The Nostradamus/Inspector Gadget Effect

08 Mar

Every time I read or see something Nostradamus predicted, it’s so vague I can’t believe someone is spending five seconds saying or typing it. 

There will be a great war, and an evil man, and then a big thing will crash! 

Sitting way back there in history, where you know, not much has happened yet, so if you don’t nail down a timeline, then pretty much anything you say is going to be true eventually.  I mean, I don’t care what year it is, there’s always going to be a Most Evil Guy In The World somewhere, and once in a while, he’s going to get some really evil stuff done.  And predicting future wars is like predicting future sunrises – might impress a two year-old, but not me.

Here’s my big prediction:  There will be a big spaceship crash in the next four hundred years.  And an earthquake in a great city by the sea.  A king will be cast down by his army!   

Look at me, I’m Nostradamus!

No, if I want impressed with predictions, I don’t have to look any further than Inspector Gadget, the cartoon I used to watch when I got home from school in the sixth grade. 

At the time – and if you don’t know, you’ll just be absolutely shocked – I was a serious nerd.   I know, it hardly makes sense.  You were probably thinking, quarterback or pitcher or a smooth-talking guitar guy.  But it’s not true.  In the sixth grade, I’ll bet I weighed about sixty-five pounds, and I was constructed entirely out of overcooked noodles and bailing twine.  That was about the right color scheme, too.  And I had glasses like an animated owl costume, and I dressed either in clothing that looked stapled together, or clothing that looked like a Tron tee shirt, because it was. 

And you’re probably thinking, but you were saved, right Tom, by your extensive mid-eighties knowledge of Atari computers?  And I’m sorry, but no.  No, that’s not correct.

But it was thanks to my computer knowledge that I first began to really vent at school about how unrealistic Inspector Gadget was.  Spotting the subtle flaws in the show was really something you needed a trained eye for.  Most people just looked at the show and thought, well, if that wasn’t real espionage equipment then they couldn’t put it on television.

I was particularly enraged by Penny, Inspector Gadget’s niece, and her computer book.

It was preposterous.  It was the size of a small tablet, it had more memory than every encyclopedia in the world put together, and most ridiculous of all, it could exchange information with other computer systems even though it wasn’t plugged into them!  

Total crap, I’d tell the frowning girl next to me on the bus, and she’d frown some more.

And now here I am, typing on Penny’s computer book.  And sure, that’s about all I know how to do with it, but if you put it in the right person’s hands, he could probably crash some stuff with it.  Get into Dr. Claw’s fortress, etc.

Penny used computer viruses back then.  How could she have used computer viruses?  Doesn’t that make you feel like screaming so hard you have to hold your face onto your skull?

Nostradamus and countless others have tried to predict the future, and no one got it right except for Inspector Gadget. 

Marty McFly told me there’d be flying cars and flying skateboards, and there aren’t.  In fact, not much flies at all that didn’t already fly in 1985. 

Star Trek said we’d unify the human race, achieve world peace.  Sure, we’re still a hundred years behind Star Trek, but it doesn’t really feel to me that we’re on track to hit that one, either.  That’s not the planetary vibe I’m picking up, dude.

The Terminator said the machines would rise, and then for some reason build other giant machines with robot motorcycles coming out of their feet to hunt us down – not a one.    

Mad Max said there’d be a nuclear war, and here I am with a totally useless wrist-mounted crossbow.   Did you know you can get pulled over for that?

 And George Orwell said that there’d be cameras everywhere and…

Well okay, George Orwell and Inspector Gadget.  But Orwell was warning us, and instead we’re all having a party about it.  We don’t want to live in a world where there aren’t cameras pointing at us all the time.  I always wondered, reading 1984, how would the evil, oppressive government get the cameras in our houses?  Now I see – we’ll buy them.

I am aware that the anthropomorphic dog from Inspector Gadget does not appear to have materialized, but I’m just going to give them that one.  It was hard to make a cartoon back then, for some reason, without a dog who wore clothes and drove cars.  They had to shake a moneymaker, you know, to get their prophetic message out there.  It was a means to an end.

Because the other thing that is coming, is cybernetics, and that’s what Inspector Gadget was, a cyborg.  It makes you wonder who Penny’s mom was, and why it was okay to drop her off with the weird, cyborg uncle for weeks at a time. 

We don’t know how close the government is to achieving work on the level of extendable robot arms, and a hat that has a helicopter folded up in it, but I’ve read some defense budget stuff, and you can bet your ass they’re working on it.

That’s all I got for you today, folks, my laptop reminds me of Inspector Gadget, and Nostradamus was on the grift.  This isn’t as easy as it looks, you know.


Posted by on March 8, 2011 in Future Tom Grab Bag


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3 responses to “The Nostradamus/Inspector Gadget Effect

  1. bex

    March 11, 2011 at 2:11 am

    i just.

    i’m stunned about how right you are…


    June 4, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    When I was a little kid and playing, I used to carry a book around with sometimes, pretending it was a computer like Penny’s, wishing it really was and actually could do all those cool things.  I got my first laptop in 2001 and it wasn’t long before the realization hit me that I finally had Penny’s book.  It blew my mind and made me really happy.  I’ve made the comparison to people over and over again since then, but their minds seem to be less blown by it.  Pity.

  3. sabby

    February 5, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    Reblogged this on The Snarky Cupcake and commented:
    I just wanted to post this on my blog because for Christmas I got a Kindle Fire and I’ve been using it for reading (duh) but then I’ve also downloaded Evernote and the drawing ap thingy on it and I was thinking how cool it was that it TOTALLY looked like a real book. Especially with my nifty purple case.
    And then I was like, “Holy Crap! I wanted one of these back when I used to watch Inspector Gadget, cuz Penny had one and it was the coolest thing ever!”
    The closest I ever got to it was drawing all the buttons and knobs on a sketchbook.
    It’s just so weird how this stuff works out.


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