When my two sons were small, I remember watching a trailer for a new Superman movie. “You’ll believe a man can fly!” the narrator said. Well, duh. What else would you expect?
By the 1980s, technology — and, along with it, special effects in movies — was red hot and rolling with all sorts of amazing stuff. In 1976, I started working at The Bulletin newspaper in Bend and within three years we’d gone from typewriters to video display terminals. As computer-based technology advanced, the possibilities, the choices, the realism in movies all went wild.
But now that all seems almost quaint compared to today. I’m writing this post, for example, from 34,999 feet in the sky, aboard a Salt Lake City-to-Boston Delta flight. The 5-inch monitor in front of me says the outside temperature is minus-65 degrees. (Brrr.) We’re zipping along at 633 miles per hours. (Hope there are no sky cops around.) And we’ve got a tail wind of 121 mph. That means my wife and I should arrive at Logan International approximately 32 minutes ahead of schedule, meaning we’ll have even more time than expected to check into our hotel, get on the subway, arrive at venerable Fenway Park and eat massive amounts of expensive junk ballpark food before the 8:05 p.m. (EDT) first pitch of the Yankees-Red Sox game.
It’s nothing short of incredible. Today’s technology, that is. (And, of course, Fenway.)
Last night, my 5-year-old grandson was playing a “Toy Story” game on his father’s new iPad. The realism was amazing. The sound was amazing. “You’ll believe Woody and Buzz Lightyear are real!” Well, of course, you will! My son wrestled the new device away from my grandson. “Watch this.”
Within three minutes, he had completed downloaded a copy of my book, “American Nightingale” (the whole reason I am going to Boston, where I’m giving inspirational speeches at three hospitals, including Massachusetts General). I could electronically turn the pages. It almost seemed as if turning the pages of a real book. Finally, Ryan could place the book on a “bookshelf,” creating a scene that comforts those purists like me who still like the look, smell and feel of a real book. “You’ll believe it’s a real den with books!” Well, of course you will!
Now, I’m not one of these folks who fawn over technology. (But it sounds like I am, doesn’t it?) Technology is a tool. It can be used for good or evil. With a click of a button, you can make a donation to the victims of the earthquake in Haiti or, as I got to do last summer on a Haiti Foundation of Hope medical team, take a patient’s temperature. But you can also, thanks to technology, learn how to make a bomb or send a hurtful message about someone to the entire world. Technology can help us connect to people and it can become an enormous waste of time. We decide how the tool is used.
For now, all I’m saying is we live in pretty incredible times, times that make the ’80s seem like horse-and-buggy days. So incredible that I know at this very moment I am just above Sioux Falls, South Dakota. So incredible that I can send you, right now, a photo of me as I write.
Well, that’s all for now. This is Bob Lightyear saying, “to infinity and beyond!” (Or at least to plain old Fenway, a 1912-built park that will remind me that the old and true and venerable things of life have their place, too.)