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Buy '1984' by George Orwell.

Buy 'The Best of Howard Jones.'

Buy Herbie Hancock's 'Future Shock.'

Buy 'Roots of Rap, Vol. 1: 12 Inch Singles,' which features four tracks by Grandmixer D.ST.

Buy 'Future Shock' by Alvin Toffler.

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"Throw off your mental chains...": Howard Jones' "New Song (Don't Crack Up)" was an anthem for the Class of 1984.

Full Circle

When you graduate in 1984, the future is yesterday's news

By Todd Inoue

I GRADUATED from high school in 1984. Our student body swaggered across the campus like we were Orwell's bastard front line--fuck all that petty high school bullshit. We were dangerous, scary, unpredictable, the Timothy Van Patten gang leader to the Roddy McDowell alcoholic teacher in that Class of 1984 movie.

Big Brother--never mind King Kong--couldn't mess with us. We tapped bad poetry into our clunky word processors and wasted hours on Electronic Quarterback and Donkey Kong. We got buzzed and tripped out to Laserium and Eye See the Light shows, then drove to 7-Eleven for snacks. "1999" was a great dance song and Max Headroom was an actual pop culture icon that people took waaay too seriously.

Being associated (even peripherally) with an Orwellian masterpiece about dystopian realism was purely coincidental. Even though the majority of us didn't read the book, or understand its implications, we claimed ownership anyway. Our grandstanding seems silly now in hindsight because most of us ended up at West Valley College, not MIT. But in 1984, we knew what true visionaries looked and sounded like: Devo, Howard Jones, Prince, Herbie Hancock and Grandmixer D.ST, George Clinton, Roger & Zapp, Malcolm McLaren, Egyptian Lover, Afrika Bambaataa.

Herbie Hancock's "Rockit," in particular, was so new and fresh. I remember listening to Grandmixer D.ST scratching the hell out of the "ahhhh" sample the first time, thinking, this sound is too cool to go away. It was too different, too funky--why isn't everyone else doing this? Today, scratching is heard on video games, movie trailers and every commercial aimed at kids and teenagers.

And frankly, it's been too long since the last great sound emerged and blew everyone away. I've given up waiting for the future of music, and by extension, I'm convinced the future resides here and now.

Things we dreamt about like instant gratification are now guaranteed within 24 hours with credit approval and shipping charges. Everything you want to know about anything is a Google search away. Miss your favorite TV show? TiVo already knows what you watch and is ready when the last popcorn kernel explodes.

Manhood on the fritz? Pop a Viagra and prepare for lift-off. And with DSL, you can shop in your skivvies, download tests and manuscripts, and indulge in Star Wars minutiae at 3am with your close personal friends a country away. Any recorded sound from banging rocks onward just takes a point, click and burn. All that's missing from this utopian society are peace, freedom, human rights, an AIDS vaccine, a cure for athlete's foot and the floating car.

In Alvin Toffler's 1970 book, Future Shock, he predicted everyday things we now painfully endure without question: pop-up ads, scrolling news bars, just the whole acceleration of images, words and ideas that bombard us when we just want to get the score of the game. The bad news is the future will never be totally inclusive because of economic factors. Cool things cost money. Fewer people than you think have money and fewer own a personal computer. The worst news is the future is still dominated by the same societal ills as back when Reagan was prez: inept government, environmental issues, OPEC, nuclear proliferation, racism. Only the names have changed. (And only barely.)


The Future, Conan?

More glimpses into the future from Metro writers

Bring on the Robots: Some experts predict that we're entering the Robotic Age. Does that mean we don't have to pick out our own socks anymore? Not quite. (Traci Vogel)

Kill Your Computer: High-tech detectives can now find evidence you thought you deleted. (Najeeb Hasan)

Man or Asteroidman?: Scientist, Foothill prof and asteroid namesake Andrew Fraknoi speaks the truth about what's out there. (Loren Stein)

Implanted for Life: Help! There's a chip in my body and I can't get it out. (Corinne Asturias)

At the Movies--2053!: Metro film critic Richard von Busack travels 50 years into the future to review the kind of cinema we were supposed to be watching by now.

The Original Frontier: Humankind's confusing relationship with the time machine. (Michael S. Gant)

When Cars Fly: No, really. Your Skycar is just around the corner, if one visionary Davis company has its say. (Allie Gottlieb)


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From the January 9-15, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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