Slightly Off Center

Slightly Off Center

By Dennis Hinkamp

Can’t miss: “Next big things” that we didn’t really need.
—by Dennis Hinkamp

Other than the 15%-off breakfast specials, one of the few benefits of aging is perspective. Just like you can’t appreciate the size of a Bullmastiff without having a Chihuahua sitting next to it, you can’t judge the winners without considering the losers. Here’s some perspective to contemplate before you dump all your Bitcoins into a new start-up.

Quadraphonic sound: How could this not be a winner? It was twice as good as stereo and had a very cool-sounding name. I think I dropped mine off at Deseret Industries about 1988 because I couldn’t even sell it for $10 back then. In perspective, it was actually a precursor to what we now claim is “surround sound.” Quadra­phonic went the way of the 8-track tape, which nobody thought was a good idea even at the onset. Sure, let’s design something that cuts songs in half and jams if you leave it in the car overnight.

The Concord and supersonic travel: In a time-obsessed world, how could that not work? Sonic booms are bad? Really? When we have car sound systems that are more annoying at every stoplight, even in Logan? I had a Concord trip to Paris on my bucket list 30 years ago. I was saving up for either that or a bed & breakfast on the Moon. I wanted to go from New York to Paris in 40 minutes without having to be an astronaut. Now, nobody is going to the moon and air travel has regressed to a slightly faster version of Greyhound Bus accommodations.

Waterbeds: Every real hippie and poseur hippie had one of these. They were even endorsed by shill doctors extolling their calming and spinal-rejuvenating effects. Earth mothers claimed they were like being in the womb again. Okay, that last thing is just creepy. But they were quite comfortable. The downside was they could flood your room and anyone who lived under you. Algae and possibly unknown bacteria could breed inside them and rise up to bite your butt. All these problems were solvable. You could get bonus points for claiming your bed as an emergency water supply and fire extinguisher. In retrospect, if we all still had waterbeds and spread the gospel of floatation sleeping, we could have rid the world of bed bugs.

Sailboards: Even right here in landlocked Logan, the dream of zipping across the E.coli-infested waters of Hyrum Dam was irresistible. All the roof-rack manufacturers were designing something that worked for skis in the winter and sailboards in the summer. The valley was rife with Subarus burdened down with skis and sailboards poised for that perfect spring day when you could do both. Then sailboards disappeared faster than rusting Ford Pintos. They must all be about 10 feet down in the landfill because you can’t even find them in the free section of Craigslist.

Roomba: Okay, their time is not over yet, but other than a few cute videos of cats surfing them, their clock is ticking. Who really wants a semi-sentient giant hockey puck in charge of your residential hygiene? And for the same price you could employ needy liberal arts majors to do the same job with less chance of a violent, though eloquent, uprising.

Dennis Hinkamp cannot be an anachronism because he was never popular in the first place.

This article was originally published on April 1, 2016.