Back to the Future

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Last year The Post visited the Tomorrow's World live event. You can read the article in The POST archives here:
Welcome To Your Future.

Before reviewing this year's show it seems appropriate to look at the connections h2g2 had with the BBC programme. h2g2 itself was launched on 28th April 1999: People of Earth, your attention please!

If you look at the launch photo, you'll notice one person without a towel. This is Jim Lynn and we'll let him tell us what happened next:

'I think we only *had* three towels, so I graciously let the others wear them.
'However, the very next day I went out and bought one, because I'd spent the night sleeping on my office floor. We'd made the site live at about 2am, so I didn't fancy waiting in Euston for hours for the milk train, only to have to come in early to prepare for the live Tomorrow's World broadcast the next day. As a result, I was a little pongy, so I bought a towel and some underwear, stole a Starship Titanic T-shirt and had a shower to freshen me up for the broadcast.
'If you watched the broadcast, I was one of the people standing around behind Douglas wearing white lab coats and holding clipboards. If it looked like I was typing frantically, it's because I was ICQing to Tim, who was back at base in Covent Garden, asking him to see what was happening to the server, because as soon as the programme had started, we had a *huge* spike in demand, and our poor server couldn't cope very well. Believe it or not, we only had one at the time.
'When they came back to Douglas towards the end of the programme, we were supposed to talk about what people had posted during the show, but because the server was running so slowly we couldn't get anything up. Luckily, we'd anticipated this, and we'd left Douglas' Mac looking at a conversation from earlier in the day.'

U15551 (as the researcher was known then) had discovered the site before the launch and had the posting about The collective noun for medical students read out on air by Douglas.

Jim had wanted them to read out another of U15551's contributions: Page A6058
'...but the TW researcher baulked at the fact that it included the word 'penis'. Three times!

'Who would have thought that, a few months later, Mark would hire her to become the community editor?

BBC Tomorrow's World Live is the annual event that features exhibits and displays from the fields of education, industry and technology. Your POST reporters were making their third visit. Last year we noted that the slant was very much towards the internet and dot com companies. As we all know, that particular bubble has burst a bit. Perhaps for this reason, or because the organisers also noted the bias, the 2001 show seemed much more a showcase for inventions than last year. This, after all is the whole point of the TV programme and it was good to see the small inventors get their chance. These ranged from professional looking items that will certainly become part of tomorrow's world, via some very good ideas that need a little developing, through to the bizarre and truly creative. It would be unfair to single out any particular item, but some have been featured on Tomorrows World already.

Your POST reporters began in the NHS world section with a virtual reality pod ride through the lungs of an asthmatic. Moving on to the Transport section we looked at the display by LT which included a giant 3D model of London where we had fun picking out familiar landmarks and following roads.

The highlight of the show was live filming for Robot Wars, and it was possible to have a peek backstage too. The nearby Cyber World area had several displays of the use of robotics in engineering. One challenge is in designing artificial limbs with a more natural bend and gentle touch. We met a being who was fitted with one. VORSCT (versatile original resident smoothly handles things) is a very friendly alien with a gentle handshake.

One of the themes running through the whole live even was of how to involve more girls in science and engineering. This has been a criticism of the show itself in past years; the whole 'boys and their toys' feel to it. However, if that was the feel of the show, and a positive move in the right direction, someone had forgotten to tell some of the exhibitors.

For example, one stand was taken by a college IT department, demonstrating their own website. They had a live webcam link from the show to their site, which of course, your reporter had to wave at. The POST correctly identified the computer being used as a G3 and asked if they had a G4. The stand host seemed somewhat taken aback and said that they had packed it up the day before, but would we like to look at their second machine as it was the 'ladies version'. On closer inspection this meant the G3 with pretty flowers on the side rather than the clear and chrome version we were standing by. However, by asking probing questions about the ease of use of the optical mouse, and demonstrating a vague, but nevertheless seemingly impressive working knowledge of the digital video editing facility, the POST was able to convince the host that women don't just look at computers to see if they match the curtains.
'We don't get many girls apply to do IT courses with us.'

we were told rather sadly, and didn't really have the heart to tell him why.

One final discovery before leaving the show was that we can all become involved in an experiment soon. 'The Big Jump' takes place in September to find out what would happen if we all jumped up and down at the same time. Expect a more detailed POST article about this soon.


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