What’s the story of the 1958 hiker?

This is not an iPhone (photo by Yeray Hdez Guerra - CC-BY)

“The 1958 Hiker” is a story about a hiker who lost his map. As he drifted off to sleep that night, a visitor from the year 2008 taunted him with revelations of the future. This article was previously posted to Google Knol.

In the story of The 1958 Hiker, a lone hiker is making his way up a mountain. As he crests the summit, a sudden gust of wind snatches away his map. Without his map, he takes a wrong turn on the way down. When he realizes that he won’t make it off the mountain until the next day, he finds a sheltered spot and curls up. As he is drifting off to sleep, he starts to dream. Or perhaps it is not a dream?

A man arrives, and explains that he is visiting from 50 years into the future. “Where I come from”, he says, “you can buy a pocket-size device which can display a map of every part of the world—and photos too, of every part of the earth. It shows you where you are, too!”

“Seriously?” stammered the hiker in amazement.

“Sure!” replied the time-traveller. “It’s less than half an inch thick, and costs a week’s pay. It’s also a communications device. You can use it to summon assistance if you’re a hiker in distress. Actually, you can use it to talk to pretty much anyone in the world.”

“It can also take photographs and hold a lifetime’s worth of snapshots. And it can hold all your CDs.” On seeing the hiker’s puzzled look, the time-traveller hastily explained “I mean, it can hold all your LP albums.”

“Oh,” added the time-traveller, almost as an afterthought: “it can also access and display all of the world’s knowledge.”

The hiker saw that the time-traveller was drifting away, so he shouted out one last question: “And what’s this thing called?”

“It’s called a smartphone”, replied the time-traveller nonchalantly, as he drifted off back to the year 2008.

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