Editor's Note: A portal to faraway lands

By Richard Wiens, The Triplicate January 05, 2012 03:47 pm

I came home from work Tuesday evening and walked into the middle of a miracle.

Laura was at the computer, peeking through a portal to Colorado Springs where our 7-month-old grandson was getting a bath, in real time, right then, cooing and splashing the water.

Not only could we see the sights and hear the sounds, when we piped up with grandparental input, Aiden looked up at us!

Later, dried off and sleeper-clad, he crawled across the living room carpet straight at us as we spouted encouragement. Just as it seemed he’d burst through the computer screen, his father pulled him back so the journey could be repeated until he raised a little hand to his face in an age-old gesture of tiredness.

Aiden graced us with smiles, scowls and bemusement. Who were those noisy talking heads? Through it all, we conversed with his parents as if we were all in the same room.

I realize I’m at no risk of laceration from the cutting edge of tech­nology. People have been video-conferencing, or “Sky­ping,” for years. Laura and I finally got around to picking up a $25 video camera and downloading the software to get in on the action — belatedly, as usual.

Heck, even Publisher Michele makes regular cyber-appointments to visit with her granddaughter in Salem. Now that Laura and I are empowered to practically transport ourselves, you can bet we’ll soon be making similar arrangements with our 2-year-old granddaughter Emma up in Spokane.

Aiden’s parents were good sports, carrying around their wireless laptop to keep him on-screen. But their amusement came from the reaction of the old folks out on the coast rather than from wonderment at this interaction through cyberspace. We were giddy; they were friendly and patient.

What is this World Wide Web coming to?

Long before the year 2001, there was the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey.” All kinds of futuristic gadgetry was at the astronauts’ avail, including the ability to video-converse with loved ones back on Earth. That seemed almost as unlikely as the rest of the cosmic storyline.

Sometimes I compartmentalize the past as pre- and post-Internet. During the “pre-” era, we couldn’t fire up a search engine every time a trivia question arose. In fact, newsrooms used to take calls from people trying to settle arguments over this or that, often with wagers at stake. Now they turn to the oracles of Google or Bing for instant enlightenment.

I feel fortunate to be the keeper of a lifespan long enough to bridge the eras. Maybe I’ll miss out on a holographic future in which 3-D interaction is possible with faraway grandchildren. But as an, ahem, older adult, I get to enjoy today’s technology with a childlike appreciation foreign to children of the digital age who take it all for granted.

My grandparents saw the advent of widespread indoor plumbing and automobile travel. I have no idea what my grandchildren will live to see, but it’s pretty dang cool that I can now peek in on them anytime I want from out here on the edge of the continent.

There’s no time like the present.