I have seen the future



Ken Olisa

It is undeniably true that if the future of our industry exists anywhere, it is concentrated on the other side of the Atlantic....



Ken Olisa

It is undeniably true that if the future of our industry exists anywhere, it is concentrated on the other side of the Atlantic. The Americans possess one card that trumps our ace every time - their undeniable economic superiority. They earn more than we do and things cost a lot less over there.

My family and I had the opportunity to observe this microeconomic phenomenon at first hand when we took our summer holidays in the USA this year, Cape Cod to be precise.

A trip to the local Staples confirmed that despite its British-isms, Cape Cod is still definitely America at heart. Staples, is the warehouse retail equivalent of the school stationery cupboard. Laid out from floor to ceiling are vast quantities of every imaginable item. What's exciting though is the sheer volume coupled with the ridiculously low prices.

In a world where you can buy 24 A4 pads for $1.50, or 100 HB pencils for $2.99, it becomes clear that there are different economic forces at work than at home.

The realisation that those forces will remain impenetrable to the layman came in Staples. No, we didn't spend our hols in Staples but it rained a lot and we had to divert our children away from the 24-hour Jerry Springer channel that drew them like moths to the flame whenever we were indoors.

But I digress, back to Staples - there, close to the checkout was the most incredible bargain I have ever seen.

"L&H VOICE RECOGNITION SOFTWARE - FREE" screamed the card.

I have always had a fascination with speech recognition but this offer looked too good to be true. It wasn't. Buy the product for $50 and with it comes a, wait for it, $50 mail-in rebate. Buy the software, send in the postage-paid card and hey presto! A check for $50 turns up.

In a week when Altavista has been rumbled about its so-called "free service" and freeserve.com has yet to live up to its name, once again the Americans are the ones to teach us a lesson.

Cape Cod has a lot going for it as a holiday location , not least because it gives one the opportunity to observe the Americans at play in a seriously retro-British environment. For example, the main road was the "King's Highway" until it was supplanted by the more appropriately republican "Route 6". Small Inns (eighteenth century English pubs) abound with names like "The King's Arms" or "The Royal Oak". Confirmation that The Empire is not a distant memory is provided by the town names like Harwich, Weymouth and Wareham.

Now I'm old enough to remember when nutty professors from Oxbridge traveled the country armed with primitive speech recognition computers that, on a good day, could just about spot 'Hello' spoken slowly, clearly and, of course, only in an Oxbridge accent.

- we bought vital items like rainbow coloured 'While you were out' pads and a really useful battery powered device for extracting staples - no relation - from paper

To paraphrase the IT industry visionary, Daniel Burrus, the future is easy to predict as it is already here; if somewhat poorly distributed.

I find myself hoping that the future will be redistributed before too long.

If you've never been there I can recommend it - beautiful sandy beaches, pleasant golf courses, lots of tennis courts and hundreds of antique shops. All set out on a wooded outcrop left behind when the last glacier in those parts melted.

The Royal Family, Cotswolds, Aristocracy, and eating with your mouth closed are all constructs designed to maintain a satisfactory aloofness

And yes, there was a cinema, but there is a limit to how many times you can watch Nutty Professor II - the only film on offer - and that limit is one.

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