Did we live in the best of times or the worst of times?

Born in 1951, I lived my early life in New Guinea. It was an incredible place for a child to

Born in 1951, I lived my early life in New Guinea. It was an incredible place for a child to be brought up, the wild life, the people, the jungle, and the mining town were one big adventure. But this is not about my life as such, more about the period.

These years were the beginnings of the technical age. At first it was the post war technology, the new age of light metal alloys, the development of the by-products of oil. Like detergents and resins that would develop into complete industries in themselves.

I was there when the first synthetic adhesives were developed. The marvel of Tarzan’s grip, contact adhesive, new synthetic surface materials that came from melamine and paper, like laminex. I watched, as fiberglass became an alternative for timber and then for steel and concrete.

Aviation was my favourite technology. Every new plane was a fascination to me, the lines the grace of its aerodynamic form. What a time to be living, from the DC3 to the super constellation and on to the first of the Jets.

Early in my life a Russian satellite was launched and as I walked home from a cub meeting one night in 1957 I looked up and saw a fast moving light silently flying over the town. There was no after dark aviation in New Guinea in those days, it was considered too dangerous. Racing home to tell Dad that there was a satellite going over met with some considerable doubt but to assure me it was probably a meteor he reluctantly came outside and looked where I pointed. Just in time to see it disappear behind the mountains he congratulated me for being observant and that night we both saw our first spacecraft. Not too long after a Russian pilot was sent into space, Uri Gagarin. This leap of aviation was a step so gigantic as to be almost unbelievable.

America was caught off guard and something called the space race began. I had no idea what it was all about but I lived for every new development, every new craft. In 1969 I was doing my apprenticeship as a carpenter, now in Sydney, when on the day Armstrong stepped on the moon we were sitting on a building site having lunch and listening to the whole thing on a little transistor radio. That day the almost full moon was clearly visible in Sydney in the middle of the day and as Armstrong descended the ladder we could see the moon and hear the broadcast because of a tiny electrical device that was to change the world forever.

The transistor and the exploration of space and the technology that came about because of it went on to power the economic development of the world from then to now.

I am not a great fan of the USA, but you must give credit where it is due. Nearly all the incredible technology that evolved from my early life to now was given to the world by the USA. Sometimes they made money from it and sometimes they did not. They gave to world some of the greatest advances in scientific discovery ever made. They gave the world Hubble and GPS. They gave the world Jet aircraft (with the help of others) that can fly hundreds of people to a destination and back again hundreds of times and do it with a safety margin never before seen.

We live now in a global community that was a series of cities and villages just 60 years ago. I saw the first movie, and the first colour movie. I saw the first TV and the first colour TV. I saw hand held movie cameras and video cameras, 35mm cameras and SLR cameras, and now digital cameras. I saw Sir Malcolm Campbell do 200 miles and hour on the Movietone News then his son do 300 miles an hour and suddenly cars were literally flying on the ground breaking the sound barrier.

I saw a spacecraft rendezvous with a comet billions of miles from earth, take samples of its tail and return them back to earth. I saw two small spacecraft launched on an endless journey over 30 years ago. They were supposed to last 10 years and yet today we are still picking up signals from their nuclear-powered radios so far away from earth that its like listening to a pin drop in London when you are standing in Brisbane.

I watched medicine advance from first aid to the beginnings of what will change life, as we know it.

I won’t go on about the wars and disasters, about the famines and diseases, except to say that despite the stupidity of a few people that still think that technology is a conspiracy designed to kill us all, it has in fact taken us to the edge of the greatest human adventure we will ever undertake. The exploration of our galaxy, the proof of the creation of the universe and life, and the elimination of disease.

What I would give to see what is yet to come.

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