Thursday, January 26, 2006

Time Payments

Sometimes my mind gets a'wandering... As I was driving to dinner tonight, skipping ahead on my iPod to a track more appealing to my mercurial tastes, I contemplated how my entire approach to enjoying music has changed in the past few years. For better or for worse, I rarely listen to an album (can we still call CD's albums?) all the way through; instead, I tend to transfer to file to iTunes, load it on an iPod, and then listen to it either as part of an artist mix, part of a genre mix, part of a time-period mix, or part of a conglomerate mix of everything on the iPod. CD's are no longer the medium, they are the delivery system--sort of like the post office of music, they're the means by which music is delivered to my iPod (I still prefer buying the CD to paying for a download; I like getting something tangible for my money, I guess).

That led to further rumination: what if I could travel back in time thirty or forty years with nothing more than the clothes on my back and my iPod? How could that one iPod (plus a charger, of course) alter the course of history? Not only could the retro-engineered technology reap a fortune, but the music itself could be a gold mine; all I would need to do would be to copyright songs a few years before they became hits, then sit back and wait for the song to wind its way up the charts, at which point I would cash in on my copyrights. I could do the A&R thing, repping artists who were destined to become superstars...

And from there, I thought slightly broader. What if my Honda Odyssey went through such a time warp and ended up thirty or forty years in the past? That one vehicle, backwards engineered, could change the auto industry, make American car-makers competitive ahead of the curve, and alter the development of such things as GPS systems (I'd have the system, although there'd be no satellites to feed it info), satellite radio (ditto), microprocessors, engine design... again, a fortune could be made.

From there, one step more. What if my entire home--along with the cars in the garage, the iPods, the computers, etc.--made the time jaunt? There would be the most incredible opportunity of all. Within one house, there is a culture-changing amalgam of technology that, if introduced forty years ago, would have immeasurable effects on society. Throw my home back forty years earlier, and we have advances in microwave cooking technology; convection ovens; DLP, LCD, and plasma television technology; DVD players and discs; VCRs and tapes; CDs; nearly-indestructible polycarbonate household items; medicines like Zocor and digitek; microfibers; no-line bifocals; magnetic strip encoded credit cards; advances in frozen foods; self-rising frozen pizza; nonfat snack foods made with Olestra; electronics drums and keyboards; portable entertainment devices galore; cable television decoders... the list goes on and on and on. Not only could a man's home be his castle, it could become his empire, making the owner of even the most middle-class of homes wealthy beyond imagining. And the power that would go with such wealth... the ability to influence politics, business, entertainment... it's almost beyond imagination!

There's a novel in there waiting to be written. It seems to be pushing really hard to write itself. Perhaps it will in the near future...

2 comments:

CharlesR said...

I'll buy a copy the day it comes out. Or if I can borrow your time machine, the day before...

cliff said...

Thanks, Charles! You and I have talked about my fascination with time travel many times over the twenty-four years that we've known each other, so you know that if I do finish a novel, it'll most likely be a time-travel tale...