husband online.

When my husband’s Media Center failed to record anything I wanted to watch, I decided I would even try watching TV online, so I clicked over to NBC to see if last week’s SNL was online (I missed the middle due to a network failure). While full episodes of SNL weren’t to be found, I did find some old friends on NBC’s Way Back Wednesday’s . The A-Team is hanging out online with Buck Rogers, the original Battlestar Galactica, and several other cheeseball shows from the 1980s. I have to admit to watching the intro to the A-Team pilot (no Dirk Benedict!) and then I clicked over to Buck Rogers to see if they had the premier. I wanted to see how they explained him getting to the future. I was in kindergarten when the show premiered, and I just can’t remember (anyone know?).

Sadly, the website seemed to be missing the first, early movie, so I watched (painfully, with much cringing) the first episode. I was totally appalled at how little hope for miniaturization we had back then. It is always curious to see how we (or at least TV producers) envision the future. At one point an oscilloscope was used to portray a talking robot. Three happy little signals were aligned one atop another like a freshmen physics lab experiment. The computer filled a wall and it talked with humor, and feared the wrong chemicals. It was a fragile thing, clearly not designed by Panasonic.

The technology in that 20th century world was curiously capable of transgalactic flight, and was just developing homing devices. In that first episode, Buck and Wilma are given hand held radio homing devices so they can find one another if separated. These are novel devices for our heroes. These seem like something the mob, CIA, and FBI have been using (on TV at least) for years, and with today’s GPS, we can track any enabled cell phone from any computer with the right permissions and software (and some cell phones are smaller then the devices they received.

TV is often a reflection of both who our society is and who our society thinks it will become.

Clearly, in the 80s, TV producers had visions of skin tight clothing and bad big hair. Somehow they missed the obesity that seems to come naturally along side our adoption of greater technology. Imagine if the trends toward greater obesity continues! Would you want to see that society in spandex?

As I look at the path we’re on I see us consistently working toward better and better communications tools. More wireless. More ultra-powerful ultra-small laptops. More powerful cell phones. Our ability to get from A to B in person is flattening though. Transportation is bad for the environment and we are each responsible for our own carbon footprint. This means we (if we are good citizens of the planet) try to decrease our flying and driving. So, we meet face to face less.

And I don’t see a jetpack in my future (except maybe the blog, which I love). I really don’t see fighter space craft that can zip from planet to planet quickly and easily.

It is odd how we moved from imaging a world of large fragile computers, constant travel, and limited communications devices to a world of constant computers and limited travel.

The thing that surprises me is that Star Trek totally nailed how we use cell phones with their communicators.

At it really frightens me what Battlestar Galactica sees for us in the future…

4 Comments

  1. Astrogeek March 4, 2008 at 3:45 am #

    It seems to me that ‘the futurists’ usually have it wrong, and mostly *very* wrong. Technology is very market-driven, and what ‘the market’ wants can very immensely from place to place or even year to year. I remember hearing stories about cellphone usage in Europe over 10 years ago, where it was possible (and probably still is) to charge vending machine purchases to your cell phone because of a little short-range radio protocol called ‘Bluetooth’. We still can’t do that here.

    Lets not forget that besides communicators (a hit) Star Trek also had ships that went ‘whoosh’ in space (a *big* miss).

    Oh, and I have (and absolutely love) my Panasonic Toughbook CF-29. It weighs a ton, and is thicker than 4 ‘regular’ laptops, but I can use it in the rain and not worry about it at all.

  2. Ian Kirk March 4, 2008 at 7:20 pm #

    Buck Rogers was an 80’s astronaut whose lifesupport failed freezing him. His ship went on an extended orbit returning in the future and he was unfrozen by the medical science of the time.

    Can’t believe you don’t have Bluetooth? You can exchange photos, numbers and other data without incurring call charges with people you meet. I can actually remotely control my laptop from my mobile with it, and can sync calenders, phone book and photos with my pcs without having to plug in wires. Single most useful mobile feature since texting was invented.

  3. pamela March 4, 2008 at 11:11 pm #

    Hi Ian – I have blue tooth, but we don’t have it setup to stream video between “TVs” in our house. This means that when wireless fails, the TV fails 😛

  4. tony July 26, 2008 at 11:40 pm #

    We are manufacturers of action figure hero’s i am pleased to announce that we have produced Buck Rogers collectors toys with an option of an intergrated audio media device for the pupose of the enthusiast to down load his radio shows to the body and bring this action hero to life. We are keeping up with this Hero’s progress and taking him further into the futurs where he belongs. Happy 80th Birthday BUCK????

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