A Vision of the Future?
A dream of some future event which subsequently takes place is a not too uncommon experience and usually there is quite a reasonable explanation. The events foreseen in the dream are often a logical consequence of information which was available to us at the time of the dream.
Either it was something about which we were concerned and had been consciously pondering the possible outcome, or it was something of no personal concern which we may have been considering at a subconscious level.
Over a period of 28 years I have had a recurring dream of the future, which I can always recall afterwards in vivid detail, and for which I can provide no logical explanation. In this dream I reason about what I am seeing, and appear to have freedom to investigate at will what I have seen. What I find when I investigate is so unexpected that the divergence between my expectations and what I find becomes more and more disturbing, until I reach the thought that this is not reality, and wake up in a very disturbed state. Probably this sudden awakening is the reason for the vivid recall.
That also is quite a common experience but it is the content of this dream. It's recurrence, at intervals of several years, in which it always traces exactly the same sequence, but allows me to follow a new investigation, reasoned from the ending of the previous experience which is intriguing.
The first occurence of this dream sequence was in the late nineteen forties. Always the start is the same; I am floating in space and before me is a blue green planet marbled in white. I am quite certain that this planet is earth, and in the first experience I found this certainty difficult to reconcile with the fact that what I saw had no correspondence with my then ideas of what our planet looked like from outside. (No one had seen pictures of earth from space then).
I move closer. I must see the shape of the continents that will show if this alien world is indeed earth. There they are, and again it doesn't correspond to what I expected. The main continental land masses are right but their outlines are wrong. I close in on the part I know best - Europe. After the initial shock and much checking and re-checking of geographical features I am forced to accept that it is Europe but not the Europe I know from the atlas. The coast lines are radically different in places. Norway looks alright but a substantial fraction of the British Isles has gone, some of it is just a cluster of small islands. Around the remainder of Europe there are huge bites out of the coast line.
The thought came into my mind that I was looking at the aftermath of a war fought with weapons of such incredible power that they can tear fifty mile chunks out of a continent and I wake in a cold sweat.
That last thought was probably prompted by the international situation at the time, with nuclear weapon tests almost every month and the Berlin blockade at it's height. Thinking about it afterwards in a fully woken state, I concluded that no conceivable weapon could re-landscape a whole continent, and if such a weapon were developed there would be no advantage gained by using it. Pure fantasy, the stuff of dreams I decided.
The dream recurred at intervals of several years, and moved on a little each time. The first colour pictures of earth from space were quite a shock. I had seen that planet twenty years before and several times since, always like the pictures - well almost - because what my dream shows has subtle differences.
The last visit to this puzzling world of the future, for that is how I always think of it, was in October 1983. The opening sequences are now very familiar and quite acceptable. The alteration to the shape of the coast lines is no longer a mystery. A quick return to a vantage point a few thousand miles into space verifies that both North and South Polar ice caps are missing. The sea has risen perhaps a hundred feet or more and East Anglia, the Netherlands and some quite significant bits round the edge of Europe are under water.
I descend and start to scan the surface from a few miles up. It doesn't correspond to the familiar view from an aircraft. There is no sign of agricultural activity - no field or crop patterns. I start to look for the big cities, nothing. London will be under water though the taller buildings should be sticking out, but alas nothing is to be seen. Perhaps a long time has passed and they have all crumbled into the sea? I look for Birmingham. A series of low rounded hills rising from the Midland Plain stands in the right spot but no city, no ruins, no rubble, just gently rounded green hills. I increase altitude and look for tell tale geometrical shading in the vegetation - nothing, not the least hint, and there is something very wrong with that vegetation, it's much too dense and uniform.
Europe looks much the same, no trace of the works of man can be seen anywhere.
I check. North America, East Coast, West Coast and around the Great Lakes. Nothing. Just the same unrelieved dense uniform vegetation - I believe it's vegetation - can't tell what kind from this altitude, but even if it's completely overgrown and the cities have crumbled into rubble, some traces must show up even after a universal holocaust and many thousands of years.
What to check next? Look in the desert for Las Vegas? No! I need to know how much time has elapsed. Perhaps this is a million years from my time, or a million years before but I still feel certain that this is the future.
Let's take a look at the Mediteranian area from a high level. Can't see any changes in the relative positions of Europe and Africa so it's not a remote future, not more than a few thousand years. It can't be true. All traces that the human race ever existed appears to have been systematically wiped out from the face of the earth. I can conceive of no disaster, natural or man-made, that wouldn't at least leave a rubble heap on the site of one city. Once more the dream had reached the point where I cannot accept that what I see is possible and I wake with the usual vivid total recall.
The dream comes at intervals of several years without any pattern that I can discern, when it reaches the point when disbelief last terminated it, it continues and appears consistent. I wonder if I will ever get another episode? Perhaps I might get to the surface and find out what kind of vegetation is there.
Autumn's Golden Days
by Bill Williams
Some observations on the first six months of retirement.
Having made long and careful preparations for retirement I had some preconceptions of how it should be. In some cases reality has proven somewhat different.
I expected that it would take a few weeks before it no longer seemed like a longer than usual holiday. I was very surprised then when within a week stopping to think back on 40 years at Lucas, it was almost as if that part of my life had happened to someone else. Clearly at a subconscious level I accepted that part of my life was finished and my new life was mentally in a separate compartment.
There were lots of jobs I had been putting off until I had time. I made a list and during the last year at work drew up plans and purchased materials. Very few of the jobs I was going to get out of the way in the first month have yet to be tackled. It is of no consequence I have a whole life time, however long that may be.
On the first day of retirement some friends rang up. Had I been on holiday I would have said "Sorry not next week I have a job in the house I have to get finished before I go back to work". Instead since visitors and redecorating do not mix I just said "Yes do come", and deferred the job for a week. In the event the priority re-decorating job which was five years overdue finally had its first phase completed in a highly leisurely manner after eight weeks and the second phase (the hall) still awaits the day when I would rather do that than something else. I soon realised that I was strongly addicted to daylight (a reaction to York Road?) so I told myself �wait until you can't get outside�. I'm now thinking I should wait until we get some better weather.
You may think from what I have said that I have a very lazy time; not so! My days have all been very full doing just what whatever I wanted to do. As an example for many years I have been slightly dissatisfied with certain aspects of my garden pool and none of the palliatives I considered had much appeal. The alternative of demolition and reconstruction involved breaking up and removing about two tons of concrete and many hours of hard labour. Since there were lots more important things to do, I chose to do nothing.
Sitting on my presentation seat for a ten minute break from lawn mowing at the beginning of November I got to picturing what a rebuilt pool could look like but there was all that concrete. I think I really wanted an excuse to prolong my out door activities. Just to convince myself that the task was too time consuming to contemplate I took a 141b sledge hammer and a 4ft 5in crow bar and spent 10 strenuous minutes breaking off the first piece of concrete for the least laborious of the possible alterative modifications.
The total demolition and rebuilding took all the fine daylight hours of November and some wet ones. The whole project was quite unpremeditated but very satisfying. Once started the job took on a momentum of its own. The total material costs were about �10.00, one of the cheapest and most satisfying months occupation I can remember. This was what retirement was for!
December weather and an attack of vertigo put an end to outdoor activities and after a few days of indecision I just drifted into a bit of electronic circuit design for my radio hobbies. Having no time limit I have been able to do what all engineers want to do; when you have made it more than good enough for the job you can always see a better, more simpler or more satisfyingly ingenious way to do it so you start again. I have developed two simple pieces of circuitry and no one can imagine my pleasure in achieving superb circuit performance with elegantly simple circuitry. Of course if you valued the time taken you could never justify if but that's not a consideration. It is just like 30 years ago when weekends were an inconvenience which got in the way of getting back to the lab to try out another new idea, before commercial reality and delivery schedules intruded into lab activities.
Some departures from the preconceived ideas of retirement include:- car mileage has gone up and I walk less, (so much to do I haven't time to walk), I read less and watch less television. (I have more interesting things to do and I am no longer too tired to do anything else in the evenings.)
I thought that Lucas had a secondary function as a sort of social club and I might feel cut off from human contact but that has not happened, I still have contact with many friends from Lucas.
My basic financial outgoings are less than I expected. Not going to work saves at least �100.00 per month which I can spend on something else.
I have come to a great appreciation of the garden seat (a place to sit and think or just sit.) With the exception of the arms it has not got a single horizontal surface and because it is made of a naturally oily wood it is dry 10 minutes after rain. The arms which are both flat and horizontal are exactly right to stand a coffee mug or half pint tankard on, I think the man who designed it intended it just like that.
There are lots of other things I have done. Most quite unplanned, all very enjoyable. I have acquired a degree of tranquility and a better sense of proportion about some things. I can truly say that so far, retirement is every bit as good as I expected and I have no regrets.
by Bill Williams
If the events in this story had any resemblance to the situation currently developing in any electronics plant it would be very alarming.
At the pip - pip - pip of the time signal old Bill stood up, grasped the worn handle of his battered old brief case and strode briskly towards the rear exit. He had been eagerly awaiting this moment since about noon when a trip to the food vending machine in the canteen had afforded a glimpse of the world outside. It was a fine sunny late Autumn day and being a Friday it was early finishing time.
"If I get away dead on 3.30 I will have time to dig a bit of ground and plant some broad beans before the light goes," he had decided.
Long, long ago work had been an all absorbing interest and he would carry it's problems around in his head working away at them as inspiration came at all hours of the night and day. Now there was just a place of work where he attended for 39 hours a week. Of the problems presented he considered only the most interesting or the most urgent. Increasingly of recent years it had been only the most urgent and the last remnants of interest had faded.
Attendance at work was only a deeply ingrained habit, promptly at finishing time he wiped every vestige of it's problems from his mind as he walked towards the exit and that other world of his real interests. Next morning the papers on his desk would remind him of the tasks which inspired so little interest.
As he passed a landscape picture calendar hanging on one of the roof support columns a red-ringed date caught his eye. He remembered ringing that date while leafing through the calendar soon after it arrived in the previous December.
A sudden shock stopped him dead in his tracks and caused him to check the calendar on his wrist watch. The date ringed in red was seven days past and it was his retirement date!
Ten months before when he had ringed it in red it seemed so far away that he could not bear to contemplate so many days and he had submerged himself in the mind numbing routine not daring to make a note of the remaining days in case it turned out to be longer than he expected.
"Forget it," he had thought, "it will come eventually. You've survived over forty years you can take a few hundred more days."
He had erased that date from his mind all too well, with no collection and presentation there had been nothing to remind him although, come to think of it, his salary statement which was due hadn't arrived.
"I suppose you don't get them any more when you retire," he thought wearily.
"Oh well! That�s a week of retirement gone. Must make the most of what's left," he said to himself as he resumed his passage to the world beyond work.
At the exit he slid his magnetic-encoded security pass into the lock and the bolts clicked open. The same oversight that had forgotten to cancel his security clearance and admitted him to the building for the past week mercifully let him out.
"Could have been imprisoned for life!" he thought. The signal from the exit lock to the computer which had long ago usurped all managerial functions informed of his final departure and it functioned in accordance with it's unvarying program. At the other end of the building a printer started up �
Summary of Standard Man Hours for Week Ending
- Standard man hours predicted = 0
- Standard man hours achieved = 39
- Percentage of standard man hours achieved =
It never printed that last figure; it couldn't. The result required division by zero. What ever the meaning the percentage was huge, far far beyond it's vast capacity to evaluate. Indeterminate or not it must be a record and the program specified that all record achievements should be the subject of a managerial statement.
A second printer started up.
"This week we achieved an all time record percentage standard man hours. All employees are to be congratulated. Keep up the good work," it printed.
On an adjacent desk a teleprinter was receiving a message.
"Require urgent explanation of non delivery of last years scheduled units," it said.
No one would ever read any of the three messages. Old Bill had finally gone.
Our Y.T.S. typist Beverley, while attempting to decipher an engineering report was heard to remark "You can't have breadboard in the middle of a sentence, it's not a proper word".
In the days before ready sliced bread, it was a common piece of kitchen equipment, but what had it to do with electronics?
The earliest electronic parts were packaged in individual wooden boxes with ebonite panels and brass terminals. Decade boxes have remained in this form right up to the present day.
Circuits were made by wiring the boxes together on the bench. If it was required to retain a particular circuit for a prolonged period, the boxes were screwed to a wooden board so that the assembly could be moved about in one piece without having to disconnect all the boxes.
A suitable board of about the right size, with a smooth finish, easily obtainable from any hardware shop for a few pence was a bread board. Any prototype circuit of sufficient promise to receive this treatment was said to have been "breadboarded".
The author has seen bread boards superceded by metal box chassis and in turn these replaced by Vero board.
Semi-permanent prototype circuits are still called "breadboards". Probably very few engineers knew why, but now they do!