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Robert A Heinlein: Revisiting a Childhood Favorite
Karl-Henry Martinsson    

rah_havespacDuring the last couple of weeks I have revisited some of the sci-fi classics I read when I was young. Robert A Heinlein was always one of my favorites. In what would be considered middle school in the US (4th-6th grade) we had one hour each week when the class was reading whatever book we had picked out in the library. At one time, I think it was in 5th grade, I read the Swedish translation of "Have Space Suit -- Will Travel". The other week I listened to this book as an audio book. This one was actually more of a radio theatre play, with different actors playing the different parts. I then followed this by listening to "Citizen of the Galaxy" and "Double Star".

The books were written in 1956, 1957 and 1958, and I noticed something interesting. Despite them taking place in the future, where space travel (even faster than light) is possible, and with all kinds of exotic technology available, many things we take for granted today are lacking.

In "Double Star", the main character is studying using an encyclopedia in the ships library. As we know today, online encyclopedias like wikipedia and internet searches have all but killed off the traditional printed encyclopedia. There is no way for a printed publication to stay current. If a celebrity or any other person dies, within minutes their wikipedia page will be updated with date/time and cause of death.

In "Citizen of the Galaxy" the missile control computers onboard the trade ships are manned by young adults with good math abilities. They seem to be somewhat aided by a rudimentary computer, but it is mainly the operator who calculate trajectory and time for release of the missiles. The result is recorded on a spool (which can be read by humans, so probably some kind of paper-like material). The concept of digital storage did not exist, and I am sure any PC (or even smart phone) today could perform the calculations needed much faster than any human, and with greater accuracy.

Some of the books also talk about huge archives, using micro film. Even if that still today is a great medium for long term storage, it is not the best choice for the kind of short term archiving used in the books. Again, the concept of digital storage does not appear in the books. The books basically build on the technology known in the 1950's, but "enhanced" as imagined in the future.

However, there is on interesting thing in "Double Star". When recordings are made (for public broadcasts), they are "stereoscopic", i.e. 3D. It is not until the last year or two we have actually seen 3D television become common. Personally I believe that we soon will see 3D television sets where we don't need to use special glasses (several manufacturers already have those) and that more and more tv shows and even news will be in 3D.

All this is not a slam on Robert A Heinlein or any other sci-fi writer from the past. It just illustrates how hard it is to predict a paradigm shift like PCs or the development of technology. For being almost 60 years old, the books are still very enjoyable. If you have not experienced Robert A Heinlein yet, pick up one of his books or an audiobook at the library, bookstore or favorite online retailer.



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http://www.bleedyellow.com/blogs/texasswede/entry/robert_a_heinlein_revisiting_a_childhood_favorite
Feb 18, 2012
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Recent Blog Posts
127


Happy 25th birthday, Lotus Notes!
Thu, Nov 27th 2014 12:45p   Karl-Henry Martinsson
Today is the 25th birthday of Lotus Notes. It is the program responsible for me moving to the US, as well as being my career for the last close to 18 years. So, as you can see in the picture above, I am toasting this amazing software in IBM blue colors, courtesy of Curaçao Blue. […] [read] Keywords: ibm lotus notes
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Gone fishing. Or rather gone scuba diving.
Sat, Nov 22nd 2014 1:05p   Karl-Henry Martinsson
I am currently away for a little over a week, taking a vacation in Curaçao. So no technical writing for a little bit. See you in December. [read] Keywords:
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Free Code – Class to read URL name-value pairs
Thu, Nov 20th 2014 10:28a   Karl-Henry Martinsson
Here is another little code snippet I want to share. I use it all the time in my Lotusscript-based Domino web agents, and I figured that other could benefit from it as well. It is just an easy way to check for and read the name-value pairs (arguments) passed from the browser to the web […] [read] Keywords: domino lotusscript development
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As you may have read lately, Verizon have implemented a system that adds an HTTP header item in all web communication that originates from mobile phones on their network. Each phone/user get their own unique ID, which is transmitted to every website being visited (except if SSL is used), no matter if you have privacy/anonymous surfing […] [read] Keywords: mobile network
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Nokia is dead
Wed, Oct 22nd 2014 8:05a   Karl-Henry Martinsson
Microsoft is taking a page out of IBM’s playbook and is killing off the Nokia brand. Future models of the smart phones in the Lumia series will be named Microsoft Lumia. Last month the Nokia Lumia 735 and 830 were launched, and they will probably be the last phones branded as Nokia. The mobile division of Nokia will […] [read] Keywords: ibm microsoft mobile
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October Community Webcast – Wednesday October 15
Mon, Oct 13th 2014 9:05a   Karl-Henry Martinsson
This Wednesday it is again time for the monthly ICS community webcast. This month’s guest speaker will be Luis Guirigay, IBM SME for Social, Mobile and Cloud. Below is the description of the webcast agenda. Never before has there been more opportunity for IBM Notes Domino Enterprises! Join Luis Guirigay to learn about the latest […] [read] Keywords: domino ibm lotusnotes notes community mobile




64


Microsoft skipping Windows 9 – jumps to Windows 10
Tue, Sep 30th 2014 12:40p   Karl-Henry Martinsson
Microsoft unveiled the next version of Windows at a press event in San Francisco today. Surprisingly the successor to Windows 8 and 8.1 will not be called Windows 9 as everyone expected. Instead Microsoft jumps straight to Windows 10. One reason for this, according to Microsoft, is that the new operating system is such a big leap […] [read] Keywords: microsoft
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Free Software – Password Reset for Notes/Domino
Wed, Sep 24th 2014 12:41p   Karl-Henry Martinsson
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#ThrowbackThursday – Worst Practives at Connect 2013
Thu, Sep 18th 2014 6:05a   Karl-Henry Martinsson
Paul Mooney and Bill Buchan returns with a brand new Worst Practices at IBM Connect 2013. This session alone is almost worth the cost to attend Lotusphere/Connect/ConnectED. There is a slight skip towards the end, when I had to switch batteries. Otherwise you have the whole session, including the warm-up performance. [read] Keywords: ibm lotusphere
66


More on IBM ConnectED 2015
Wed, Sep 17th 2014 12:05p   Karl-Henry Martinsson
This morning Kristin Keene from IBM talked more about the upcoming IBM ConnectED 2015 in January at the ICS Community webcast. IBM realized that the last few years they been swinging over too much to the business side, and is now going back to a much more technical conference. As I mentioned the other day, […] [read] Keywords: ibm community




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