We are the Flintstones

May 29, 1994

As crowds flock to "The Flintstones," one of the blockbuster summer movies that opens this weekend, they will guffaw at the garage-door opening lizard, the pigasaurus garbage disposal, the lobster lawn mower and other conveniences of life in fictional Bedrock.

But don't laugh: It is we who are the modern, Stone Age family. We're still teetering on the precipice of the next technological revolution. Most of the experts agree they don't know where CD-Roms and interactive cable and virtual reality and "cyberchat" are going to lead us, or more accurately, where we are going to lead all of it. But they agree that life at the beginning of the 21st century will be much different from life at the end of the 20th. In the not-too-distant future we could be laughing about how ignorant and fearful we were about computers in the 1990s.

The futuristic society that the media predicted would follow the Age of Aquarius and the eco-movement of the 1970s has taken a while in coming, but it is nearly upon us.

You can sense it in the jockeying in the marketplace among mass media and communications conglomerates. You can feel it in projects being honed by people such as Roger Fidler, a newspaper industry futurist working toward a paperless newspaper; in his model, readers will be able to "tailor" the daily news to their personal interests.

You can see the world changing through children. Mastery of a keyboard, a skill once delayed until high school typing class, is increasingly routine for grade schoolers. Those reviled video games serve a purpose, too; children are developing a facility with a game pad -- a version of a computer "mouse" -- practically at the time they're learning to master pencil and paper. Today's youngsters will no more imagine a world without these "appliances" than their baby-boomer parents can fathom a world without TV.

A recent study by the Times Mirror Center for The People and The Press on how people use technology showed that one-third of households own personal computers. That was heartening news -- although the study also countered with the sobering finding that barely half of those polled have ATM cards. (And we thought hardly anyone set foot in a bank anymore!) These new ways of exchanging information are still as daunting to many of us as the transmission of electricity was to our forebears a century ago. Before you poke fun at the Flintstones, realize that mankind is still probably nearer to them, as it closes out another millennium, than it is to the space-age Jetsons.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.