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In the future, we'll all be like my grandfather

In the future, we'll all be like my grandfather

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As part of Verge Hack Week, we've invited great minds from around Vox Media to contribute their thoughts on the future of everything — from food to fashion to the written word. In this installment, we welcome SBNation producer and host Dan Rubenstein.

As essentially impossible as it is to be completely encouraged about the future of media or technology, there may be nothing that drives my optimism and ability to (hopefully) put things in their proper perspective than my grandfather Ben, who passed away the better part of 20 years ago.

His life spanned many, if not all of the huge cultural shifts of the 20th century, and he toed that fantastic old man line of being both in awe and skeptical of technology. What still stands out to me, though, is the degree to which he was blown away by how clear Arizona Wildcats basketball games were on my family’s relatively ordinary 32" CRT standard definition TV. This was the mid ‘90s, obviously well before consumer HD was even close to being a thing, and yet… BLOWN AWAY.

I’m not here to eulogize Grandpa Ben, though. I’m here because it’s impossible for me to look at what we now react to as normal or merely "cool," let alone things that are completely ridiculous (with two day shipping!), and not imagine him being completely transfixed, as if a UFO touched down in front of him and decided to broadcast indescribably clear college basketball holograms on his modest Tucson lawn.

Grandpa Rubenstein

We all loved each other, I swear, I just don't think anyone knew a photo was being taken.

So now, I think about how I’d begin to explain to him how I wander through life with a touchscreen wonder rectangle in my pocket. One that, in the past year, I’ve used to:

  • Wirelessly stream ANY SONG EVER to a small powerful speaker in my bathroom because god forbid I shower without listening to Third Eye Blind with above average clarity
  • Tweet out a clip of a game show I was on in 1992 and have the host of said game show, THE Marc Summers, immediately see it (I didn’t tag him) and start a conversation about the past 22 years of my life (they’ve been good)
  • Quickly arrange for a nearby car to pick me up during a four hour layover in Austin so that I could go eat superior breakfast tacos (I had Uber credit to spare, and c’mon, tacos).
  • Watch a random LIVE college football game (it actually really was an Arizona game) while waiting on an underground subway platform… out of boredom.

  • I know that there’s no possible way to begin an explanation that would even begin to make sense, but I sort of love that. All of the touchscreen wonder rectangles we have that make life so much easier and more convenient mean nothing without the people you either can or would love to share those awesome conveniences with.

    It won’t happen for a long, long time, but I can’t wait until the day that I’m blown away by something as normal as the future.