Thanks for your kind introduction.
Thanks also for the birthday wishes. Can you believe it: 137 years old, yesterday. I don’t feel a day over 40!
It’s also really hard to credit that it has been exactly 50 years since we unveiled our first IITD: the Instantaneous Interstellar Transport Device.
When we started, the team and I had a particular vision: we wanted our work to set the foundation for a true interstellar civ.
We aspired to a civ where humans could stride across the stars as easily as they currently stride across suburbs; we would live on Earth, work on Rigel V and—that very same night—take our partners to a romantic dinner on the third moon of Betelgeuse IX.
We wanted nothing to do with cumbersome, slow spaceships. They make great spectacle for the video fiction streams but you simply can’t build a proper civilisation with them. At best you can build a loose federation of more-or-less compatible civs, but not the kind of thing that our vision demanded of us.
We achieved our vision, too.
For a while.
For a regrettably short while.
Those of you who were around during the very early days may recall our first departure point in Brisbane: a tin shed with a bit of air-conditioning and an IITD generator out the back. When we opened our first major departure point in London, we went slightly more up-market and built a proper building near the Heathrow hypersonic terminal. Nothing too fancy; after all—and these are key aspects—the actual flick takes only about 20ms and requires little more power than that given by an AAA battery.
Our new civ started heading for the stars and our fledgling business boomed at an astounding rate. The richest, most famous and most powerful people on the planet clamoured to be associated with us, so we did what all nouveau-riche naive nerds dream of doing: we appointed a board and ‘grew’ a corporation to make the most of That Which We Had Wrought.
There is not a man or woman among us that doesn’t bitterly regret starting down that slippery slope. Hindsight is such a wonderful thing.
Our vision began to fade away as soon as the ink on the paperwork was dry.
The board had absolutely no interest in remaking the very civ that had already given them wealth, fame and power. They found themselves confused by the new-fangled, ill-understood—and, to them, appallingly low-profit-margin—transportation business they had become involved in. Rather than acting as the stewards of the new interstellar civ of which we had dreamed, they focussed their efforts and intellects on passively-aggressively preserving their comfortable, non-threatening status-quo.
A plain old departure point is as exciting as a doorway; it’s about as profitable as one, too. That hasn’t fazed the board of course: by inclination and training they have become adept at squeezing blood from stones, at making money from nothing. Modern departure points have become huge concourses; grand edifices to match the grand egos of the board members. Today’s departure points have accreted shops and cafes, restaurants and hotels, showers and gyms. In our original dreams a departure point was a plain necessity…a simple tool, a mere waystation. To the board, the departure point itself is the major profit centre of the corporation and everything else is a minor annoyance.
Everyone is painfully aware that you can no longer simply rock up to a departure point and flick away. The board has made it necessary for you to—to quote from recent advertising—“Enjoy The Experience To The Full” before departure. To optimize the profits from what they see as their true business they have arranged to keep you shopping, buying, eating, sleeping and sweating. It’s now almost impossible to get out of the transit lounge at Aldebaran III without a miniature robo-synth pet mega-lizard for the kids tucked under your arm. The board—I’m looking at you, Sir Dick Bransa, William Fences, Ruprecht Murdoo—and their minions have made billions and accumulated a lot of political mileage from all this artificially imposed ‘fluff.’
And you know how “Big G”-government has also got in on the act. Every traveller is now the unfortunate target of a plethora of absurd confected regulations designed to remind you that your government is “there for you.” Before and after each flick, you are now forced to run the gauntlet of border checks, security checks, health checks, tax checks, and so on.
Health checks…how absurd! If a planet even looks nasty we just don’t bother to go there; there are plenty of nice alternatives “out there.” In any case, the science is well-and-truly in: it is strictly impossible for any ET’s DNA to mess with ours. Humans have the only 2-strand genetic encoding mechanism we have ever found. You might get a sniffle from a Rigellian star-stone but that’s due to an allergy, not a rabid civ-destroying pathogen. It would be more dangerous for many people to visit a peanut farm in Kingaroy than to go to Vega XII.
And don’t get me started on the Unions!
The end result of all this is that a 20ms flick costing a few cents has been turned into a 16-hour ceremony designed to preserve the status-quo and extract the maximum possible amount of money from your pockets.
Imagine if you had to endure all the absurdities that I have mentioned simply to travel between suburbs: it would plainly be impossible for any civ to flourish. Our original vision for a true interstellar civ has now been well and truly buried…perverted by the very organisation that we set up to bring it about and by the uncountable number of leeches and hangers-on that have jumped on the back of our work.
That slippery slope we started on many years ago has become a straight drop into infinity.
Still the facts remain: a flick only takes 20ms and requires only a trivial amount of power.
Now here’s the good part: the old team hasn’t been on holiday for past 50 years. We’ve kept our shame and disgust buried and our original dream alive. It is entirely fitting to use this occasion to let the world know just what we have all been up to.
While we have been talking, the team has been unveiling our next-generation device on every stella-web node on every planet: you can now find out everything about the new Personal IITD via the locator-symbol ‘OPEN-PITTD.’
I have one here. It’s really nothing remarkable to look at: it’s just a simple hand-held device.
So what does it do?
Well…this…I am now a few metres back from my original position. Am I still in frame? Good! And…this…back to my original mark.
It does exactly what the name suggests: it is a personal IITD. We expect them to be integrated into personal digisstants Real Soon Now. No more need for fixed departure points means that no longer do we have to tolerate all the crap that has been foisted on us for these past 50 years.
This time, we have learned our lesson. We have had a plethora of lawyers working to ensure that no-one—especially the IITD corporation—can get anywhere near to perverting our work. The PITTD is completely unencumbered, copyright-free, open hardware with open software and a very strict validation suite designed to prevent the sort of egregious interference that we have suffered up to now.
We’ll be selling prefab devices on-web within the hour but the plans that are now available should allow anyone to print a device for a few tens of dollars.
Now…let’s all get working on that 50 year-old vision for our civ, shall we?