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Yesterday's Vision of Tomorrow: Cracking Open a Time Capsule from 1999

A voice from yesteryear calls out through the decade — via his iBook with a 56k modem on Al Gore's series of tubes — to see how far we've come.

Photographs: Getty Images (AIBO, sock puppet, iMac, e-book, Gore, Sega console) ; Alamy (Zip disk)

Photographs: Getty Images (AIBO, sock puppet, iMac, e-book, Gore, Sega console) ; Alamy (Zip disk)

December 31, 1999, 11:59 p.m.

Hello, people of 2010, and congratulations on finding this time capsule!

I'm writing this chronicle of my era to the sweet clackety-clack of the keyboard on my state-of-the-art Apple iBook. Can you imagine? 366 MHz? This thing's faster than a jackrabbit on a date! And unlike the iMac, it's not like I put a VW Beetle on my desk. I only hope I'm able to reboot after midnight.

You probably think the folks back in 1999 were a bunch of clods communicating through a series of interconnected tubes. Not true. We prefer to be called e-clods or cyberclods. As you can see, we used a compact disc loaded with free hours of online access to connect via USRobotics 56k modems. Don't let that name fool you: Our robots didn't just screech at each other over the phone, plotting to take over what they called EarthLink. They were fun too. Here, AIBO! Shoot. Looks like my robot dog got stuck in a corner again. Hopefully by now, you've tamed your robots. Beats the alternative!

This age has been as stable as Jennifer Aniston's relationship history. Prosperous too. Does your civilization have a benevolent sock-puppet ruler who sends you 40-pound bags of dog food, insisting you don't have to pay? The Internet is such a cash cow. I worry that Al Gore isn't going to let us use it rent-free when he takes over next year.

I think you'll remember this as a technological golden age. My 64 MB MP3 player can hold 20 songs. That's like two CDs! And Sega Dreamcast version 1?! I can't even imagine the cool console games you're playing on the SG10 by now. It's like we're living in The Matrix — except in a good way. Are you living in the Matrix sequel? I hear it'll be better than the original.

But the people of 1999 aren't perfect: We sometimes fall victim to fads. Can you believe that some "innovators" think we'll read electronic books? And that 1 million people hang out on a "social network" called SixDegrees.com? Hey, I like Kevin Bacon, but let's save networking for sharing music on Napster. Damn, Shawn Fanning is impressive. I bet he's running Enron by now.

I can't wait to see what's next. I preordered the Chrysler PT Cruiser, which signals a new golden age for the Big Three. You're probably driving around in hybrid cars that run on half potatoes, half grain; I can't imagine you're eating that poison. Thanks to Dr. Atkins, we figured that out before everyone died. If only someone would invent a car that runs on Krispy Kremes, right?

Godspeed, people of the new millennium, and, of course, best wishes for the future of mankind. Or have you forsaken God for L. Ron's aliens? Just kidding. The day America goes Scientologist is the day we elect a black president.

Party like it's 2009!

Barry Dressure
CEO

P.S. You'll find a backup copy of this letter on the included 100 MB Zip disk. Just pop it in your drive!

RooftopComedy records live comedy every night of the year, with a global network of comedians satirizing everything from the boardroom to the bathroom.

[Image: Flickr user Las-initially]

A version of this article appeared in the December/January 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine.