Come up with some new ideas for the new year |

Come up with some new ideas for the new year

Barry Smith

On the last day of 1899, what were people hoping the next century would bring?

Did they have any notion that the Wright brothers were flying around in gliders and, three years later, would build an airplane? That first flight of an engine-powered craft lasted 12 seconds and went 120 feet.

Did they know that 100 years later, airlines still wouldn’t be able to leave on time?

In 1899, places called Oklahoma, Arizona and New Mexico were still waiting to become states. A century later, half of the people who live east of the Mississippi River still don’t know New Mexico is a state.

One hundred years ago, you couldn’t make a telephone call between San Francisco and New York. Fortunately, a company called American Telephone and Telegraph had recently taken over long-distance operations across the country and, before we knew it, the world was ready for telemarketing calls at dinnertime.

Back in 1899, Guglielmo Marconi was messing around with something that would send telegraph signals by radio. It wasn’t until 1906, though, that a voice was broadcast via radio by Reginald A. Fessenden, a Canadian-born physicist.

The most significant event related to radio, though, is the invention of soap operas. Probably in 1899 someone was thinking, “Gee, I hope somebody invents something soon that will enable millions of people to waste their days.” Today, of course, we have the Internet to take care of that.

All those inventions are handy, of course, but they pale in comparison to mankind’s major accomplishment during the 20th century.

Mankind’s most significant accomplishment – according to my wife, who is seldom wrong – is indoor plumbing. Let’s see ’em improve on that in the next 100 years.

Still, there are a few things I would like to see happen in the 2000s.

– First, we need to know how to refer to the new decade.

Starting tomorrow, are we going to call them The Os? The Oughts? The Zeros? The Double Nothings?

I don’t know, but we’ve got to put somebody on this problem. I suggest all those out-of-work Y2K computer consultants.

While we’re at it, let’s get a head start on that Y3K problem.

– A better way to get people from place to place.

What happened to that whole Star Trek idea of reformulating our molecules instantaneously in another place?

In the meantime, perhaps scientists could go to work on wider airline seats. After a couple of long plane rides over the holiday, my back side feels like a few of its molecules were reformulated.

– Faster microwave ovens.

This idea comes from my nephew, who was heard to ask as he patiently waited a minute and a half for his frozen dinner to heat, “Can’t they come up with some faster way to cook these things?”

– A cellophane wrapper for CDs that can be removed without using your teeth.

– Better weather.

A hundred years ago, they were having the same weather we have now. All we’ve been able to do is make snow at ski resorts, create some artificial sun in a tanning booth and, when inspired by enough industrial greed, throw together the occasional toxic cloud over a city or two.

When is it going to rain chocolate? Why can’t the snow be green sometimes? When there’s a flood, shouldn’t we have the ability to make it rain up, instead of down?

I say there’s far too much time being spent trying to predict earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes, and too little research into preventing them.

– Self-cleaning clothes.

No-iron shirts and slacks are a good start, but they only go half way.

– Postal service on Sunday.

– A better way to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

If you’re going out tonight, please be careful. For some reason, the last night of the year gives too many people the excuse to lose their common sense.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid that the last night of 1999 is going to lead a few people to think that they should create some mayhem. And that means some folks who would like to be celebrating tonight are going to be staying home huddled next to their cache of water, canned goods, and firewood.

I don’t want to tell you not to have fun. I just want you to be around for the Year 2000.

Barry Smith is managing editor of the Nevada Appeal.