Living In Virtual Reality

Gosh! Another year has come and gone. What the heck’s up with that? The millennium is fast approaching and I’m convinced that as it gets closer, time is also speeding up. Scientists may not be able to detect this increase in the speed of time, (or maybe they can but just ain’t telling us) but I myself am convinced that it’s happening. I don’t possess any hard evidence or data to substantiate this claim other than the fact that three days after we celebrate the coming of a new year, I have to mourn the fact that I just got one year older. I realize that this is a pessimistic way of looking at one’s birthday, but according to my calculations, if time continues speeding up at the present rate it seems to be going now, I figure by the time my 70th birthday rolls around, it’ll only take 18 days before I hit my 71st. How optimistic can one be knowing that?

Unable to do anything about the speed of time, I guess I’ll just have to learn to live faster and hope my calculations are wrong. But that’s not why I called you all here today.

No, this month I want to share with you my perception of what the next generation of Virtual Reality machines might be capable of doing in the not too distant future.

Picture, if you will, this average American family living in the suburbs of Seattle, Washington. Mom and Dad Average are sitting at the kitchen table sipping on their last cup of coffee before heading off to their respective jobs, when little Johnny Average walks into the room saying, “I think I’ll stay home today and go to school from here.”

“Good idea,” replies Mom Average. “It looks like it might rain today anyway. No use getting all wet.”

“If it’s gonna be a wet day, I think I’ll go to work from here also,” says Dad Average.

“Well, if the two of you are staying home, so will I. That is, unless this is some kind of male bonding thing you two have planned,” says Mom.

“No, that’s okay, Mom,” chuckles Johnny. “We’ll all stay home. Can you make us peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches for lunch? They never have those in the vending machines at school.”

“Sure, why not,” says Mom. I’ll even make a pitcher of pickle juice to go with them. How’s that sound to you, honey?” she asks her husband.

“Mm! Mm! That sounds outstanding. You sure know how to spoil the men in your life, don’t you dear?”

“That’s because I love you guys! Now go on and get to work before you’re late.”

Dad Average kisses his wife goodbye and tousles his son’s hair. “Have a good day at school Johnny and I’ll see you around noon for lunch.”

Dad Average walks out of the kitchen and into the living room where he sits down in his favorite easy chair. He reaches over and lifts his Virtual Reality helmet off the end table and sets it on his head, leaving the shaded display visor up while he types in commands on the keyboard that is built into the arm of his easy chair and connected to their new G5 Macintosh computer across the room. Satisfied with the results, he pauses for a second while he virtually pictures where he wants to be in reality. He then lowers the visor and is looking across the loading dock of the trucking company he works for. He watches while two burly men are loading pallets of boxed apples into a refrigerated trailer backed into the dock. Yelling across the dock he asks, “Is that my load, Mick?”

Looking up, Mick sees Dad Average standing on the other side of the dock in the shadows. He can tell that Dad Average is in Virtual Reality mode because he is able to see right through the mans body and read the selections on the Pepsi machine Dad Average is standing in front of.

Mick rushes over to Dad Average and says, “Man, what are you doing, Average? You know the boss don’t like any of his drivers to VR on the road!”

“Yeah well, what the boss don’t know won’t hurt him, right Mick?”

“Sure, but what if you get stopped by the DOT or a cop? They don’t like that VR stuff either.”

“Look Mick, Congress can’t agree on whether it should be illegal or not to drive a motor vehicle in Virtual Reality and until they do decide one way or another, they can’t touch me. Now, is that my trailer you’re loading?”

“Yes it is,” replied Mick, “It’ll be ready to go by the time you hook up your tractor. Stay right here for a second and I’ll go get your bills in the office so the old man doesn’t see you. Then you better hook up and haul your butt out of here before he notices you’re not all here.”

“Thanks Mick.”

Dad Average waits while Mick retrieves his bills of lading from the shipping office. When Mick returns and hands him the bills, Dad Average thanks him again and notes that the load is destined for Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona, 1,600 miles away. Leaving the loading dock he crosses the yard and climbs up into his Peterbilt tractor and cranks the big diesel over. Dad Average is pleased that he is going to Arizona and getting out of the stormy winter weather of the Northwest. He backs the Pete up under the trailer that Mick and the new guy have finished loading and connects all the air and electrical lines from the tractor to the trailer and then raises the landing gear on the trailer. After inspecting the whole rig, he’s ready to go. He pulls out onto the surface streets of Seattle and heads for Interstate 90 which will take him over Snoqualmie Pass into Ellensburg, where he’ll pick up I-82 and head into central Oregon. He’ll then jump on I-84 east and take it into Twin Falls Idaho, picking up U.S. Highway 95 and go south all the way to Las Vegas and then on to Phoenix and Tucson from there.

As Dad Average was beginning his trip, Mom Average was shooshing little Johnny Average out of the kitchen and telling him it was time to go to school. Little Johnny Average kissed his mother good-bye and retired to the living room where he planted himself on the love seat and donned his VR headgear after commanding his keyboard to take him to his first class. Mom Average watched as he lowered his visor and then raised it again a few seconds later.

“Mom! It’s not working. What’s wrong?”

“Did you picture your classroom in your mind before you looked into the display screen on your visor?” Johnny’s Mom asked.


“Were you thinking different when you pictured your classroom?”

“Oops! Sorry Mom, I keep forgetting to think different at home. Those Intel VR machines they have at school don’t let you think different, even though it takes forever to go where you want to go thinking normally. I’ll get it this time Mom. See ya!”

Johnny again lowered his display visor and within a few seconds was transposed to Mrs. Ledbetter’s American History class where he took his assigned seat just as attendance was being taken. When Mrs. Ledbetter called his name, Johnny dutifully answered, “Virtually here.”

With her family gone to work and school, the Average home seemed desolate and empty to Mom Average, even though no one had left. She cleaned up the kitchen and finished getting ready for work. When she was ready to leave, she made one last check to see that all the doors and windows were locked before settling down on the sofa and programing her keyboard to take her to her office in the Seattle branch of the First Virtual Bank of Washington where she was the loan manager. Before putting on her VR helmet, she looked lovingly one last time at her family and smiled at the thought that although they were physically all together, they were virtually in different places. She stared a moment longer at her husband as his right arm and left leg went through the motions of shifting and clutching the 13 gears in his tractor. Must still be in city traffic, she surmised. She then looked at her son as he raised his hand. I hope he’s giving an answer to a question and not just asking to go to the bathroom, Mom Average chuckled. Sensing that all was well in the Average household, she helmeted herself and went off to decide who would get a loan today.

Ten minutes before Johnny’s scheduled lunch break, Mom Average finished up some paperwork and told her secretary (who was also working in the VR mode) that she is breaking for lunch. She then hits the Command and Return keys on her VR keyboard, and on her display visor she finds herself once again sitting on the sofa in her living room. She removes her helmet and stretches her arms and legs before heading off to the kitchen to prepare her family’s favorite lunch.

About this same time, Dad Average is crossing the bridge over the Columbia River and entering Oregon. He is forced to take the first exit on the south side of the bridge as three flashing signs instruct him to proceed to the Oregon Port of Entry truck scale. He enters the Umatilla weigh station and crosses the scales hoping the person inside doesn’t notice that he’s driving in Virtual Reality and wants to give him a hard time about it.

Receiving a green light from the weighmaster (who either didn’t notice or didn’t care that he was in VR) he proceeds to the parking area in anticipation of a delectable lunch with his family. With his truck safely parked and secured, Dad Average Command-Returns himself to his easy chair in the suburbs of Seattle. Removing his VR helmet, he proceeds to the kitchen where he greets his wife with a playful hug and kiss.

Mom Average returns his affection and announces, “Lunch will be served in a few minutes as soon as Johnny gets home. How’s your trip going?” she asks.

“Great! Making good time, I’m already in Umatilla.”

“Wow! You are making good time. How many speeding tickets did you get?”

Ha! Ha! Ain’t you the funny one. You know I don’t speed.” Dad Average says with a wink.

From the living room comes little Johnny shouting, “Man, am I starved! Is lunch ready?”

“It will be as soon as you go wash your hands,” his Mom tells him.

While Johnny was washing up, Mrs. Average told her husband how their son had forgotten to think different that morning while attempting to VR to school.

“I wish that school wouldn’t force the kids to use those archaic Wintel machines. It’s crazy to make them think normally during a Virtual Reality session. It’s not only as slow as molasses but it requires way too much concentration to keep the session locked on. Doesn’t the school know that?”

“I’m sure they do honey,” said Mom Average. “But they tell us the funding just isn’t available to upgrade to the more powerful and simpler G5 Macintoshes.”

“Yeah well, if the schools wouldn’t have fallen sucker to Bill Gates’ offer of providing those machines at cost just so he could get a stronghold on the educational market and had spent the extra few bucks per machine to stick with the Macintosh platform, our kids would be a whole lot better off today. Not only that, but it would have been less expensive in the long run to buy the Macs. Heck, we only own one Macintosh VR machine and all three of us can VR at the same time, and if we wanted, we could upgrade so it could handle five VR’s at once. Those dilapidated Wintel pieces of junk can only handle one VR session at a time. You tell me were the schools are saving money?”

“I know dear, I know. But at the time Bill Gates made his pitch to the schools, they had no idea that Apple would come out with a multiple user Virtual Reality machine.”

“No, they didn’t know, and do you know why they didn’t know? I’ll tell you why. Because everybody on the school board was too busy thinking about where they wanted to go today, and on that particular day they all wanted to go cheap! And by golly, that’s exactly where Bill Gates took ’em! I tell ya honey, if people don’t wake up and start thinking different, that Microsoft magnate up there in Redmond is going to have every person on this planet eating out of the palm of his hand. And I guarantee you there won’t be any peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches in it either! That would be too different!”

By now Mrs. Average was wishing she hadn’t even mentioned little Johnny’s problem on the VR machine. She just wanted to have a nice leisurely lunch with her family and talk of only pleasant things. She mentioned this to her husband and he agreed, apologizing for his little tirade. When little Johnny returned, they all sat down and stuffed themselves with peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches and washed them down with large glasses of pickle juice.

After lunch, they all returned to the living room and VR’d back to their respective jobs and to school. This time Johnny remembered to Think Different.

Now, I know when some of my Windows using relatives and friends read this column on the
web site, their reaction to it will be: “There goes Pete, off on one of his stupid fantasies again!” or “Pete’s so full of beans, he’s stinking up the Internet.” And that’s okay, I forgive them their shortsightedness. After all, they are PC users.

But the rest of you readers, all you Mac OS loyalists will think: “Yeah, that’s cool, I can see that happening.” And the reason you’ll think that is the same reason you bought your Mac OS machine. You’re capable of Thinking Different.

Pete Miner (

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