Technology is amazing. It's so great, it's next to impossible to truly appreciate just how phenomenally, staggeringly, unbelievably indescribably great it is. Every day we play with the kind of power that would have medieval villages setting up pyres (or to be more accurate, gallows, since English witches were hanged rather than burned), and every day it becomes harder and harder to be impressed. Innovations become features, features become expectations and expectations become the status quo. And so, the world becomes another slice more cynical and blasé.
It's Google Earth that does it for me. Only a couple of years ago, the mere idea that we'd be able to load up one program and zoom from the atmosphere down to our own back garden in one more or less fluid pan was nothing short of sci-fi. Literally. That was one of the stock special effects when movies like Men in Black wanted to show off. Years of development later, it's bordering on time-travel and teleportation. Archaeologists use it to track ancient civilisations. You can visit distant lands at street level, and where once famous monuments like the Eiffel Tower were simply squat splats on a pixellated landscape, they now stand tall – admittedly, in the middle of flat fields – as proud hybrids of 3D models and photo-realistic textures. The most recent big release is the Ancient Rome layer, which tries to recreate the city at the height of its power. The graphics firmly smack of an educational project – all very clean, with simple textures – but speaking as an amateur classicist, I don't mind. You get museum-style explanations of what everything is, a few indoor scenes to explore and, of course, all the Google tools so you can find out whether there's now a Starbucks where once there was some great ancient relic.
( www.techradar.com )