Technology straight out of Science Fiction

Today I received an invitation to a readers advisory webinar titled "Why Read Science Fiction and How to Help Those Who Do".  I deleted it because a) I don't work with the public and b) I know why to read science fiction and people would like to find a way to prevent me from telling them what science fiction stories to read and which science fiction authors to read and and ...

Ahem.  While working away at my desk and thinking about what to write for this inaugural 2019 Tech Bits post, I thought "Where's my flying car?"  As an elementary school child in the mid-to-late 1960's I was thrilled by the promise that when I became an adult, I would be zipping around in my own private, flying car.  Just like on the Jetsons.

So ... where's my flying car?

Sadly (or perhaps happily for the local geese population) single-passenger electric aircraft are only just this year getting off the ground for consumers.  Pun intended.  And it is unlikely that I will win a lottery and have enough money to purchase one of these babies ($$$$$!!!!!)  But, to get back to the beginning of this ramble, flying cars are not the only technology that has manifested out of science fiction books, television programs and movies too, for that matter. 

What, don't you think your old flip-top phone bore a marked resemblance to the communicators on Start Trek?  Just sayin' ...

Courtesy of Electric Lit, here are the "8 pieces of Modern Technology That Science Fiction Predicted -- Or Invented.

1888: Credit Cards - Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward

1911: Video calling - Hugo Gernsback’s Ralph 124C 41+

1931: Mood-Enhancing Pills - Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World

1939: Surveillance - George Orwell’s 1984

1968: Tablets - Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

1969: Electric Cars - John Brunner’s Stand On Zanzibar

1972: Bionic Limbs - Martin Caidin’s Cyborg (aka TV’s The Six Million Dollar Man)

1984: The World Wide Web - William Gibson’s Neuromancer

The next time you are offering readers advisory, offer your patrons some titles that will allow them to glimpse the future.  Or help create it.

Other online articles 

13 Everyday Technologies That Were First Imagined In Science Fiction

10 Great Technologies We Got From Science Fiction

The 5 Coolest Technologies from Hard Science Fiction




It's a bird, it's a plane...

When you hear comments about robots taking someone’s job, most people think about a robot that sits on one place doing boring, repetitive tasks. Sure, there are some places that are working on more mobile robots, but they still tend to evoke images of something hauling a load of equipment or being a mobile camera. Enter the robotic stunt person.

No, it’s not a movie or book. Disney Imagineering is working on a robot stunt double, Stuntronics, that can be flung into the air, flip, pose, correct its rotation and center mass as needed and then nail the landing. Only these robots are going to be stunt doubles for other robots. The current idea is to use them to provide a stunt double for other animatronic figures, probably during one of the animatronic shows at the theme parks, to bring a sense of action to what is normally a figure that cannot move from where they sit or stand.

Looking at that last shot, I can't decide if it needs a cape or some hot rod red.

Fun Friday Quiz: Fact or Opinion?


In preparation for my post next week on fake news, here's a fun little 10-question quiz from the Pew Research Center - how well can you tell factual from opinion news statements?

Virtual Reality Kits Now Available

In my last TechBits post, I wrote about the new technology coming to SCLS libraries this year.  I am happy to report that the Virtual Reality kit is now available for libraries to check out!  Not only that, but we also purchased a 2nd kit!  This means more libraries and their patrons will be able to experience and play with VR.VR head set and controllers

These kits include the PS4 gaming console, VR headset, VR camera, controllers, and lots of cables.  All you will need is a projector or TV.  These kits are only to be checked out by SCLS librarians and for in-library use only.  

Check out the SCLS equipment page to check availability and reserve the kit.  Reservations will be handled on a first-come, first-serve basis and will be confirmed with an email from myself or Craig.  The kits can be checked out for up to 10 days, but only one kit at a time.

If you have any questions, you can leave them in the reservation form or send me an email at

The many joys of Internet Archive

Internet ArchiveI attended a fun NFLS webinar last week and was reminded all over again about Internet Archive, a "non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more." Have you been there?

Here's just a tiny sampling of what you might find:

Definitely worth a look around!

The Internet Archive's Wayback Machine also allows you to view more than 310 million webpages saved over time. Run into a dead link? Wonder what a webpage used to look like? Pop it into the Wayback Machine!

Here's what the SCLS webpage ( looked like back in 1997:
1997 SCLS website

SCLS libraries interested in looking up your page - try<3-letter delivery code> 
1997 Internet Search Engines




And here's the SCLS 1997 list of internet search engines:

(remember the days before Google?)




More articles and resources related to Internet Archive

Holiday Comment Contest!

Xbox KinectHere's an opportunity to win a gently used Xbox 360 Kinect with 3 games for your library! The game console comes with 4GB of memory, one Kinect sensor, two wireless controllers, all the connecting cables and is wifi capable. The games included are Kinect Sports (Boxing, Track & Field, Soccer, Table Tennis, Beach Volleyball and Championship Bowling), Dance Central 2, and Kinect Adventures (20 different heart-pounding adventures).

How can you enter? Simply leave us a comment and share one or more of the following:

  • your favorite post(s)
  • things you've learned about through TechBits that you're using at your library
  • topics you'd like us to cover
  • an area of technology you're interested in for your library

Official Rules: To enter, leave a comment on this post by Monday, January 1st. We will draw a winner at random. Provide your real e-mail address so we can get in touch with you later (it will not be posted on the Internet). Anyone can comment (we're very interested in the feedback!), but you must be an employee of a South Central Library System member library to win. The winner will be announced on the blog.

We'd like to make TechBits as interesting and relevant as we can, and every comment and bit of feedback helps! If you would like to comment, but not be entered to win, just say "comment only" in your comment.Xbox Kinect Games

Sneak Peek! New Technology Coming Soon!

Here at SCLS we have been testing some new and fun technology to lend out to our libraries.  The newest is Virtual Reality through Sony's PlayStation 4 gaming console.  If you are unfamiliar with virtual reality or VR, see Craig's post earlier this year for more about virtual reality v.s. augmented reality.  

VR with the PlayStation 4 is a great way to experience and test VR without the higher cost of an Oculus Rift. The system contains one PS4 console, a VR processing unit, the VR headset, camera, controllers and lots of cables.  We have downloaded a couple games to play and test out the VR world.  We also have made YouTube available to watch 360° videos.  Craig is hard at work "testing"

Here is a short description of the games available to play:

                 Discovery:  A simple version of Minecraft.  Use the controllers to build a world.

                Job Simulator:  A good game to get a feel for interacting with VR.  Simulating different places of occupation you can control the world around you with the controllers with no rules.

                VRog:  Become a frog and hop from lily pad to lily pad eating bugs.  This game is simple and only requires the headset to use.

                Tiny Trax: Using the controller you race tiny cars around different tracks.  Think of it as hot wheels with a birds-eye view.

                Carnival Games VR:  Play classic carnival games to earn tickets for prizes!

The VR kit is currently being tested at one of our system's libraries, but will be available for libraries to check out in the beginning of 2018!  This kit would be an awesome program to offer to teens or adults but not small children.  Check the SCLS equipment page early next year to see if the VR kit is available and to schedule a time to let your patrons experience VR. 

Instagram for libraries

InstagramInstagram is a popular smartphone app for sharing photos and videos. LifeWire describes it as being "like a simplified version of Facebook, with an emphasis on mobile use and visual sharing. Just like other social networks, you can interact with other users on Instagram by following them, being followed by them, commenting, liking, tagging and private messaging. You can even save the photos you see on Instagram."

Want to learn more about how to use it? Take a peek at the tutorial.

Considering Instagram for your library? Already on Instagram but curious what other libraries are doing? Here are some links to get you thinking!

Amazon for photos?

Are you like me and tend to take a lot of pictures of your cats and dogs with your cell phone?  My phone alerted me the other day that I was running out of space, so naturally I assumed I had a lot of pictures.  7 GBs of just pictures! (Most of them of my cats and dogs)  So I went looking for a backup solution.  I backup my pictures on a hard drive at home, but I wanted a second way to back up so that I can remove some from my actual phone but still view them if needed.  Cloud storage was the answer I was looking for. 

After doing a basic google search I found out that Amazon offers cloud storage similar to Dropbox and Google drive called Amazon Drive.  However, if you are an Amazon Prime member (which if you aren’t and order as much as I do, you’re missing out) you can get a sweet deal. 

Having a prime membership means you can store 10 GBs of videos and files with them and unlimited storage for photos.  That’s a lot of cat pictures.  That is a great deal for myself since I already have Amazon Prime anyways.  If 10 GB for videos and files isn’t enough space, you can purchase the unlimited storage plan for $59.99 a year.

That's a lot of cat pictures...
My Amazon Drive details

There are a couple apps to know about when beginning this process.  The first being Amazon Drive where you can see all videos, files and pictures you have stored in the cloud.  You can choose which files to upload or just have them all upload as soon as they are on your phone. 

The next app you will want is Amazon Photos which you can use to actually transfer photos from your phone to the cloud.  You can set up the transfer to auto-save after you take a picture too.  I set my phone up so that it will only backup on a Wi-Fi connection and when it is charging.  That way it will do it at night and not use battery power or mobile data during the day. The other nice thing about the Amazon Photos app is that is you can share the photo directly from the app through a text message, email, or post on social media.

The final app is one for your computer where you can additionally view and backup photos with Amazon Drive.  This is available for Macs and PCs and allows you to view and organize the photos with a computer rather than your phone.

One last cool thing about all of this is if you go on your computer and open photos that way you can actually order prints from Amazon.  They have just plain photo options or you can put all those cat pictures on coffee mugs, canvas, cards, or calendars.  The prices are good and free shipping if you’re a prime member! 


My cats Bud & Weiser
Example of a cat photo you can store on Amazon Drive

There is no such thing as too many cat photos.

Low-Tech Maker Fun

Monster-1297726_1920Want to make your own slime, lava bottle, ice sculpture painting, or bubble wand? Then you might want to check out Kiwi Crate’s DIY ideas at These and other low-tech projects are available with printable instructions that include a messiness rating, age range, estimated time, what you will need, and how to do it.

I first heard about Kiwi Crate Inc. from an engineering listserv. I had been looking for a unique “hand-on” present for my 3 year old grandson who lives in Texas and the Koala Crate (ages 3-4) subscription looked like the perfect gift. The subscription includes a crate (box) sent in the mail with everything needed for 2-3 creative theme based projects, plus additional materials to learn more. Luckily, I was visiting when his first box arrived. It was “Maker Fun”! I am embarrassed to admit that I now want the Tinker Crate (ages 9-16+) for myself.

Once we finished the activities in the crate, we wanted more. I was thrilled when I found the additional and free DIY ideas listed on the Kiwi Crate website. I wonder what our next project will be, maybe the Syrofoam stamps or the marshmallow launcher. Happy Tinkering!