A public service announcement shot in 1995 is making the viral rounds, and it reveals some prophetic predictions made by a group of Montana fifth graders.
The PSA, produced almost 20 years ago by Ray Bjork Elementary School, advocates for Internet access at schools, with youngsters asking, "Why should I be on the Internet?" It was a pretty bold question in the age of AOL and dialup, but the visionary 10-year-olds had no problem embracing the Web's many wonders and forecasting what it would be like by the time they reach college.
Opening with a screenshot of an archaic Yahoo, the video features kids encouraging school libraries to get with the program and get online. The kids make then-novel claims about the Internet being useful for shopping, chatting with long-distance friends, researching homework assignments, and touring the planet Jupiter and the Sistine Chapel all in one day. One little girl even bragged about finding a recipe for cat-food cupcakes -- a discovery that predates Lolcats by more than a decade. The little girl, as it turns out, was Marnee Banks, who grew up to be an on-air reporter for Montana's KRTV. Banks was 10 at the time the PSA was shot and recently posted the video on her Facebook page.
The PSA is even more impressive in light of the increasingly challenging field of tech-forecasting. In an age when new developments move faster and faster, calculating what life will be like in the future has become ever more difficult. One movie that gets it right -- at least according to New York Times reporter Jenna Wortham -- is Jake Schreier's new film, "Robot & Frank." Set in the near-future, the movie presents "interactions between humans and their devices [that] are relatively believable," according to Wortham. But even that small feat wasn't so easily realized. In the six years between the film's development and production, iPads and other tablet computers have become almost as common as wristwatches, forcing the filmmakers to reimagine a fictional futuristic technology they originally dubbed "CompuTabs."
Such folly in futurism makes the fifth graders' 1995 video all the more impressive, which is probably why it went on to win a local ADDY Award for best PSA. However, if innocent musings on the usefulness of the Internet seem less visionary in the 21st century, keep in mind that 1995 was the same year Newsweek writer Clifford Stoll declared the brave new world of the Web a bunch of "baloney."
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"No online database will replace your daily newspaper," Stoll wrote.
Way to have your finger on the pulse, Cliff.