The Geometric Progression of Technology
WHEN I WAS A YOUNG CHILD, I REMEMBER LOOKING forward to my dad taking me to work with him on rare occasions. Located in a small village in the center of Michigan, the grey clapboard-sided building he worked in was always a welcoming sight and a favorite place to play. Inside, a collage of small finished murals that my dad had painted directly onto the walls in his spare time decorated the lobby. One of the murals I remember vividly was of a tiny, cute gray kitten curled up asleep and at peace. I can remember the distressed hardwood floors and three large oak desks with their sturdy oak “Captain” chairs behind each desk. The “Captain” chairs—standard issue to these buildings and now quite collectable—were also placed about the lobby. Sometimes I would go and look at pull-carts and other equipment in the storage room while other times, I would play outside under the long, open-beamed cantilevered overhang held up by timbers under which customers would stay protected from the weather as they stood waiting. While there, I would often entertain myself by making different styles of paper airplanes to launch before watching them glide around the larger room in the building until crash landing. Always exhilarating, were the occasional rubber-band fights with my dad or one of his co-workers.
I especially used to enjoy watching my dad work at his desk. As I remember it, his work phone was attached to the wall by his desk and moved like an accordion. He would stretch out the phone, which only had the mouthpiece, and wear the telephone headset to listen. Once done taking or giving orders, he would hang up the headset and push the phone itself back to its retracted position. I can also vividly remember him using the company telegraph on his desk to send and receive orders in Morse code. It was astonishing to watch him turn the lines of coded dashes and dots into letters, numbers, and words. The one memory that amazed me the most was the first time I watched him prepare to hand off orders he had typed himself on an old-fashioned ribbon typewriter. I remember watching him grab one of the strange Y-shaped wooden objects hanging on two pegs in the wall. The Y-shaped item was constructed of three pieces of wood. I’m unsure of the wood species but believe the main handle or the bottom of the Y was oak, and it was approximately 3/4 inch thick, 3 or 4 inches across and about 3 feet long. Each side of the V of the Y part might have been hickory and was about 1/4 inch thick and 3/4 inch across and maybe 21/2 feet long with a small notch in the top. On the wide part, at the top of the handle on one side, was a small steel clip. I distinctly remember thinking about what possible use could this Y-shaped piece of stained wood have.
Hanging next to where my dad grabbed the Y-shaped stick was a peg holding several pretied lengths of white twine, which were tied off into loops and appeared to be the same lengths. My dad would also grab one of the loops after gripping a Y stick. He placed the Y stick on his desk with the steel clip up, and then he stretched the twine across the top of the Y, placing the white twine in the v groves before pulling it down taunt as he clipped the string down under the steel clip holding it in place. Then it really started to get interesting when he took the orders he had hand-typed and folded them before placing them into a letter-sized envelope. He didn’t seal the envelope—instead, he placed the envelope in the top center of the Y and closed the flap over the string before holding it in place with two paper clips.
Now, I was quite perplexed. What could he possibly intend to do with his typed orders hanging on the string in the middle of the Y stick? Scratching my head, I was about to ask him when a loud whistle sounded, and he grabbed the stick and bolted for the door. It was late that evening as I followed him outside under the wooden awning that held the lights, lighting the front of his building. Once we were outside on the brick pavers, the ground started to shake, and the noise of steel on steel could be heard, and a bright light started to illuminate the area in front of the building. A loud rumble could be heard as the thunderous noise approached.
And then, with perfect timing, a primitive transfer of information took place. While standing in the dim lighting at the edge of the wooden awning, my dad held the Y stick up at the last minute, before a man hanging out of the side window on the starboard side of a locomotive snatched the train orders and string from the stick in his right arm as the train thundered by wide open. My dad had told me to stay back some, and I feared for him in the excitement because he appeared almost to be standing on the tracks as the powerful locomotive suddenly appeared, followed by a long line of varying rail cars making a pronounced breeze as my head turned at a neck-snapping speed to keep my eyes focused on the locomotive as it passed. Waving with a grin of amazement, I saw the engineer smiling and waving back to me with orders in hand and string hanging before he disappeared into the dark with the sound of the steel wheels continuing intermittently to “thump,” as they hit the joints of the steel rail while the train continued thundering past. I watched the whole train pass by with one of my dad’s arms around me as he held the now orderless train order-stick up with the other so the railroader hanging out from the back of the caboose (who was a back-up man and could grab the orders if the engineer had missed them) could see the empty Y stick. I remember waving at the man who looked back at us as he stood on the rear deck of the caboose returning my wave, before he, also, vanished from sight. As the train sped off into the dark, only the red and green glass illuminated by the burning kerosene lantern hanging on the rear of the caboose could be seen. Yes, my dad worked for the railroad, and the building was a depot. My dad was a railroad clerk for 30 years and never missed a day of work.
What year, would you guess would be close to these events I’d witnessed as a young child? A year when train orders were still being sent using a telegraph or transferred using paper, string, and wood. Would you guess 1919, 1929, 1939, 1949, or even 1959? The answer might surprise you. I believe the year was nineteen seventy! Can you believe it—that such crude technology was still in use just 38 years ago? Wow, has technology progressed, not merely advanced in the last 38 years, but forged ahead at geometrically progressive rates. It is November of 2008 as I sit in my home office writing this—no scratch that—I mean typing on the keyboard of my personal home computer writing this as I conclude my first novel. Pencil, pad, and paper along with ribbon typewriters all seem like dinosaurs in the modern world of technology we live in today.
Take the progression of the computer. It wasn’t really that many years ago that a computer took up an entire room and could only do a few simple tasks, but within a few years as computer technology evolved, they took up less room and could do far more, and so on, until they evolved into handheld models more powerful than one could have imagined just 3 or 4 years ago. Just 12 years ago, the World Wide Web was some pipe dream I had just heard about. Now look what can happen inside of a moving car—one person can surf the web or e-mail while another talks on his cell phone while still another listens to satellite radio as a fax spits out information on paper all while driving down the expressway at 80 mph in a car guided by the GPS guidance system on the dash as the kids watch TV or play video games in the back seat!
The technology we enjoy today will probably be outdated even more quickly than it outdated the technology it replaced. Technology is snowballing and picking up speed as it progresses. Think of the board games so popular not that long ago, just before Pong showed up followed by Asteroids and other games we see in the lobbies of stores or in arcades that attracted hordes of players compared to the life-like virtual-games we enjoy today. How long in the future will it be before we’re playing a virtual-game so real and life-like, you will believe categorically that you are actually inhabiting the virtual-world? A technology so advanced that, while in the virtual-world, all your senses work—for instance, you’ll be able to touch, smell, hear, see, feel motion, and have emotions? A technology of the future where you gain the knowledge of a lifetime in small movements of actual time? While one’s body is plugged into this future technology, one might believe he or she had lived in the virtual-world for 50 years, when in reality, this life might have been just minutes, days, or weeks as they used the technology to learn a skill, life lessons, or simply to play a game. Would such a technology be that hard to envision or foresee? I don’t think so, and, I’m willing to bet, neither do you.
While at Disney World in 1997, I rode on what I think was the only ride ever designed by Walt Disney himself. It was a visionary ride called “The Carousel of Progress,” and I believe it’s still in operation today. If only Walt, the greatest of all dreamers, were here today to witness for himself just how fast the wheel of mankind’s technological progress was spinning, I think even he would be amazed.
FIRST, I WOULD LIKE TO GIVE SOME MORE PRAISE TO MY best friend, my wife Renee, for allowing me to unintentionally weather her patience with my stormy obsession in writing this story. In our senior year in high school, I mustered enough courage to ask her out, and we’ve been together ever since. I’d like to thank her in print for taking her time toward the completion of this novel, to proofread and edit.
Second, I would like to acknowledge the Almighty himself or some mysterious Force for Good for providing the awe-inspiring vision of this plot.
Third, to my parents, Glen and Alice, for their hard work raising and providing for four children and always giving them a loving and especially forgiving home to live in. Thanks, Mom and Dad. And sister Jeanette, thank you for taking them into your home in northern Idaho with a compassionate soul and caring for them with a loving heart in their golden years. A special thanks to James and Martha Rohrmoser for giving me food and refuge as a young emotionally injured teenager. A posthumous thanks to my grandpa, George Bailey, for some brief, yet poignant words of wisdom I remember him telling me once when I was very young: “Always tell the truth no matter what the consequences. You’ll always be better off telling the truth, no matter what happens or what people might think of you for doing so,” he had said to me. Just to make sure he was telling me the truth, I tested his words of wisdom a few times growing up and discovered for myself just how right he was. I learned in most cases that telling the truth will appease or mend a wound as opposed to the slicing and stabbing of a lie, which will create or fester one.
Fourth, I would like to acknowledge the following books and authors: Twenty-First Century Submarines by Steve Crawford; Soviet and Russian Nuclear Submarines by Wilfried Kopenhagen; Weapons of the Navy Seals by Fred J. Pushies; Cold War Submarines by Norman Polar and K. J. Moore. I would like to thank Locomotive and Railfan & Railroad magazines for the wonderful visuals and articles on the golden era of railroading. I also need to give thanks to all those men and women from around the world who are responsible for the modern home personal computer. Without a personal computer, the limitless resources on the Internet, and especially spell-check, this book would have never been realized. A thanks to all the souls and spirits I know or have met during my journey down the road of life who have shaped and tempered my being, and to all the mistakes and screw ups I have met “up close and personal” along the way for blessing me with a little wisdom. Special thanks to Ginger (Ginger is our German Shorthaired Pointer who is still alive and well today), my wife’s and my furry four-legged friend, who has given unconditional love for almost 15 years now and set a simple example the whole world could learn from. And thanks to John L. Pehrson, who maybe saw a diamond in the rough when I walked into his real estate office back in 1996. He offered opportunity and opened up his wallet to almost a complete stranger back then, and we’ve been peaceful partners ever since. With the exception of John and a few others, I can’t count a dozen souls during my lifetime whom I discovered over time were truly trustworthy. John’s nonjudgmental posture toward people reminds me a little of Ginger, and I trust him as much as I do her, no—I recant that statement: Ginger would steal my food if I turned my back and John wouldn’t. Thanks to a retired English teacher and co-worker at the real estate office I work out of. I pestered him on more than one occasion in the mornings until I felt as though I were wearing out my welcome stopping by his office trying to get some help with my writing and a critique of my first few pages of scribble. One morning I came into work, and he had left a book on my desk for me to read. It was a book he’d used in his classroom when he was still teaching that someone he knew had authored years ago. The book, Telling Writing by Ken Macrorie, and the little guidance he gave, were a big help when I ended up in my home office as a writing recluse. Thanks Don.
Though last in order, I have saved my biggest thanks for last—Walt Disney, the visionary who had a dream so powerful that it has never stopped inspiring the world. I’ve been to Disney World twice in my life and both times were memorable. The first visit was in 1971 with my parents. I remember Space Mountain was still under construction and how excited I was and couldn’t stop thinking about what a wonderful place it was for years after returning to Michigan. The second trip, in 1997, with my wife and Ginger, was more profound for me. The Tapestry of Nations was so awesome, it showed me a small slice of how beautiful the diversity of the world is and, more importantly, what can be accomplished when the peoples of the world work united together. I was inspired after sitting through one of the theatrical presentations, which finished with a suggestion to explore your imagination and to read books like Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, and The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells . . . . And so, I did, including Moby Dick by Herman Melville, and the words of these authors opened my mind and I’m sure have guided my pen writing this story. Thank you!
Epiphany: “A moment in time where one gains knowledge in a sudden revelation.”
DO YOU BELIEVE SOMEONE COULD HAVE A VISION OR AN epiphany where they gain knowledge in a sudden revelation? I can’t speak for you, but as for myself, I’ve had two vivid “deja vu’s” in my lifetime and three visions with the one I awakened from just after midnight, on the morning of January 1, 2008, being the most traumatic. In a sweat, I sprung awake next to my sleeping wife after having had a vision and was terrified from what I had witnessed. It wasn’t so much what I saw, but how I saw it. It was as if I had been forced to look at the lifelike imagery of a hammerhead-shark-shaped space ship with a sinister face as it appeared leading a fleet of cosmic craft as they ejected from their golden space aquarium.
That was all I saw, but I awoke trembling in terror and was scared to death. It was as if all the information that went with the brief imagery had been downloaded into my head at the same time. It was a frightening experience, and for what it’s worth, I had two small marks 1/4 inch apart on my neck that hadn’t been there when I went to sleep, which took forever to heal, and I still have scars where they once were. For a week I was on edge, an emotional basket case, and couldn’t get the vision out of my head. Don’t mistake me, I’ve had a few nightmares in my life, but not ever one like this—this one was different, and it really freaked me out. I’d like to blame it on a life of abusing alcohol or illicit drugs, like LSD or some other hallucinogen, but other than around my senior year of high school, I don’t take, want, or have anything to do with drugs. At times I might have a mixed drink at a party or a friend’s house, an occasional glass of wine, or a couple of cans of beer at the end of a hot summer day, but I’m just not one to drink much either.
I don’t quite know how to explain to you what happened—it was like seeing a clip of film you had watched before, and you knew immediately when you saw the clip the whole story to the rest of the movie because you had seen it before. Yet, it wasn’t like that until I bought a small notebook and started to write down and describe what I had seen. That was on January 8, 2008, and then “It” happened: the writing was like the key that unlocked something hidden in my mind, and within minutes of starting to write, I wrote out the names of the chapters and the plots to each chapter to go with what I had witnessed. I call this small notebook, as hokey as it sounds, “My Little Book of Dreams.” You should know I have never had any aspirations to write. I’m dyslexic, suffer from adult attention deficit disorder, did poorly in English at school, and suck at spelling, and, short of this overpowering event, I would have never written a word! If you knew me, you would know how out of character it is for me to write, and this book should be considered bizarre in itself. Before writing this book, other than school work years ago, I can’t remember writing a half-dozen pages in my lifetime. When I was younger, I was always too impatient to read or write, and if I started to read, my mind would wander off somewhere, and I wouldn’t remember a word I read. But this story was so awesome I had to tell it.
But I didn’t know how to proceed or what to do next and certainly didn’t know how to write a book, so, in a cry for help, I sent a letter to George Lucas at Lucas Films and to Walt Disney Imagineering asking them for a little of their time to just listen to me and let me unload onto them the vision I had experienced. If they did, I told them, they would be blown away with what I had to say and the things I would describe to them. I told them once they had listened to me they would be convinced something miraculous must have happened to me. That was January 11, 2008, and I saved a copy of both letters. One letter, although opened, was returned from Lucas Films with a cover letter saying they did not accept unsolicited solicitations.
I didn’t know what to do next to get the story out of my head other than to try and write it down. And so, I started writing. Once I actually started writing, I couldn’t stop—I had to write down and tell the story or at least part of it. I joined a writing forum on the Internet for help and posted my first piece, which I would rewrite and post again as soon as someone critiqued it. A section of that piece ended up being part of Chapter 3, The Time Is Near. The first time I posted it, I had some very positive feedback and one very motivating comment from someone. The person wrote as if shocked after reading it, that this was the first piece I had ever written at the top of my posting. She commented it needed work but said the substance was truly inspiring. Those kind, reassuring words from some unknown person in cyberspace truly motivated me (not that comments saying my writing “sucked,” or “don’t ever try it again” would have stopped or slowed me). I removed the piece I posted, and until just recently going back to that site for help on publishing a book, I’ve stayed away from there and being online in general, except for necessary research. Otherwise, I would have gotten nothing accomplished. It’s not that I didn’t need to learn a foundation to build on, I just didn’t want to turn into someone who gets so wrapped up in studying and reading the thoughts of others on how to do or make something that he never actually does it or, if he does, risks the overloaded thoughts of others actually diluting his vision and creation.
Shortly after I started to write, I showed another real estate company’s listing to some clients. When I showed the large two-story farm home, the owner wasn’t there, but obviously the owner was an avid writer. The rooms were filled with books on how to write that were stacked and lying around everywhere. There were so many, it intimidated the hell out of me! I thought “My God, if I had to read half of these books to learn how to write, I’ll never write a word.” How ironic, the real estate market has been down in Michigan, I’ve hardly shown any homes in the last year, yet this house was the one I ended up in. I thought, “What are the odds?”; there couldn’t have been another home for sale in a hundred mile radius, if at all, with piles of books strewn about in almost every room on how to write. It was as if they had been intentionally placed there by the Devil himself to scare me away from sharing my vision with the world. I was already headed up a mountain with no climbing gear, and I didn’t need the extra weight added. All my life I’ve just dug in and learned from my mistakes as I went. This was certainly no exception, and it was by far the hardest thing I had ever set out do to, all thanks to the vision.
Remember the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind where the famous actor was obsessed with a vision of a mountain and didn’t know, where, what, or why? At one point he was trying to shape his mashed potatoes into what ended up being Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. Well, that’s kind of the way I felt for three solid months after the vision as I wrote my first rough draft of The Great Ship of Knowledge, Volume I, Learning Earth’s Deathly History. I would spend 20 hours a day, days and weeks on end writing. I’m sure my wife felt abandoned during that phase, since she hardly saw me, even though I was just a few steps away in my office. When she did come in to visit, she might as well have been talking to a brick wall, because I was so focused on finishing this part of the story and, more importantly, getting it out of my head, that I never heard a word she said.
Once done with the first draft, I was totally “burned out” and needed a break. I dearly hoped the vision would stop haunting me when I completed the first draft and shut the door to my office leaving it behind as I walked away. It sat down there, and I was able to stay away from the room for 2 or 3 months, even though a day never went by without me thinking of it. As if I heard it calling to me one day, I went down and got the damn thing and brought it upstairs and sat it beside the sofa beneath an end table. Then it just sat there, and I was able to ignore it for a couple more months as my wife and I worked on a piece of investment real estate we had bought with a friend. I drank my morning coffee by it as it continually haunting me with its pestering presence. I thought that maybe if I got it out of the house I could enjoy some peace.
Then, I met some people at a company party. Two of them happened to be retired teachers, and one was still active. I smelled opportunity and asked if they would take my manuscript and read it, or knew someone who would, just so I could be rid of its anguishing presence for a while. They recommended a local English teacher, and I asked how could I get him to read it. They suggested I just stop at the high school and introduce myself, and he would most likely help me. The next morning, I was at the school with manuscript in hand. They called the man to the office, and after he saw me, he looked somewhat concerned, as if I might be wanting to confront him about something he had said to a child or to argue about the substandard grade he had given a student. He seemed a little relieved when all I said was that a retired friend of his had recommended him to me about reading and broadly critiquing my story. He told me he felt honored that I had asked and would try to. He then asked me when I needed it back? That was Sept 16, 2008. I was thinking, is this a trick question? “Keep it! I mean as long as you want. If I get it back by Christmas, that would be fine,” I said before shaking his hand and walking away. Not 10 steps out of the high school, I shouted “hallelujah!” I’m rid of it! I’m sure he called his friend shortly after I had left and said something like, “thanks a lot, for sending that 61/2-foot-tall, 260-pound crazed man to see and burden me with his manuscript!
My feeling of euphoria didn’t last very long, though. As if I had done something really bad, the story began haunting me worse than before. It wasn’t two days after dropping off the manuscript that I printed another draft and have been working away nonstop ever since. A few days ago, I sent off the first three chapters to get a quote on editing and printing the first copies of the book.
At this point, I thought I should, and my wife agreed, go back and retrieve the first, really rough draft from the English teacher. I called the school, and as if waiting for the good news, he just happened to be nearby the office when the phone rang and soon got on the phone. He seemed elated that I wanted it back and said no one was in his classroom, and he would be there for the next 20 minutes working. He’s a pleasant middle-aged man with his hair graying nicely, and from the looks of his classroom, he appeared to take his teaching very seriously. But he smiled at me when I walked in as he sat at his desk working away. His desk was stacked full of books that were placed somewhat neatly toward the front until they spilled onto an adjoining table into a large messy pile as if the result of some literary avalanche. Several posters of varying sizes of literary giants were on the wall behind him, but only one picture grabbed my eyes and held my attention from the competing authors. It was a large poster of Ernest Hemingway, who appeared faded as if he had been there for quite some time with his mentoring look staring into the classroom as he cast his watchful shadow over the English teachers who had sat just inches in front of him over the years.
I told the English teacher shortly after he had accepted the first draft from me, that I had started working on it again and had about finished the book after numerous rewrites and would soon be having it printed. Again he seemed relieved with what I had to say, but this time perhaps because the haunting manuscript would be leaving his view. He congratulated me and gave a high-five before quickly removing the first draft from a row of books lined up at the front of his desk where it had sat festering him. “Here it is! I tried to start reading it, but as an English teacher—your use of past-present-future . . . well, I’m glad you finished it,” he said as he handed it back to me. I told him it was a really rough draft and hoped he would be happy with the finished work if he ever chose to read it, before saying goodbye and leaving the classroom. I’m quite sure that as I walked out of his classroom and down the hallway with the manuscript in hand I could hear him yell “hallelujah!” after he leaped to the top of his desk doing a happy dance.
I don’t know exactly what happened to me between going to sleep before midnight on December 31, 2007 and the early morning of January 1, 2008. It was New Year’s Eve, but my wife and I never had a drink and retired early. Maybe God had some friends over and left his golden kitchen to walk down steps made of clouds to his basement. Once in the basement, He proceeded to his soul cellar where he kept souls aligned in racks like bottles of wine. Then he started removing souls and looking at them. As he read the life labels on the individual souls, maybe he thought, “Tom Smith, no, not usually a good year,” and put his soul back in the rack before removing another. “Mary Jones, no, she needs to age a few more years,” He said, before putting her back and turning around to look at another rack. That’s when He pulled me from a rack of well-aged souls, and brought me close to His face to blow the dust from my life label so He could read me. To see, He angled me into the dim light of the cellar and placed His reading glasses, which were dangling around His neck, on. “William Bailey, can’t write, no good at spelling, bad grammar, huh, 1961 vintage; he should be ready to open up. I think I will have him write a story for me to bring in the New Year. My friends and I should have fun seeing what spills out from him over the next year. So He took me out of the dark cellar back up the steps of clouds to His golden kitchen. Once back, He placed me on His bar top like any other vessel of aged spirits. Then He opened a drawer to retrieve one of His vision openers which He uses to open the imagination of souls with. He read them out loud, “a color man has never seen, no” he said before tossing it back and grabbing another. “How to make invisible tinfoil, no,” again he said before grabbing another. “Sinister shark-shaped craft leading an armada of ships as they eject from their golden space aquarium, yea I’ll open him up with this one,” He said. Then He shut the drawer before He took the vision opener and placed it around my head as I slept with part of it pushing on my neck with the opener’s fulcrum hitting on my shoulder before God pushed down on its magical lever popping my “soul cork” and letting my imagination spill out.
Well, the pages that follow are some of my thoughts, which spilled out after the epiphany I had in the early morning of the first day of January in the New Year of 2008, and, after you read them, I am sure you will agree something extraordinary must have happened to me during a moment of sleep. Maybe now I’ll be able to get some rest even though this is only 1/3 of the story and the rest of the plot is still in my head along with my little book of dreams, which I can see glaring at me with its inspirational draw out the corner of my left eye as I finish this.
(c)2008 William Bailey