Metro-East Living

In many ways, we’ve become the ‘Jetsons,’ but are we better off?

What impact will driverless cars have on our community?

The future of driverless cars is moving closer — and, perhaps, faster — than some might think. Their arrival would change how parking garages and streets look today.
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The future of driverless cars is moving closer — and, perhaps, faster — than some might think. Their arrival would change how parking garages and streets look today.

Meet George Jetson.

His Boy Elroy.

Daughter Judy.

Jane, his wife….

- Theme Song, “The Jetsons”

I grew up watching “The Jetsons” cartoon on TV.

It was one of only a few cartoons that aired weekdays and not just on Saturday mornings.

My Saturday mornings were reserved for “Tom & Jerry” with a big bowl of Captain Crunch.

The Jetsons were a cartoon family living in the future from a 1960s’ viewpoint. They zipped around town in a green flying saucer in the sky.

Some days, I’d wonder what it would be like to be son Elroy, riding high in a green flying saucer instead of Mom’s wood-paneled, white station wagon.

That teenage Judy Jetson was kind of cute, in a cartoon way.

There was Rosie the robot maid, and Astro, the talking dog, and George’s boss, Mr. Spacely.

The future?

Flying saucers and robot maids?

2020 Terry Mackin
Terry Mackin

It was the 1960s. I didn’t think much about the future except when watching the Jetsons. I was a boy in the middle of East St. Louis. Zero technology. Life was simple by today’s standards. It was a great time to be a boy.

When we landed on the moon in 1968, I figured we’d be traveling in space in a few years. Someday, in my lifetime, I’d go to the moon, I thought. Fifty years later, well, that’s not going to happen.

I’d rather go to Canada.

Or Australia.

Or back to Ireland.

Here we are in 2018. We’re still traveling on roads by car on four wheels. Our parking garages are not skyscrapers. We are still grounded, overall.

But it’s mind-boggling to think about all the technological progress we have made since I was a kid, watching the Jetsons on a black-and-white TV.

There are days when I think we’re not the Jetsons yet and other days when I think we have zoomed right past George and Judy.

I just heard a news segment on the car radio about new trains that will transport us from St. Louis to Chicago or Kansas City in 20 minutes or less.

That news story was on my satellite radio station in my car, way beyond the old FM converter we used to connect under the car radio, just above the ashtray.

A few decades ago, I remember a seminar speaker told us that we’d be dependent on “pocket phones” in the future. We’d get our news and information from our phones, she said. The audience was mostly news media and communication professionals like myself. We laughed.

I had a phone in my car trunk for work.

Hot shot.

Today, I have a mild panic attack if my cell phone is misplaced for a few minutes.

Car shopping today is all about new technology. We used to kick the tires and open the hood. Now it’s all about the technological capabilities. Push this button. Wow. Cool.

Picture phones like we saw on the Jetsons are here now. So are driverless cars.

I do what needs to be done, technologically-wise. Shop online occasionally. Burn up the Internet for sports scores and trades. But I still pay most bills by old-fashioned check. And I avoid the self checkout lane at the grocery store.

It will be fun, and a little scary, to see where technology takes us over the next few years and decades.

I hope I adapt to buying St. Louis Blues tickets by mobile application only. I have not tried yet. Good news, I guess, is I can’t forget my paper tickets at home. Bad new, I guess, is I can always forget my phone at home.

Taking one of those jet-fast trains to Chicago or Kansas City will be fun, exciting, and a little bit scary.

Before I think I’m too cool and tech savvy, I guess I’d better figure out my TV’s remote control.

Or how to set up Bluetooth capabilities in my car.

Take away the flying saucers, and I’m not sure George, Jane, Judy and Elroy Jetson could hang with us today.

Terry Mackin: terry.mackin@amwater.com
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