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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Concorde's Retirement a Backward Step in Progress

Aired June 12, 2003 - 20:56   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Even after 27 years old, Air France's oldest Concorde still looks futuristic, but after landing today at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, it becomes a museum piece for the Smithsonian Institution. Bruce Burkhart (ph) looks back to the past, when the French Concorde first flew.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE BURKHARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twenty-seven years ago, the first Cray supercomputer was introduced -- weighed over 5,000 pounds, took up an entire room. Today a good laptop can do the same thing as that first Cray. Twenty-seven years ago, doctors were just experimenting with a new way for couples to have a child. Test tube babies, they were called. Today, in vitro fertilization's a routine procedure. And 27 years ago, many of us were still actually dialing a phone, a phone that had, like, these wires, wires that went into the wall. Also around then, we used something called a pen to write something called letters. That was before e-mail.

And back then, 27 years ago, it took three-and-a-half hours to get from New York to Paris. Today it takes eight hours. Whoa, wait a minute! That's going backwards, isn't it? What if this trend continues?

(on camera): This is definitely subsonic transportation. I don't know if we're headed this far backwards, but still, with the passing of the Concorde, we're witnessing a rarity in human technological evolution: de-evolution, progress in reverse.

(voice-over): And not just in technological terms. After all, back then, 27 years ago, you could actually sit in an airline seat without need of a chiropractor afterwards. Progress doesn't always mean improved. But three-and-a-half-hours to Paris? That seemed to be an improvement. Sure, it could be argued that the Concorde was grounded by economics -- not enough people willing to pay $7,000 for a one-way ticket. But why didn't technology come up with a way to make it cheaper to fly at supersonic speeds, and quieter, some kind of silencer for that sonic boom.

So maybe, in some ways, we are going backwards, either in spite of technology or because of it. Twenty-seven years ago, how many owner's manuals did you have? Nowadays, we all have library full of them for the cell phone, the computer, the printer, the DVD player, the cable box, the answering machine, et cetera, et cetera. Progress in this case means we spend more of our time figuring out how to do stuff, rather than actually doing stuff.

(on camera): The poet Ogden Nash died before the Concorde made its debut, but he could have been thinking of it when he said, "Progress might have been all right once, but it's gone on too long."

Bruce Burkhardt, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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