19th Century Day
On 2.2.22, this guy, who was born in ’61, turned 61. (I’m not sure, but this may make me the antichrist.)
That’s 22,314 days. 22,314 days before that it was New Years Eve, 1899, and people were living the final moments of the 19th century.
As my birthday approached, I got to thinking. It’s probably common enough, once you reach a certain age, to reflect on all that has happened in the world during your lifetime. Something made me ask the next question: what about the 61 years before that? Take my birthday as the center-point, and compare the span before with what’s come after.
In 1899, William McKinley was president. Joe Biden would be born 21 years later. My great-grandfather Charlie was eight.
A majority of Americans lived in rural areas. 44,628 days later, there are very real questions about whether the damage we’ve done to the environment is fixable.
Indoor plumbing, telephones, and cars were rare. Only the well-off could afford an automobile, for instance, and the manufacturer options included a variety of household names:
Steam: Century, Grout, Kensington, Keystone, Kidder, Leach, Liquid Air, Locomobile, Mobile (pre Stanley Steamer), Strathmore, Victor Steam, Waltham Steam; electric: American Electric, Baker, Columbia (taxi), Electric Vehicle, Quinby, Stearns, US Automobile, Van Wagoner, Woods; internal-combustion: American, Black, Bramwell-Robinson, Gasmobile, Gurley, Holyoke, International, Media, Oakman-Hertel, Packard (Ohio), Quick, Sintz
Ford wouldn’t be incorporated until 1903.
Top tech innovations in the last decade of the 1800s included the escalator, the zipper, the Cinematographe, and the motor-driven vacuum cleaner. The zeppelin and the air conditioner were right around the corner. The first successful radio transmission happened in 1901. Now we engineer genomes and know a staggering amount about the first seconds after the Big Bang. Don’t get me started on quantum mechanics.
The Wright Brothers also weren’t due up until 1903. Last week, a Chinese spaceship crashed into the dark side of the moon.
On Dec. 31, 1899, the US was closer to the Civil War than World War II.
I was lead writer on a “future of cybersecurity” guide recently published by my company. In it, I talk about artificial intelligence, quantum computing and cryptography, deepfakes, a trillion-IoT device world, hackable pacemakers and insulin pumps, flying taxis, autonomous killbots, an “i-condom,” and lots more fun stuff to keep you up at night. Some of it is very near-future (as in, less than a decade). Some of it is already happening.
Why is this important?
Heck if I know. It probably isn’t. We all know things have changed, are changing, and will keep changing. We know the pace is vertigo-inducing, we know the scale is epochal, and we may feel it’s all we can do to hang on.
And we all have our own frames for thinking about it. For managing it.
This is mine, and it’s been a fascinating exercise in personal perspective.
In case you’re wondering, 22,314 days from today is April 9, 2083. It will be a Friday.
Happy birthday! The amount of change is crazy. I remember thinking about my grandparents growing up without indoor plumbing or electricity, and then only 60 years later they had a microwave oven.
I would go with my great-grandfather, when I was a kid, to see his sister. She still didn’t have indoor plumbing.