By Daniel Rigney
I grew up back in the space age, when some kids (mostly boys) dreamed of growing up to be astronauts, and professional sports teams were adopting nicknames like “Astros,” “Rockets,” and “Sonics.”
I grew up back when we got our images of the future from Jetsons cartoons, just as our parents had gotten theirs from Buck Rogers movies. A generation after mine it was Star Trek and Star Wars -- the latter, as you probably know, actually set not in the future but in the distant past, in a galaxy far, far away.
Where are young people getting their images of the future now, I wonder? (Sci-fi video games, maybe?) And how dated will these images look to people living thirty years from now?
Back in the space age, Mad Men sold Tang, the dehydrated orange drink invented for astronauts. Meanwhile, mad women held their malaise inside as they lived the feminine mistake. Betty Friedan, Betty Draper called. She's asking how to get her life back.
In the space age, Cape Canaveral was Cape Kennedy. Television was evolving from black-and-white (or more aptly, from white-and-white) to living color. The rockets’ red glare was bursting in air over Vietnam, and MAD was both my favorite magazine and the strategic doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction. Ronald Reagan was a B-actor, selling 20-Mule-Team Borax on television, and Barack was barely born.
Even by the mid-sixties, “The Sixties” hadn’t really been invented yet, though the space age would soon become, for some, the "spaced age" or the Age of Aquarius.
It was during the space age that Neil Armstrong took “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Has humankind leaped further forward since then? People in the space age had never heard of AIDS viruses or computer viruses or global warming or “global terrorism.”
They had also never heard of www dot url’s, the Internet, and the information age (or whatever people in the future will call this era). Back then we had the Cold War; now we have code wars. Space age people did not blog, or tweet, or e-mail, let alone text. Talk about primitive!
Today we can scarcely imagine what the next “age” will be like, or how it will name itself. Most of us don't yet know the vocabulary of the future, whatever it may be. (“Feedback cascades?” “Reglaciering?” “Zytospasms?”) Now our only knowledge of mindmelding comes from early science fiction, and we have yet to realize the power and energy of liquid light.
We seem to be living in our own contemporary equivalent of the “space age,” soon to be antiquated. In the future, someone may compose a piece called "Back in the Information Age."
I, for one, have no desire to go back to the space age. I’ve been to the past. If I ever get nostalgic for artifacts from that era, I can always drop by a nostalgia shop, or go online and hunt for 60’s antiques on eBay.
I hear you can still get Tang if you know where to look for it. Not that I’m looking.