“We all have the ability to foretell the future.” Dr. Howard Wilkinson was speaking in the ornate auditorium of S & H Technical College in Ellensworth, Delaware. “For example, I predict that at the end of my lecture, there will be many autos exiting from the parking lot! Yes, I agree there is nothing extraordinary about this. It’s what one would expect based on ordinary logic.”
The audience, several hundred well-dressed men and women appeared interested and somewhat entertained.
“But I’m not here to talk about mundane topics,” Dr. Wilkinson continued. “At S & K, we’ve been working with real scientific predictions. I’ve led a team of several physicists and was ably assisted by Dr. Morton Gordon in the development of hardware and a program to analyze forces already existing in a closed area, such as this auditorium, to predict what would happen within the next several minutes. its name is Forward to the Future. We’ve been successful at this time and time again with up to half an hour of accurate predictions. Tonight, I will give you a demo of what we’ve been able to do.”
“You can imagine what the ability to predict even five minutes could mean to individuals, the government, and, especially the military.” Smiling, he asked. “How would you like to know the results of the sixth race at Belmont five minutes before they are known to others?’
The audience tittered, obviously amused and intrigued.
“At the front of the room, there is a huge screen that will allow you to see a demo that, I believe will amaze you. We’ve connected it to a mammoth main frame computer in the basement of the computer building. This computer has the ability to obey commands at the rate of six quadrillion of them per second. Using this tremendous power, the computer will analyze the forces extant in this room and show you what will happen here five minutes before they actually do. That is, we will attempt to do this. Not all demos work as expected, I’m sure you know. But, enough talk, let’s do it! Look closely at the screen and the large clock at its right.”
All eyes proceeded to the screen and remained fixed there. A camera was trained on the audience. At first, there was nothing to be seen but frozen attention.
“Look at your watches,” Dr. Wilkinson’s voice was heard. “Compare it with the time on the screen.” It became noticeable at once that the clock was running ahead of the watches. As they stared transfixed, the time difference grew to two minutes, then three, four, then, five. At that time the melodic sounds of Johnny Mathis singing Sammy Cahn’s and July Styne’s lovely Time after Time was heard. The demo ended when the final words of the song faded.”
“Look at your watches, ” Dr. Wilkinson stated again. “Now, let’s wait five minutes.” The members of the audience were puzzled. Most had not fully understood what they had seen. Gradually, it became apparent that they had been present at the first live demo of the previewing of a slice of the future. There was a ripple of applause which ceased for a moment when the strains of Time after Time were heard again. As a unit, the audience rose and began cheering and clapping enthusiastically. The raucous celebration lasted for several minutes despite Dr. Wilkinson’s efforts to stop it.
“Wait, wait,” he shouted. “There’s more. I have a video clip to show you. It was the first practical application of this new equipment. As I was working in my lab last night, I was also filming an experiment. You may be wondering why Dr. Gordon is not with us tonight. This clip will explain.”
Images were seen on the large screen again. A camera was fixed on a door. At first, nothing was happening, then there was a knock and Dr. Gordon, dressed in a gray business suit walked in. In the actions that played out, it became apparent that Dr. Wilkinson had been warned of his visit some minutes before.
In the video, Dr. Wilkinson spoke, “Mort, before you arrived, I saw you with the facilities you and I invented. You had a gun. In a moment you’ll pull it from your pocket and aim it at me. Your intention is to take full credit for the product we’ve developed together. When I tell you, as I’m doing now, that you’re being videoed, you will admit it. Then leave.”
Dr. Gordon drew an automatic from a side pocket, aimed it briefly, then dropped it to the floor. Obviously understanding that denying anything would be futile, he stated, “Express my regrets to your audience tomorrow evening.” Turning, he rapidly left by the same door he had entered.
The video ended. Stunned into silence, the members of the audience remained immobile, each attempting to apply their own thoughts to what they had seen. Then, one of by one they filed out of the room. The implications of what had happened required a great deal more time to sort out.