My Ode to Tech: Christmas, the Moon and the Future

My holiday season has been low-key this year. My wife set out all the red-and-white candy-cane candles, festive figurines and decorations. We’ve dispensed with the annual pilgrimage to buy a Christmas tree with the kids. Instead our three-piece, LED-illuminated plastic-and-wire tree assembles in 10 minutes and doesn’t require watering.

bigstock-Winter-moon-lit-night-backgrou-14089022This is still my favorite season, a chance to spend more time with my family. It’s also a time of reflection.

Moonshot Memories

I remember Christmas 1968 as a 10-year old. Spaceflight and defense-industry technology were phenomenal. Cell-phone service, mobile apps and the Web were but a twinkle in some engineer’s eye.

Christmas Eve brought televised video from the crew of Apollo 8 as it circled the Moon. Astronauts Anders, Lovell and Borman each recited a passage from the book of Genesis. There was a war on, too, in a faraway land. Just like today, the troops wished they could be home with their families. Just like today, the men and women in the military didn’t hear “thank you” enough.

Back in 1968, the U.S. was absolutely immersed in innovation and promise. Aerospace, big-iron computers, electronics and the Cold War dominated high technology. Incredible amounts of money were spent on research and development. People were both fascinated and inspired.

And there I was: My new Heathkit electronics project board with three transistors, lots of resistors, capacitors and other components magically appeared under the tree. I was up at 4:00 Christmas morning, hard at work on the task of assembly, anticipating the success of my first project. The future was bright and unlimited—much like how many feel about the mobile development environment of today.

I had no earthly concept of a cell phone, an Android app or GPS. How could I have dreamed of wireless applications, multicore/multigigahertz mobile devices, Google Earth or the World Wide Web?

All I knew back then was that a brave new world lay ahead, and I wanted to be part of it.

What About Today?

As 2012 draws to a close, we pause amidst our day-to-day activities to count our blessings.

Thousands upon thousands of those kids from the Apollo moonshot era have contributed to the progress and prosperity of today. Many have built the foundations of our modern connected world. Others are in any number of high-tech industries, living out their dreams. The starry-eyed optimism lives on.

That twinkle also shines brightly in the eyes of today’s youth,20- and 30-somethings and beyond. I see it in the dedication, focus and incredible abilities of people in the mobile development community. While we may not have three men circling the Moon, the curiosity, fascination and dreams of a great future are all around us.

Even the spirit of the old Heathkits has reappeared. You need look no further than mobile device SDKs, Ruby-On-Rails or an Arduino hooked up to a little breadboard to realize it’s still there.

Do 10-year-olds still wake up at 4:00 on Christmas morning to a brave new world of opportunity, anticipating the success of an early project? You bet they do.

Let’s never stop dreaming about tomorrow.

Happy holidays and best wishes to all.

Image: Winter moonlit night [Bigstock]

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