By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Jul 09, 2008 at 3:40 PM

I remember a school visit from a futurist back in fourth grade; I'm guessing it was 1984 or 1985. He said, confidently, by the late '90s we'd see flying cars, videophones and cloned dinosaurs at the zoo.

I guess my laptop has a built-in Web cam, so that prediction came true, sort of, but other stuff this guy claimed would be commonplace turned out to be a bunch of hooey.

In short, I was hoping that by 2008 the world would seem a lot more futuristic than it is. I certainly expected my AT&T cell phone would work inside my house by now.

Anyway, I've found myself craving a few technological innovations this summer. Nothing as dramatic as flying cars, just a couple of things that seem like they could make the great Milwaukee summer even greater.

New shapes for fireworks: Every year, I wonder why "they" haven't figured out how to make fireworks more interesting. Couldn't "they" create fireworks that explode in the shape of letters or words? (How cool would a "U.S.A." pyrotechnic look on the Fourth of July?) This year I saw a new firework make its appearance at the Humboldt Park show on the fourth: it was sort of a swirl-shaped explosion that led me to believe that complex shapes are totally doable. The industry has been around since the 12th century; lets get on with the science of making fireworks more interesting.

Solar panels on car roofs: Even in the frozen tundra that is Wisconsin, during the summer, cars get scorching hot. That energy is totally wasted, and in fact, it takes more energy just to cool them down. Apparently, Toyota is looking at putting solar panels on top of 2009 Priuses -- but not to power them, only to run the air conditioning (sometimes irony can be pretty ironic). Shouldn't automotive implementation be the easiest, most practical use of solar power? I'm sure there's a better use for a flat surface like a car roof than frying eggs.

Super powerful ceiling fans: The second story of my house gets really, really hot in the summer. I installed a ceiling fan in the bedroom, as I read that a fan is the most energy-efficient way to cool (and in the winter, heat) a room. But even at its highest speed, it remains about 90 degrees up there. "They" should make turbocharged fans that spin really, really fast -- something that will create a veritable tornado of wind in my bedroom -- and will drop the temperature quickly.

A thermometer on my cell phone: Cell phones are so much more than phones these days, but telecommunications companies are overthinking it a little. Yes, I'll be standing in line for a 3G iPhone on Friday, but how about throwing me a bone with two easy features? First, just stick a little thermometer in there -- I don't need if the phone can just tell me, the old fashioned way, if it's the heat or the humidity that's making me sweat like a teamster. And give me a really loud ring tone option. I don't care if it sounds like an air horn, but let me be able to hear it ring from 50 yards away.

Instant replays at Miller Park: Finally, I'm pretty sure the Brewers have the technology to show a replay every now and then at the ballpark. They managed to do it on that ancient monochromatic scoreboard at County Stadium -- though so many bulbs were burned out it usually felt like taking a giant Rorschach test. Please, show me some slo-mo or a couple angles of that great or controversial play. Lets put that fancy scoreboard to work.

Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.