Last weekend, I found an old VHS of Steven Spielberg's film Back to the Future being sold off in the local library, along with the books, furniture, staff etc etc (thanks for nothing, Croydon Borough Council).
I watched it through with my children, for whom it needed a lot of explaining.
But what I noticed was how strange it was looking back to 1985, when it was made, which is almost 30 years ago. This is ironic because it is all about going back in time 30 years from then, to 1955.
Regular readers of this blog (if there are any) will know that I am pretty sceptical about the idea, pedalled by American business and IT gurus, that change is accelerating.
Last time I wrote about this, my friend and inspiring blogger Mark Pack pointed me in the direction of a presentation he did which took apart those repeated claims that the take up of new technology is getting faster and faster. In fact, as he says, the take-up of radio in the 1930s was far faster than mobile phones today.
Well, for me Back to the Future revisited was conformation of this. The changes between 1955 and 1985 portrayed by the film were vast compared to those between 1985 and 2013 - from the bizarre cars and music through to the drugstores and dresses. And attitudes.
I have been wondering whether this is a delusion on my part because I can remember 1985 so well (Reagan, miner's strike, Iran-Contra, second Brixton Riot, remember?). I became editor of Town & Country Planning that year. It is certainly true that I had not used a computer, still less a mobile phone by then. IT has changed the way I work, but not vastly (though I certainly wouldn't be blogging).
Yet think of the other technological change over the last 30 years. Boeing 747s, still flying now. Volkswagen Golfs. Minis, for goodness sake. The clothes of 1985 would hardly look out of place now (heavens, I'm still wearing some of them).
My home might then have had carpets rather than a wooden floor. The offices we worked at in 1985 now lie empty and rotting. The value of our homes is corroding our lives - yes, there has been change. It occurred to me as I watched that one reason why pretend that change is accelerating is that we can't bear to look too closely at the reason it is slowing down: our political culture has lost the ability to imagine, and our administrative machinery is seizing up.
That is why, if I was to find myself in the movie Back to the Future and transported back three decades, I don't believe I would be disorientated in 1985. I might not even realise I had gone back in time - until, perhaps, I tried to remember how to use a phone box.
Leicester before the King Power Stadium
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