Weird Concept

It’s a weird concept. But it’s good fun nevertheless. It’s the story of surviving a perilous future journey to Proxima Centauri, told through the lens of the classic 1974 videogame Oregon Trail.
You might remember Oregon Trail, most likely the 1985 version which appeared on the Apple II and thus in school computer labs around the country. Basically, the game makes you gamble on what challenges you expect to face, and somehow you have to pick the right equipment to survive those challenges. But it’s pernicious: take extra food, and the wagon could throw a wheel, stranding the expedition. Take extra tools and parts, and a snowstorm could trap everyone and the expedition will starve. Oregan Trail is a game of second-guessing fate. And like the original, our version is a way to make light of what will almost definitely be the hardest, most dangerous journey humans will ever take – the trip to another star. But it also reminds us that yesterday’s perilous journeys are today no more challenging than an obsolete videogame. Oregan Trail was created to remind US schoolkids in the `70s and `80s that a trip that takes them a few hours on the interstate freeway system, was once an epic odyssey where people died. Indeed this has been the human story down through history.

A dangerous twoweek overland journey across Europe beset by bandits or barbarians on all sides, can now be done in a few hours in a comfortable train. The sea crossing from England to Scandinavia once left crews of longboats at the mercy of wind and wave, but now the descendants of those Vikings get drunk on an air-conditioned ferry. And emigrating to Australia from the old country once took months. Now it takes less than two days (or at least, the travel part does). Every journey that humans once thought arduous or – in the case of crossing the Atlantic or Pacific – impossible, has since become everyday. We take our ability to move around the planet for granted. If money is no object, you can leave from Sydney or Melbourne today, right now, and get to nearly anywhere else on the planet, an even the most remote corners, in less than a week. Yes, each increasingly epic journey has required increasingly complex technology to undertake. From longships to square-rigged clippers, to coal-fired ocean liners, to island hopping flying boats, to airliners making several stopovers, to today’s long-haul mega jets, tech has been our constant – and necessary – travelling companion. But we’ve made it happen, over and over. Next step is to bring opposite sides of the planet even closer via sub-orbital flights. Go up really high, let the planet rotate underneath, come back down again. Sydney to London in four hours, maybe even less, one day. Virgin Galactic believes in this vision (flight testing of SpaceShipTwo resumed this month, see p.32) and so do others. Okay, so travelling to another star is many orders of magnitude more difficult than jumping on a 737 to Bali. It will require scientific breakthroughs yet to be made. It may even require a whole new understanding of how the universe works, to get around that pesky light speed limit (because I for one don’t want to sit in a tin can for four years). But I do believe that one day, hopefully centuries rather than millennia in the future, there will be a real videogame that trivialises the arduous and life-threatening journey to another star.

They looked unashamedly techno, with square displays, prominent cameras, weird custom bands and other such wonkery. The slow uptake of these expensive, do-little early devices was hardly surprising but companies like Samsung, Motorola and others remain determined that smartwatches WILL be a thing. A big thing. But smartwatches stayed nerdy, and it took Huawei’s simply-named Watch to show that what the market really wanted was a smartwatch the looked, well, just like a wat Now all the major manufacturers – with t exception of Apple – ar cyber-wristbands an taking inspiration true old school Samsung’s smartwatch, in two flavo the Fronti adds options or mess wearing gloves (or a second button provides a more flexibility as a “back” options when navigating menus. There’s a full 360×360 touch screen, which still does most of the work.