The Week in Review -- December 31, 1998

The Markets

  12/24 Close 12/31 Close Change %Change
DJIA 9217.99 9,181.43 -36.56 -0.40
S&P 500 1226.27 1,229.23 +2.96 +0.24
Nasdaq 2163.03 2,192.69 +29.66 +1.37

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The Future Is Now
by Jerry Thomas (

Greetings, Fools.

We made it to the future, friends. Lookit: The calendar says it's 1999. Everyone is flying around in rocket cars like George Jetson. Barbara Bain and Martin Landau are having hokey adventures up there on the moon. Robots scoot around our domiciles, fixing our dinners and vacuuming our rugs. I now make my home atop a 5,000-foot space needle, where I enjoy a life that is so technologically advanced that I don't even have to show up for it any more. In fact, these words are actually being composed by a patented Fool-9000 Cheeze-O-Graphic Automaton, while the real me is out back, playing 3-dimensional anti-gravity tennis with a holographic projection of Martina Hingis. I won't even know what I've said today until the letters of complaint start coming in. Cool, hey?

So, let's look toward our futures and set our modems on "stun." The New Year has us poised on the brink of the rest of our lives. New Year's Eve is traditionally a moment for looking forward, and for looking back. We sum up our accounts, we lay the plans for the days ahead, and Fools everywhere are making their annual new year's resolutions. Scoff at that quaint ritual if you will, but it is in the present moment that the nature of what your life will become is decided -- space needles, rocket cars, and all. You have the power to shape that future with the resources available to you right now. Rick Munarriz (TMF Edible) can help you formulate your own design for the new year with his latest effort, Foolish Resolutions, with 20 examples of things you can do to seize control of your financial life. In this, he echoes the work of Fool Tom Gardner, who in a syndicated print column this week, offers you some bold and Foolish steps for making 1999 your most Foolish year ever.

Those of you looking back at the year just passed will want to study our Year in Review. It examines the successes and failures of the troubled and triumphant financial events that history will record next to the number 1998. Meanwhile, those who are more concerned with the year immediately ahead will turn to this week's Dueling Fools feature, which pits Bill Barker (TMF Max, playing the Bull) against the venerable Rick Munarriz (Edible, again, playing the Bear). The boys cross swords over their forecasts for the market's performance in 1999. You are invited to take sides in the battle -- after all, they can't both be right, can they?

For my own part, I'm looking forward to the next year, though I must admit that there are some pangs of disappointment greeting me with the strains of "Auld Lang Syne." After all, the date "1999," for all of my life, has been emblematic of the whiz-bang future, and to finally arrive at this moment to find that there are yet no Martians among us, no Flash Gordons, no Captain Kirks, is, let's face it, a let-down. Here it is, the dawning of a year whose very numeration evokes images of space ships and galaxies, of colonies on the moon and cities at the bottom of the sea -- and I'm still pumping unleaded regular into my gas tank instead of plutonium-enriched deuterium. Well, phooey.

But what arrogance was there in my conception of the future? Look, Fool, at this box of switches on the desk in front of you. Realize that thirty-five years ago, such a marvel would have cost many millions of dollars and would have filled a small office building. Yet there it stands, connecting you with people around the planet, bringing access to whole libraries of information, and providing opportunities for human interaction that were beyond anybody's imagination just a few short years ago. Even that hoary phrase "The Information Age" already sounds trite, corny, overused, cliched. It no longer astonishes us because it is no longer surprising. So pervasive are the changes these new technologies have wrought that we are already taking them for granted.

Naturally, I would have preferred one of those rocket cars, or maybe some keeno anti-gravity boots. But this computer thingie is not half bad. I'll take it.

Until next week,
Fool on!


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