When I surfaced the boxes of Softalk magazines that now form the core of The Softalk Apple Project source material, one box contained some extra goodies. The most unusual item was a still-unseparated printout of the prologue to a cover story I'd written literally 'on the road' for Softalk. Not Kerouac-style on the road; my model was 1970's icon Charles Kuralt and his 'On the Road... with Charles Kuralt' stories on the CBS Sunday Morning television show. In Part 2 of this 'More to the Story' story, you'll learn just how hard it was to 'go mobile' in 1982. (Here's Part 2 if you want to know more about Softrek... before reading the rest of Part 1.)
The first part of our Softrek trip took us up through New England and upstate New York, down through Pennsylvania. After a restocking and a mobile office set-up tweak in Baltimore we headed out on the 'Smile Route' into the Southern states. Our primary objective was to cover the behind-the-scenes story of how Apple computers were being used at the 1982 Knoxville World's Fair.
After the Fair, we had an interview scheduled in a remote Kentucky state park with an executive of a Louisville bank that was creatively using a network of Apples in their branch offices. We started this post-Fair leg of the trip on familiar highways like you see in the writer's POV (point of view) photo on this page. After the meeting-interview in the state park, we made a bee-line from Kentucky back to Baltimore before our next leg of the Softrek adventure. What Bear and I experienced when we left 'the road' part of 'on the road' and went 'off the beaten track' is what I wrote about below.
Here (in 'simulated' dot-matrix printout style) is the unpublished prologue to the cover story "The World's Fair - Apples Behind the Scenes" (Vol. 3 No. 1. I've scanned this issue but it is not on-line yet. I will link to the published article soon.)
Had we taken a different route and means of transportation, the impact of having visited the Knoxville World's Fair would not have been so dramatic. Returning to Baltimore by way of the tiniest backroads through rural Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia, we were vividly reminded that the basis of the differentiation between the Haves and Have-Nots finds its clearest expression in Technology. There are no Apple computer retail stores in the towns along these roads. There is no need.
Technology is expressed in the tools developed as a means to the solution of the major problems which face the tool user. The folks in the remote reaches of Appalachia are struggling against the same problems which faced their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents; simple survival. Removed from the economic vitality of urban development, the opportunity for change is diminished.
Jobs are few and far between. Those few available are low-paying. Without surplus income there is no money for productivity-increasing tools. It takes all available time and energy to meet the demands of basic subsistence. These folks don't need microcomputers to catch up. They need electricity, running water, and sewage. They are trapped in a Technology Black Hole. The Energy Crisis is a matter of cutting enough wood for the coming winter.
As we drove through this technology-poor area, word processor cranked up on our in-car computer, I couldn't help feeling our vehicle was an exploratory probe dropped from a starship to investigate conditions on a newly discovered planet. We were strangers in a strange land. Science-fiction metaphors were appropriate to the moment.
The Knoxville World's Fair might just as well have been on a planet orbiting a star in the constellation of Orion, this destination being but a few time units away at warp speed. Yet we had arrived by way of fossil-fuel-burning internal combustion at speeds that rarely topped 50 miles an hour.
Having made this journey from Technology Wonderland to the barren Tool Desert, I cannot turn on my Apple computer without thinking how lucky I am to own such a fantastically powerful device. Our childhood frustrations of having been born too soon before science-fiction becomes reality are dissolved by the realization that we are living in a world unimagined to even the most forward thinking of just a generation before us.
Those of us with access to these state-of-the-art tools are given the opportunity to solve the problems that keep us from rising above the demands of simple survival. The challenge is to make these inevitable advancements without deepening the division between us Haves and the Have-Nots.
Such a challenge must be addressed by a marriage of scientific development and a sense of humanity, of concern for our collective welfare. And this is the context of this year's and the previous World's Fairs; celebrations of the human Can-Do attitude that has brought us from leaf-nibbling foragers to Tang-sucking spacewalkers in the blink of a Cosmic Eye.
From the moment that our cognitive abilities shifted the impact of environmental adaptation from genetic mutation of our bodies to the development of tools, the measure of our evolutionary progress has become a matter of assessing our available Technology. And just as a child stands tall to the edge of a closet door to mark the march toward adulthood, a World's Fair is that event where we stack up our technology for a benchmark of just how far we have come since our last growth-measuring ritual.
It is only appropriate that our Apple computers have taken a significant position in contributing to the heights of technological development which are being showcased at the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Knoxville… of all places for a World's Fair.
[[Actual article copy kicks in here.]]
What strikes me most now about this reflection is just how far we've come technologically, yet we've made far too little progress applying our technology to the great and growing challenge of income and opportunity inequality. I'm pretty sure that I self-edited this 'intro vamp' out and didn't submit it for the actual cover story that appeared in print. But I am glad I hung onto this printout to remind me just how far we've come, and just how far we still have to go to live up to our potential.
(Interested in what it took to 'go mobile' in 1982? Check out Part 2 of this 'More to the Story' story...)