January 6, 2000
By Franklin Harris
So, here we are: The Future.
We donít have jetpacks. We donít have nuclear-powered garbage disposals in our homes. We still donít have cars that can drive themselves.
On the other hand, we have the Internet, and the computer on my desk is more powerful than the mainframe that powers the USS Enterprise in the 23rd century.
Here is a brief history of the future that wasnít:
1980: In Gerry and Sylvia Andersonís 1970 TV series, "UFO," the future is 1980. Extraterrestrials are raiding Earth in search of human organs, which they need to save their own dying race. Standing between humanity and the chopping block is SHADO, Supreme Headquarters Alien Defense Organization. SHADO has a variety of high-tech weapons and spaceships at its disposal, including a base on the moon.
Today: There is no Moonbase and the aliens supposedly visiting us are content to chop up cattle.
1984: According to George Orwell, Big Brother is watching us. The nations of the world wage perpetual war for perpetual peace, and the government invents "Newspeak" to limit how we can express ourselves.
Today: Bill Clinton feels our pain and bombs any nation too small and inoffensive to fight back. He also is confused as to when no means no, yes means yes and is means is.
Come to think of it, Orwell wasnít too far off.
1986: Cybermen from the solar systemís 10th planet, Mondas, attempt to destroy the Earth. A time traveler known only as The Doctor, although sometimes mistakenly called "Doctor Who," thwarts them.
Today: People with British accents still easily impress most Americans.
1987: Capt. William "Buck" Rogers (Gil Gerard) is frozen in suspended animation and lost in deep space while piloting the last of Americaís deep space probes. He will wake up 500 years later.
Today: Several space probes to Mars are lost. Theyíll probably turn up in about 500 years. Gil Gerardís acting career also is missing.
1992-1996: Khan Noonien Singh rules a quarter of the Earth during the Eugenics Wars. In 1996, he flees into space on the Botany Bay. The USS Enterprise, commanded by Capt. James T. Kirk, will discover Khan in 2267.
Today: Cars no longer come equipped with fine Corinthian leather.
1997: The Robinson Family is "Lost in Space."
Today: "Lost in Space" returns starring Gary Oldman, William Hurt and one of the guys from "Friends."
1997: Good thing the Robinsons got away. This is the year the Skynet computer system goes online, becomes self-aware and decides to destroy humanity. Three billion people die in the nuclear holocaust, and the survivors find themselves at war with a race of Austrian-accented cyborgs called Terminators.
Today: The computer ate my homework.
1997: Skynet isnít bad enough. Also in 1997, the HAL 9000 computer goes online for the first time. HAL, however, will wait until 2001 to start killing people.
Today: Windows 2000 is proceeding to market on schedule.
1999: On Sept. 13, the moon is blasted out of Earthís orbit when nuclear waste stored on the far side explodes in a freak accident. All 311 personnel at Moonbase Alpha are stranded on the runaway moon as it flies into deep space.
Today: There is still no Moonbase, but "Space: 1999" toys and models fetch top dollar on eBay.
1999: Back on Earth, in John Carpenterís "Escape from New York," all of New York City is a maximum-security prison.
Today: New York is cleaner and safer than it has been in years. The Big Apple isnít a prison, but its mayor does behave like a warden.