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Life then and now

June 09, 2000|By JULIE E. GREENE

Cars still don't look like spaceships and you can't call home to have the microwave start cooking your dinner - unless someone is actually there to start the microwave.

But we're not far from having that technology available, said GE spokeswoman Kim Freeman in Louisville, Ky.

The experts The Herald-Mail asked in 1988 to predict what life would be like for the Class of 2000 were right on the money about many things and fairly close on others.

By the end of the year people could be able to check and adjust the temperature and lighting at home from work, Freeman said. Starting to cook meals before arriving at home won't happen for safety reasons.

Forecasters also did well with the job market.

While the demand for lawyers is down, not up as forecasted, the Class of 2000 still needs to be better educated and trained than graduates 12 years ago.

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"These kids have to be out there continuously learning, upgrading skills," said Jane Lommel, a work force consultant at Hudson Institute in Indianapolis.

Class of 2000 members will have 15 to 20 major job shifts during their lifetime, Lommel said.

A better education doesn't necessarily translate into attending a four-year college, she said. There are no bachelor's degrees in dot-com.

It's a new economy with six of the top 10 jobs in demand dealing with computers such as computer networking and telecommunication.

"The blue collar jobs are deader than a door nail," Lommel said.

However, the gold collar jobs, such as a manufacturing technician who repairs equipment and handles quality control on a highly computerized assembly line in Silicon Valley, can rake in an annual $50,000 starting salary with only an associate's degree, she said.

If graduates stay in Washington County, experts predicted the county's average income would climb from approximately $24,000 to $38,000. It was $38,600 in 1998, according to the Maryland Office of Planning.

After the computer world, the jobs most in demand are in the health field, such as bioengineers, Lommel said.

And what creature comforts do these graduates have available?

Experts correctly predicted in 1988 that we would have televisions just inches thick with sharper pictures and cars that could help us when we are lost.

While a map and directions don't pop up on a screen in the dashboard, OnStar has provided assistance at the touch of a button for owners of vehicles from Cadillacs to minivans.

Using OnStar, drivers can call a customer assistance center and get directions to the supermarket, where they will find food prices didn't get quite as high as federal officials forecasted.

Using cellular and satellite technology OnStar can find a lost or stolen vehicle, unlock a car with the keys locked inside, and notify emergency crews with the vehicle's location when the air bag is deployed, said OnStar spokesman Todd Carstensen.

Soon OnStar customers will be able to have their e-mail, sports scores and stock quotes read to them through a voice-activated personal calling system, Carstensen said. A live or computerized voice speaks to the driver through the radio speakers.

Class of 2000 members can fill their gas tank with unleaded gas at a price 4 cents higher than expected, up from 92 cents per gallon in 1988 to $1.51 per gallon.

Then they can pull their car up to their $130,504 home, the average sale price the board of Realtors correctly predicted would double since 1988.

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