Saturday, November 21, 2009


Someone brought to my attention that I never made a formal announcement that the Paleo-Future blog has moved to

Well, consider this my formal announcement. 8 months later.

I turned off comments on this site because it was becoming a garbage heap of spam. But worry not! You can still comment on all Paleo-Future posts, both old and new, at

Thanks for reading,

Monday, March 16, 2009

Redesign and Platform Change

The Paleo-Future blog will be switching to a new platform soon, so make sure to update your RSS feed, smoke signal reader, or whatever your preferred source of paleo-future goodness. Provided I don't tear some kind of hole in the paleo-future spacetime-blanket, I'll see you on the other side.

RSS feed:

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Electronic Home (circa 1988)

Ameritech's (late 1980s) concept video The Electronic Home envisions the futuristic world of HDTV and videophone, as well as internet-like services that allow you to make restaurant reservations (at a cartoonishly stereotypical Italian restaurant), shop for kimonos (because your shirt is made of giant playing cards), or buy a house (with your Atari joystick).

This rather primitive, closed-network system is not unlike the one we saw in the 1993 AT&T concept video, Connections. While I wasn't able to find a specific date for this video, it does use footage from the 1987 GTE concept video Classroom of the Future, so we'll call it "circa 1988" until we learn otherwise.

I'm not an expert on telecommunications law or history, so I can't give the necessary background information to understand Ameritech's motives in this video. But it's pretty clear this video was intended to influence people in power to let Ameritech (now AT&T Midwest) establish a communications network it didn't feel it was able to provide at the time. In other words, look it up and get back to me. I'm talking to you, media-tech nerds!

Previously on Paleo-Future:
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (1993)
GTE's Classroom of the Future (1987)
Motorola's 2000 A.D. (1990)
Pacific Bell Concept Video (1991)
Flowers by Alice (1992)
Apple's Knowledge Navigator (1987)
Apple's Grey Flannel Navigator (1988)
Vision (Clip 1, 1993)
Vision (Clip 2, 1993)
Vision (Clip 3, 1993)
Starfire (1994)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Man or Machine? (1933)

Whenever doing research on past robots of the future I usually have to wade through a lot of exaggeration, distortion, and lies. The hundreds of articles that I've read from the 1920s through the present often describe robots doing things that would be incredibly difficult, even for the robots of 2009. It is much easier when I stumble upon a news story like this one, from the May 26, 1933 Oakland Tribune (Oakland, CA).

That's a dude with glass goggles on his eyes. No question. Still, a fun vision of the future. You can read a few article about this California fakebot here.

Previously on Paleo-Future:
The Mechanical Man of the Future (1928)
Our Dread of Robots (1932)
"I Can Whip Any Mechanical Robot" by Jack Dempsey (1930s)
Robots vs. Musicians (1931)
The Robot is a Terrible Creature (1922)
Gigantic Robots to Fight Our Battles (Fresno Bee, 1934)
Mammy vs Robot (Charleston Gazette, 1937)
Restaurant Robots (1931)
Donald Duck's "Modern Inventions" (1937)
All's Fair at the Fair (1938)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Family Life to be Altered Greatly by 21st Century (1968)

The January 2, 1968 Lima News (Lima, OH) ran the third in a series of articles based on research by the Commission on the Year 2000 of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The third in the series dealt with life, work and family issues humanity would face in the year 2000. As I've discussed before, major social issues are largely ignored in 20th century American futurism, so it's interesting when we stumble upon serious predictions about major social change by the year 2000.

A short excerpt appears below, but you can read the entire first page of the article here.
By the year 2000 Americans may travel by ballistic missile, swallow a pill for a meal and wear tights and helmets like people in science fiction comic strips. Or they may not. There's no way of telling, and perhaps it doesn't make much difference.

What matters is the quality of life: What will it be like to live in the year 2000? No one can draw the complete picture, but members of the Commission on the Year 2000 took glimpses from special points of view.

Will people be able to learn and remember what they need to know in the complex world of 2000? Not without help, predicts psychologist George A. Miller of Harvard University.

How will new biological techniques affect relations between the sexes? Perhaps by eliminating marriage and the family, suggested anthropologist Margaret Mead of New York's Museum of Natural History.

What will earning a living be like for Americans? Easier, Herman Kahn and Anthony J. Wiener of the Hudson Institute calculate. Maybe too easy.

Will there be any privacy left? Only if society takes steps to preserve it, warned law professor Harry Kalven Jr. of the University of Chicago.

Previously on Paleo-Future:
21st Century Eugenics (1967)
Future Shock - Babytorium (1972)
Instant Baby Machine (1930)
Civilized Adultery (1970)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

But the Internet has no Dewey decimal system... (1995)

With search engines acting as such a necessary tool for internet use in 2009, we sometimes must remind ourselves that they did not come pre-packaged with cyberspace.

The 1997 book Predicting the Future looked at past and contemporary predictions of the future and assessed their accuracy. A 1995 prediction by Bill Gates about "the internet as a self-publishing medium" was met with great skepticism due to the lack of editors and, believe it or not, a Dewey decimal system on the web. An excerpt from the book appears below:
The lack of an equivalent to the Dewey decimal system on the Internet is a different matter. While it is true that experienced Internet users can eventually find what they're looking for, [Clifford] Stoll and other critics insist that it takes more expertise and time than Internet enthusiasts are willing to admit. This point of contention may eventually be answered by software developments that are still just blips on the horizon. But such a development, according to many experts, including both Internet boosters and doubters, is likely to have to await a formalized method for paying royalties to those who self-publish on the Internet. Bill Gates is sure this can be managed down the line, but as things stand there are still vast legal tangles to be resolved concerning payment to original authors whose work is published by major companies, let alone compensation for self-publishing.

Previously on Paleo-Future:
The Internet? Bah! (1995)
The Answer Machine (1964)
Bill Gates on Charlie Rose (1996)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Rejuvenated Downtowns (1959)

The March 1, 1959 edition of Arthur Radebaugh's Closer Than We Think! featured "rejuvenated downtowns" of the future. I travel the United States often imagining what the downtowns of our major cities once looked like. Few American downtowns are thriving, or barely surviving. The downtown of the city in which I live (St. Paul, MN) is certainly struggling. Good luck finding much open past 5PM.

Radebaugh's mention of downtown Detroit is particularly jarring for our 2009 eyes. The recent photo essay in Time magazine titled, "The Remains of Detroit" really says it all. I recently picked up the book Downtown: Its Rise and Fall, 1880-1950, which appears to shed some light on precisely what happened to the American urban center.

The text from "Rejuvenated Downtowns" appears below. Thanks again to Tom Z. for the color scans.
Traffic-choked downtown sections will be rejuvenated and transformed into airy, wide pedestrian malls when the designs of city planners are adopted in a none-too-distant future.

Large-scale plans and programs are springing up all over the country. One example is fashionable Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, being studied today for conversion into a traffic-free shopping promenade. Another is utilitarian Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit. There are many more in between.

Traffic will be parked in adjoining areas. Store fronts will be modernized and beautified. New lighting at night and newly planted trees, shrubs and flowers will give these malls an exciting air. The aim is to regain for downtowns their former status as urban headquarters.

Next week: All-Seeing Eye

Previously on Paleo-Future:
California Cities in the Year 2000 (1961)
Closer Than We Think! (1958-1963)
Experimental City of the Future (1967)
Walt Disney and City Planning

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Horizontal Cities of 2031 (1931)

The December 6, 1931 Daily Capital News and Post-Tribune (Jefferson City, MO) ran a short blurb about Francis Keally's predictions for the city of 2031. Keally (1889-1978) was an architect who worked on the Oregon state capitol building in Salem, which was completed in 1938.
Francis Keally thinks that our future cities will spread out over great areas like monstrous eagles. One hundred years from today we shall have no batteries of skyscrapers to point out to our trans-Atlantic visitors. On the contrary our future cities, because of the aerial eye, will be flat-topped, and two out of every three buildings will serve as some kind of landing area for a super-auto gyroplane or a transcontinental express. What towers there are will be built at a great distance from the airports and will serve as mooring masts for giant dirigibles. The architects of our future aerial cities may have to go back to places like Constantinople and Fez for their inspiration of these future flat-topped aerial cities where one finds a low horizontal character to the entire city, occasionally broken here and there by a praying tower or a minaret.

Francis Keally also had an idea in the August, 1931 issue of Modern Mechanics for glass banks.

Previously on Paleo-Future:
The Family Plane of 2030 A.D. (1930)
Pictures Stately Edifices (1923)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Pioneers' Centennial (1909)

Did you raise a toast to William Marconi last night? How about Robert Fulton? Not even the Wright brothers? Well, this piece in the September 26, 1909 New York Times thought you would be doing just that in twenty-oh-nine.

This fictionalized future editorial explores everything from the "aerovessels" we were to be flying to the men we would naturally still admire and adore. Excerpts from the piece appear below. You can read the entire piece here. (Marconi portrait courtesy of the Library of Congress, circa 1903)

On men that will be highly regarded in 2009:
With this year of our city, 2009, epochmaking, eramarking celebrations have come and gone - centennial exercises in honor of Henry Hudson, Robert Fulton, the Wright brothers, William Marconi, and other pioneers of last century's strides in science, industrial and otherwise.

It is the second time in our city's history that two weeks of her varied life have been given over as a mighty tribute to those men who marked the beginnings of great inventions, improvements, discoveries, and of applications which have for their result the amazing facilities for live and living afforded in this year of grace 2009.

The celebrations just ended not only mark the close of another great chapter in the history of New York; they have been an episode in the story of the universe.

On the flying machines and submarines of 2009:
In the celebration pictures we find the aerovessel, almost absent from the celebrations of 1909, crowding in upon the vision as cabs did around the old-fashioned theatre one hundred years ago. We find the aerovessel in its many forms - from the single-seated skimmer to the vast aerocruisers, of which the Martian type is perhaps the finest example - equivalent to the Dreadnaught of the ante-pax days. Also, we perceive along the sea coast and on the Hudson River a type of vessel which was not foreshadowed even at the time of the first centennial celebrations - the submarine and flying skimmer, in playfully sobriqued the "susky-marine." Of course, the gradual elimination of earth and ocean surface travel made it inevitable that the submarine aerovessel should have a monopoly of the earth and the waters under the earth. It is hardly necessary to recall the case of the last of the old steel warships, the Amerigo, which foundered in 1947 and all souls after having been split by the Flying Diver (Jupiter: 2d class: 10 v. c.) as the latter shot from the ocean bed to the air leap.

Previously on Paleo-Future:
Collier's Illustrated Future of 2001 (1901)
The Predictions of a 14 Year Old (Milwaukee Excelsior, 1901)
A Hundred Years From Now. (New York Times, 1909)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Everyman's Folding Auto (1939)

The November 26, 1939 San Antonio Light (San Antonio, TX) featured this prediction of the fold-up car of the future.
Even the young man of the scientific future may find trouble, one day on the road, with his sunpower automobile. He gets out, tips up the car with one hand and looks underneath. Finding what seems to be the trouble, he unscrews a few clamps, takes out the engine, and starts off jauntily to the repair shop, as though he were only carrying an alarm clock.

Strong muscles? Not at all, merely a lightweight engine.

Next day he comes back for the engineless car, folds it up like a collapsible baby carriage, loads it on the most convenient high speed bus or aero bus, takes it home and tucks it away in any handy closet until the engine has been repaired.

These are not Professor Harrison's predictions, but they are made possible by one of his, that of stronger metals.

What requires so much weight in automobile engines or bodies, in giant bridges, in the steel frames of buildings and a thousand other things is that much metal must he used to make the beams or castings strong. Weight Itself is useless. Need is only for strength.

"Great strides have been made recently," Professor Harrison writes, "in the physics of metals—the study of how atoms cling together to form crystals and these crystals hang together in metal rods and wires. All metals are permeated by microscopic cracks and flaws which greatly reduce their strength.

"If only Ihe crystals of which they are composed would hang to one another with the forces with which the individual atoms cling together! Then a cable of steel an inch thick would safely support four million pounds, instead of the mere 300,000 pounds which it now will held."

Such metals 13 times stronger than now can mean not only lighter engines and folding, fly-weight auto bodies, but also taller buildings, longer bridges, faster airplanes, larger ships--or deadlier machine guns and farther-ranging submarines.

Previously on Paleo-Future:
Dymaxion Car of the Future (1934)
Streamlined Cars of the Future
Zipper-Bag Airplane (1958)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Exploring Space (1958)

While The Complete Book of Space Travel was aimed at teen and pre-teen boys, the 1958 book Exploring Space was looking for a younger audience (still of boys, mind you, since we all know that lady-parts get confused with all that science and math).

Below are sample pages from the book, including one that some little tyke got after with a brown crayon.

While some scientists are trying to find out how to land rockets safely, others are learning what kinds of suits space travelers will need. They pump air out of a room, so it is like space. Men who are inside wear space suits to test them. The men breathe through a hose connected to an oxygen tank.
Next a man may test a space suit in a three-stage rocket. Perhaps he will pilot stage three after it breaks away and speeds into space. He will go too fast to feel the pull of gravity. His body will lose all its weight. He will float around the cabin, if he isn't strapped in place. Will the first space traveler like the ride? When he lands, he will tell us.
Other men will follow the first space traveler into space. They will test bigger and bigger rockets. And so scientists will learn how to build great big rocket ships. These ships will fly around the world in an hour.
In time, scientists will know how to build rocket ships that can carry people to the moon. After the moon, what next? Perhaps people will visit other worlds in the sky.
Perhaps when you are grown-up, rockets will be as common as airplanes are now. Then you and all your friends will be space travelers. Rockets away!

Previously on Paleo-Future:
Closer Than We Think! Space Coveralls (1960)
The Complete Book of Space Travel (1956)
Challenge of Outer Space (circa 1950s)
Man and the Moon (1955)
Space Suit (1956)
Rocket Ship (1956)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Game Parlor of the Future (1982)

This two-page spread from a 1982 issue of Electronic Games magazine is pretty spot on with many of its predictions. However, being "chained to the family TV set" isn't such a big deal when Little Johnny Future now plays on a 72-inch monster TV. Thanks to Paul H. for sending this article my way.
The world of electronic gaming moves fast. The manufacturers regard any year that does not boast at least five major technological breakthroughs as a fallow twelve months. This time-lapse perspective makes foreseeing the future a particularly chancy business - predicting events weeks ahead can be perilous, crystal-balling the hobby as it will exist in the next century is like walking, unarmed into a dragon's lair. You might sneak out with the treasure, after all, but chances are you'll be incinerated.

Keeping all this firmly in mind, the fact is that the calendar on the wall reads "1982." We sit a little more than a year away from the day when George Orwell envisioned gigantic TV monitors in every home and on every street corner. Big Brother, he feared, would be watching us very closely.

Actually, Orwell's vision was somewhat clouded. What he though were images of fascistic governmental overlords were, in fact, great big videogames! Those big-screen TV's arrived ahead of schedule, you see, so instead of using them to supress [sic] freedom, people decided to play games on them.

Still, even 1984 is a good distance from 2001. Yet in researching the future of electronic gaming, certain fascinating bits of information and conjecture keep turning up again and again. Sitting down to put the puzzle together, at least a small portion of the future became clear. The smoke in the crystal ball began to dissipate and here's what we saw:

Obviously computers will play a major role in the arcader's future. Some of them will be so specialized that they will realistically draw the player right into the contest. The computers will provide total sensory output: audio, visual, olfactory (smell), and tactile (touch). Systems can already be manipulated by voice commands, and even some home videogames are chatting happily back at us as well. Interactive fiction should continue to do well, as will role-playing games that involve the arcader in ever more personal ways (such as Prisoner and Network). Players will be able to assume the role of a detective, questioning the suspects in a murder case with full audio/visual accompaniment.

Graphics are the fastest growing area of game design in less than a decade. Technology has jumped from Pong to Zaxxon, with Atari and other coin-op companies reportedly testing three-dimensional games in Europe.

Look for arcades to be constructed along the lines of big-budget science fiction movie sets, with special effects a major attraction of the games. For example, there might be chairs that rock back and forth, swing from side to side or swivel a full 360 degrees.

"Gaming and interacting with machines is an appetite the public has only recently discovered," points out Tom Lopez of Activision. "With our fast-progressing technology, one constantly updating and improving upon itself, the boundaries that confine most games will become limitless. The computer will soon become a daily tool used by everyone. As microprocessors and transistors become more refined and are, in turn, mass-produced, prices will drop. Computers continue to offer more capacity for less money. It will be cheaper - and more stimulating - to play computer games than to pay to be entertained at clubs or concerts, or in packed sports arenas."

Since arcade games have the distinction of being designed for the purpose of executing one, specific program, they should be able to maintain an edge over home computers. The pay-for-play devices also utilize special monitors, that incorporate groundbreaking scanning technology, while home games remain chained to the family TV set.

The arcade games of the next century may not only be activated by voice command, but conceivably even by thought - at least in a sense. Something akin to galvanic skin-monitoring devices attached to the gamer's arm, perhaps in the form of a bracelet, could measure emotional response and even act as a triggering device.

In terms of futuristic audio, tomorrow's coin-ops - that is, if there still are such prehistoric items as coins still in use - will have miniature synthesizers to produce more highly defined sounds. There might even be devices to release pertinent smells at appropriate moments - the smell of gunfire for example. Such a machine could even blast the gamer with sound via headphones. Think about that for a second. Can you imagine the ambiance of a silent arcade? Now that would take some getting used to.

Visually, an expanded screen could project pictures all around the player. Special effect would be attained, with shutter lenses that use a liquid crystal diffusion process, in which a cathode ray delivers one picture after another in synchronized fashion, so fast and so frequently that it generates a convincing illusion of movement.

Picture this scenario: You are absorbed in a game of the future, seated within a totally enclosed environment. Images of shattering explosions, comets and asteroids whirl by as your seat shudders from the concussion. An asteroid passes so close you could almost etch your initials in its craggy surface. Over your headphones, meanwhile, your squad leader is passing on commands from headquarters. You have only split seconds to react, the results of an intergalactic battle hangs in the balance.

"When the games become transparent to the viewer, it will be so realistic, you'll feel you were there. Then the form of the game itself will disappear - as if it melted - and you will forget you're playing a game," predicts Lopez.

"We're rapidly reaching the point," concedes one computer expert, "where technology is outstripping our ability to use it." The ability of the computers man has constructed begin to awe us with their blinding growth. The ultimate solution to this problem may be the development of team-designing as a way of life in the arcade industry of tomorrow.

In the early days of videogames, a single individual created each program from conception to execution - everything but painting the title on the cabinet in some cases. As the sophistication of the industry grows, companies like Midway are setting up design teams, composed of people who specialize in each area of game invention. Some 16 creative artists and programmers combined talents to produce the marvelous Tron coin-op, with graphic concepts, audio effects and cabinet design handled by separate individuals under the supervision of a single manager.

George Gomez, head of the Midway in-house research and development group agrees that teamwork is the key to future game design. "It's too hard to find any one, or any two or three people with sufficient expertise in all the areas necessary to create a modern arcade game. We feel that areas such as cabinet and joystick design are vital elements in a game's success or failure."

Whether or not we'll see these innovations in the next century, the next decade or, perhaps, never, depends on the direction in which this wildly unpredictable business moves in the time ahead. But one thing does seem certain - electronic gaming will never die.

"People need sensory interface," as Tom Lopez puts it, "and electronic gaming gives that to people. More to the point, it's fun! Gaming is entertainment and it's here to stay!"

Even in the year 2001.

Read more:
Future Arcade Games (1985)
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 3, 1993)
Computer Games of the Future (1981)
Virtual Reality (1980s-today)
Home Entertainment of the Future (1981)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Jetpack Dreams

I haven't yet read Mac Montandon's book Jetpack Dreams, but thanks to this video it's made its way to the top of my book heap.

Jetpack Dreams Trailer from Mac Montandon on Vimeo.

Read more:
Disneyland Jetpack (1966)
10,000 Years From Now (1922)
Jet Pack Video (1966)
Bell Aviation's Rocket Pack (1964)
Jet Flying Belt is Devised to Carry Man for Miles (New York Times, 1968)
Where's My Jetpack? (2007)
How Do You Like Them Apples?

Tomorrow's Kitchen (1943)

The July 16, 1943 Morning Herald (Uniontown, PA) ran this piece about the kitchen of the future, complete with built-in pots and pans. The kitchen was designed by the Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass company, which may be the same company that imagined the glass house of the year 2008.

A special thanks to Warren for pointing me in the direction of these photos from Life magazine, which inspired me to track down this story. The photo featured at the top of the piece comes from the newspaper article. The rest of the photos are from Life.

It's interesting to compare this vision of the future kitchen with that of 1967. Both are messages from companies wishing to sell a lifestyle of post-war consumerism as much as the products themselves, it seems.

TOLEDO, O. - The "Kitchen of Tomorrow" that does everything but put out the cat at night now makes its debut.

It eliminates pots and pans.

It does away with stooping and squatting.

Sore feet will be only a memory of the sad past—because in this kitchen three-quarters of the "little woman's" work can be done while comfortably seated.

Dishwashing becomes a pleasure and burnt fingers practically impossible to acquire.

And, in the vernacular—that is not the half of it!

Between meal times and without the help of a magic wand the kitchen can almost instantly be transformed into a gaily-decorated play-room for the children.

In the evening, it changes into a buffet bar.

With a minimum of effort it converts to extra living space—with all of the familiar kitchen '"gadgets" and appliances buried from sight.

Designed by the Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass Company to help point the way toward more practical and gracious living in the post-war era, the kitchen has an "all this and heaven, too" theme developed by the use of easily obtained and familiar materials worked into new shapes and forms.

Sliding panels cover the sink, cooking unit and automatic food mixer, so when not in use these units become part of a long buffet—ready for use as a study bench for the children or a bar for dad.

An "out of this world" refrigerator of glass construction has four times the capacity of today's model. Built on the principle of the cold storage locker, it is separated into compartments, each with an individual temperature control. One compartment shelf revolves—so that salads and often-used foods can be placed in it from the kitchen side and removed from the adjoining dining alcove.

The oven has a sliding, heat-tempered glass hood. When the roast is revolving on the motor-driven spit mother can look at it from all angles—and without opening the oven door as of old.

Most of the cooking is done in evolutionary unit one-third the size of the average stove and with built-in pots and pans which double as serving dishes.

All of the kitchen equipment has been raised to an easy working level and the space ordinarily cluttered with storage bins and cabinets has been left free to provide room for the housewife's knees.

Storage cabinets gain a new grace by being hung on the wall and equipped with sliding glass doors-no bumped heads!

And not overlooking a thing, H. Creston Doner, designer of the kitchen, turned out a model dining alcove, as a "running mate" for the kitchen. He pointed out that, other than making the ideas of his department available to other designers and manufacturers, his firm's sole interest is to demonstrate some of the decorative and utilitarian advantages of glass.

So that it, too, may be used for extra living space, the dining room sports a plate glass-topped table that folds back against the wall and becomes a mural-—the folding legs forming a frame to the sand-blasted design in the glass.

Read more:
The Future of Glass (1958)
1999 A.D. (1967)
Frigidaire Kitchen of the Future (1957)
Monsanto House of the Future Brochure (1961)
How Experts Think We'll Live in 2000 A.D. (1950)
Monsanto House of the Future (1957-1967)
Monsanto House of the Future (1957)
House of the Future for the Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition (1956)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Robot Christmas (1958)

Well Medicated recently compiled a number of paleo-futuristic images (mostly stolen from the always-excellent blog Modern Mechanix), including this one from the December, 1958 issue of Popular Electronics magazine. The robot family of the future sure is adorable, putting up their Christmas tree and all. If you recall, Parade magazine had a more terrifying depiction of the robo-dog of the future back in 1959.

If you love this style of robot, might I recommend the tremendous artwork of Eric Joyner? A delight for all robots, big and small.

A special thanks to BoingBoing and Jeremy for the heads up on this robo-family find.

Read more:
Santa's Reindeer Out of Work (1900)
Will robots make people obsolete? (1959)
Closer Than We Think! Robot Housemaid (1959)
Call a Serviceman (Chicago Tribune, 1959)
The Electronic Brain Made Beef Stew (1959)
Something must be wrong with its radar eye! (Chicago Tribune, 1959)
How Experts Think We'll Live in 2000 A.D. (1950)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Airplanes of Future Will Travel 1,000 MPH (1939)

The January 29, 1939 Hammond Times (Hammond, IN) ran this piece about the super-fast airplanes of the future. The article quickly devolves into a debate about how trustworthy air speed indicators are.
WASHINGTON, Jan. 28 -- Airplanes capable of flying nearly 1,000 miles an hour - 300 miles an hour faster than the speed of sound - will be developed "within a generation," federal aviation engineers confidently predicted today.

This prediction, carrying with it tremendous military and commercial implications, was made while the same engineers were expressing "some doubt" that the plane flown in a test dive last Monday at Buffalo, N.Y., actually reached the reported speed of 575 miles an hour.

A spokesman for the national advisory committee for aeronautics, which conducts government aviation research at its vast Langley Field, Va., laboratories, said that while NACA tests thus far have not developed speeds on assembled models of above 500 miles an hour, there is no incontrovertible reason to believe that a modern airplane can not attain a 575-mile-an-hour clip.

"The basis on which we entertain doubt regarding the 575-mile-an-hour speed at Buffalo is simply this: The air speed indicator in the planes showed 575 miles an hour, but it has been established that air speed indicators cannot be trusted too far," he explained. "In order to have been accurate, the indicator in the plane flown at Buffalo should have been adjusted at different levels on the way down during the dive. That, of course, was impossible."

Read more:
600 Miles An Hour (1901)
The Family Plane of 2030 A.D. (1930)
Cyclonic Rocket (circa 1930)
Aerial Navigation Will Never Be Popular (1906)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Vacation at a Space Hotel (1982)

The The Kids' Whole Future Catalog really is a treasure trove of 1980's futurism. Today we have a letter from Jenny, writing her friend Susan about the amazing space hotel she's visiting in the year 2002. Having graduated high school in the year 2002, I'm a little disappointed that my graduation ceremony wasn't held at a space hotel, complete with space pool and the accompanying physics that go along with that.
April 16, 2002

Dear Susan,

We arrived at the space hotel yesterday, and the first thing I did was try out the swimming pool. It really is as much fun as everyone says, but the low gravity takes getting used to. Everything happens more slowly than usual - you feel as though you're part of a movie that's being show in slow motion. When you jump off the diving board, you can easily do two or three somersaults before you hit the water - and when you do go in, you leave a hole which takes a few seconds to fill up. The pool doesn't look anything like the ones on Earth. It's like an enormous barrel with water lining the inside. The barrel rotates very slowly, creating just enough force to keep the water pushed up against the sides. When you're in the pool, you can see water curving uphill and people swimming upside down overhead. As if that isn't strange enough, you can also see people floating through the air in the zero-g area at the center of the barrel. To get there, all you have to do is jump high off the diving board and flap your arms like wings. If you hold a paddle in each hand, it's easier to steer. I want to tell you about all the other things I've done, but there isn't time. I'll write again tomorrow.

Love, Jenny

Read more:
Vacations of the Future (1981)
Moon Tourism (1988)
Welcome to Moonbase (1987)
The Kids' Whole Future Catalog (1982)
Factories in Space (1982)
New Worlds to Radically Alter (1981)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Moving Pictures to Show Schoolboys of 1995 Our Time (1920)

The March 18, 1920 Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette (Cedar Rapids, IA) declared that movies would help future generations better understand the past. This piece has striking similarities to 1920's predictions of movies replacing textbooks. The piece is also interesting to read side-by-side with "Big Laughs Coming" from the Modesto Evening News in 1922.
Every moving picture is a contribution, for the benefit of posterity, to the history of our time, its manners, its customs, its thoughts, its virtues and its follies.

To the schoolboy of the year 1995 history will not merely be something to be memorized out of books. It will be visualized and made real for him by the moving pictures that are being made now. The people of our time will not be mere history book ghosts to this boy but living creatures who smile at him and walk and play and love and hate and work and eat.

If only we had today moving pictures of the times of Washington and Lincoln! Imagine a Fourth of July celebration with moving pictures of the signing of the Declaration!

The historical value of moving picture plays will be as great as that of movies of current events. The 1920 photoplay exhibited in the year 1995 will serve as an exposition of the social life and manners of this period.

And, despite its faults, the present generation will make a fairly good showing when it appears in the movies before posterity in 1995 and thereabouts. The schoolboys of that time may laugh at some of the ways of their ancestors, but, in the main, they will agree that they were a pretty good sort at that.

Read more:
Movies Will Replace Texbooks (1922)
Thinks We'll Do Our Reading On Screen (1923)
Movie Theater of the Future (1930)
Movies to be Produced in Every Home (1925)
Big Laughs Coming (1922)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

French Flying Machines (1890-1900)

These French cards, archived at the Library of Congress, were produced sometime between 1890 and 1900. Most of the cards illustrate important feats from ballooning history between 1795-1846, while card number two (pictured above) depicts futuristic visions of flight from the 1800s. It's striking how similar these imagined flying machines are to those we looked at from 1885.

The Paleo-Future Store features button sets of those paleo-futuristic flying machines from 1885, which you can check out here.
Les utopies de la navigation aérienne au siècle dernier

Read more:
Flying Machines (circa 1885)
French Prints Show the Year 2000 (1910)
Boy's Flying Machine of the 20th Century (1900)
Futuristic Air Travel (circa 1900)
Going to the Opera in the Year 2000 (1882)
Postcards Show the Year 2000 (circa 1900)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Cashless Future Society? (1968)

The July 24, 1968 Las Cruces Sun-News (Las Cruces, NM) ran this piece by Jack Lefler about the possibility of a cashless society that would use a single identification card.
NEW YORK (AP) - Want to hunt polar bear in Alaska, entertain your mother-in-law at a Paris restaurant, rent a house-boat for a Mississippi cruise, hire a big-name orchestra for your daughter's wedding reception—and charge it?

All you need is a credit card.

These are some of the more bizarre ways you can use a credit card but their purchasing power covers the whole gamut of goods and services.

It's estimated that Americans are carrying 200 million credit cards and using them to spend around $50 billion a year.

As a result of the proliferation of credit cards, there has been widespread speculation about the possibilities of a checkless, cashless society in the future.

Some bankers envision nationwide system In which a single identification card would be used in place of all checks and almost all cash.

But American Express, a big name in the credit card industry, says, "The single-card system couldn't be further from reality today. The most striking feature of our present system of transferring money is the multiplicity of credit cards."

Credit cards as we know them today were pioneered in 1950 by Diners' Club, which was created with 200 members, an initial investment of $18,000 and a handful ot restaurants In the New York City area. Within a year it had grown to 10,000 members who could charge at more than 1,000 establishments.

Credit cards now fall into three categories:

—Travel and entertainment. Operators in this field are American Express, Diners' Club and Carte Blanche. These cards are held primarily by business and professional men.

—Private label. Oil companies, airlines, hotels, car rental companies and department stores offer these cards primarily to promote their services or products.

—Revolving credit cards. These cards, largely regional or local in nature, are issued mainly by banks and financial organizations and are meant primarily for use by housewives for shopping.

The credit card companies derive their revenue from discounts from establishments which accept the cards in lieu of cash and from membership fees. Some credit card practices have come in for criticism recently, mainly because of the mailing of unsolicited cards by banks and some others in the revolving credit field.

Read more:
Credit Card Rings (1964)
Online Shopping (1967)
Prelude to a Great Depression (The Chronicle Telegram, 1929)

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Millennium Bug (1998)

The 1998 book The Millennium Bug by Michael S. Hyatt is pretty pessimistic about mankind's future, given the "Y2K problem." Ironically, Mr. Hyatt blogged more recently about cynics who are pessimistic about the future. He says that real leaders "look on the sunny side." Priceless turnaround.

As ridiculous as the hysteria over Y2K may have been, it was certainly more palatable than the current "2012" nonsense. Whatever happened to being afraid of a good, old-fashioned robot uprising?

My favorite warning from the front cover of the book says that the "illusion of social stability is about to be shattered . . . and nothing can stop it." If this is even remotely true, why buy this book? Do you feel as if you're living with the "illusion of social stability"? Might we all crack in a moment's notice? Does every generation feel so special as to believe they live in the End Times?

The rest of the supposed "catastrophic results" of the Y2K bug were outlined on the book's back cover:
  • Social security checks will stop coming.
  • Planes all over the world will be grounded.
  • Credit card charges will be rejected.
  • Military defense systems will fail.
  • Police records and emergency communications will be inaccessible.
  • There will be massive, long-term power failures.
  • Bank funds will be inaccessible.
  • Insurance policies will appear to have expired.
  • Telephone systems will fail to operate.
  • IRS tax records and government funds will be unavailable.
  • The Federal Reserve will be unable to clear checks.
  • Time security vaults will fail to open or close on time.
  • Traffic signals will fail to function.
  • Office systems will fail and your employer will go out of business. [ed. note: This seems rather specific. My employer will go out of business? It's as if you're pointing directly at me through this book. How did you do that, magic book?]
Read more:
The Robot Rebellion (1982)
Final Date of the Earth: August 18, 1999 (1973)
The Prophetic Year 2000 (1968)
The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon
Nucelar War to Start September 12, 2006
Nuclear War Revisited (2006)
Apocalypse Soon (1980)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Commuting Will Be A Breeze (1957)

The October 22, 1957 Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune (Chillicothe, MO) ran this image of a flying bus of the future.
Commuting will be a breeze in the future, according to a national science magazine, which envisions tomorrow's workers traveling from home to business at 100 m.p.h. via a ducted-fan flying bus like the one above. The design, originated by Charles Zimmerman of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, provides a control dome for pilot and copilot, and seats 40 passengers behind large door windows which provide an unexcelled view. Artist-author Frank Tinsley of Mechanix Illustrated magazine, depicts the craft, which will support itself on columns of air forced downward through its twin fans.

Read more:
Nuclear Rocketship (1959)
Commuter Helicopter (1947)
'Flying Saucer' Buses (1950)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Meal Pill Skeptic (1936)

We've looked at plenty of predictions about how, in the future, we'd all be eating meal pills. From turkey dinners to beer to tutti-fruitti, it was a question of when we would enjoy them in pill form, not if we would. But in the October 6, 1936 Jefferson City Post-Tribune (Jefferson City, MO), Dr. Milton A. Bridges rains on the meal pill parade. The entire piece appears below.
KANSAS CITY, Oct. 6 - (AP) -- Alack and alas, the hardworking housewife must give up her dream of dispensing with a four-course meal by simply feeding hubby a concentrated food pill -- it can't be done, an authority said today.

The calory factor will necessitate continued operation of America's kitchens, explained Dr. Milton A. Bridges, assistant clinical professor of medicine at Columbia University and dietitics authority.

"Human beings never are going to eat pills for meals," said Dr. Bridges, emphatically. "Pills can never be made to contain sufficient caloric volume."

Caloric volume, the quantity of calories, is a factor of daily diet that must be kept to quota, Dr. Bridges explained.

"It is perfectly plausible to supply all the vitamins and minerals needed for a meal in pill form. But you can't get calories except by eating foods.

"And you'd have to eat the same foods we eat now to get those calories," added Dr. Bridges.

These foods, if the diet is properly balance, will provide the other necessary elements at the same time, Dr. Bridges declared, making the pills just so much surplusage, as far as the normal appetite is concerned.

Dr. Bridges is attending the annual fall conference of the Southwest Clinical Society.
Read more:
Whole Meal in Pill (1923)
Food of the Future (Indiana Progress, 1896)
Just Imagine (1930)
That Synthetic Food of the Future (Ogden Standard-Examiner, 1926)
Cigarettes of the Year 2000 (1944)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Jetscalator (1960)

Reader Tom Z sent in this March 27, 1960 edition of Closer Than We Think, featuring the "Jetscalator." Tom explains:
This CTWT has held special significance for me (and anyone else who has used Dulles until quite recently). I haven’t flown in years, but I understand that the famous “Mobile Terminals” are finally gone, a case of a futuristic idea that didn’t work all that well in the real world.
The handful of times that I've been through the Dulles airport I've felt that I was going to miss my flight because of those slow moving shuttles. I hadn't heard that they might be doing away with the mobile lounges. Can anyone confirm that this is true?

The text from "Jetscalator" appears below:
Jet planes and the number of passengers they carry are getting bigger and bigger. Distances between terminals and loading docks are getting longer. The answer is a traveling waiting room with a moving ramp. Such a project is already being developed by the Chrysler Corporation, and it may be used at the new Washington, D.C., terminal now being designed by Eero Saarinen.

The "jetscalator," as it might be called, would move on wheels higher than a man.

It would have an up-or-down ramp and capacity for about 100 people. When departure time is at hand, travelers wouldn't have to stir from their chairs - they'd be transported in the "jetscalator" right to the side of the plane.

Next week: Cellar-size Scoopers

Read more:
Luggage Blowers (1961)
Airport of the Future (1967)
Fuller's Traveling Cartridge (circa 1960s)
Passenger Air Travel (1945)
Closer Than We Think! (1958-1963)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Universal Writing Formula for Futurism

I can't believe it took me this long, but I figured out the universal writing formula for futurism! It just clicked after reading a 1980s newspaper article about robots! Let me know what I'm missing:
  • Imagine [ten/twenty/fifty] years in the future.
  • Your [car/toaster/robot] speaks to you.
  • No, it's not your [friend/mom/crazy fever dream].
  • Your life just got better* with technology!
[*If article appears between 1971 and 1979 replace "better" with "shitty in the worst way"]

The December 8, 1985 Syracuse Herald Journal (Syracuse, NY) ran a piece about the personal robots of the future which uses this formula. The excerpt below quotes Nelson Winkless, author of the 1984 book, If I Had a Robot.
Imagine driving down the highway 10 or 20 years from now.

Suddenly, a small voice says, "You haven't called your mother lately. Don't you think you'd better call her today?"

No, it's not your conscience. It's your own personal robot, a funny little creature that keeps track of your obligations and watches out for you.

Of course, no one really knows what robots of the future will do to make your life easier. But a New Mexico robotics expert and author, Nelson Winkless, expects them to be more than mechanical housekeepers.

"Before we have robots that will do windows, we're going to have self-cleaning windows," he said, in a telephone interview from Corales, N.M. "I expect them to be useful in ways yet unanticipated.

"Suppose you had this little guy bumbling after you, keeping track of things. You may come to a corner and he'll say, 'Why don't you slow down and watch out here?'" says Winkless, who wrote "If I Had a Robot: What to Expect of the Personal Robot" (Dilithium Press, $9.95).

"We have just gotten to the point where we have (robots) that operate intuitively. They look at information and say, 'In all of my experience in life, what does this remind me of most?' They can see opportunities and problems and point them out."

Joe Herrera, robot product manager for Tomy Corp., in Carson, Calif., thinks there will be "a robot in every garage" by the year 2000.

"One robot for the home may be able to wash your car and tell the kids stories," says Herrera, whose company manufactures robot toys.

"Right now, personal robots are in the same stage handheld calculators were 10 years ago. But every year, we're learning more and more."

Read more:
If I Had a Robot (1984)
Newton the Household Robot (1989)
The Future of Personal Robots (1986)
Robo-Shop (1989)
Japanese Retail Robots (1986)
In a Cashless Future, Robots Will Cook (1996)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Weather Made to Order? (1954)

Before starting the Paleo-Future blog I had no idea that weather control was such a prominent feature of mid-20th-century futurism. Raised on Jurassic Park's pop version of chaos theory, I suppose that little Matty was deathly afraid a butterfly beating its wings in Indochina would cause a typhoon in Omaha. And thus, messing with a single little black raincloud would surely cause massive, unforeseen destruction.

Ah, the carefree years of our youth.

The May 28, 1954 issue of Collier's predicted that mankind (and by that we mean the United States) would eventually have complete control over weather. An excerpt from the piece by Capt. H.T. Orville appears below.
A weather station in southeast Texas spots a threatening cloud formation moving toward Waco on its radar screen; the shape of the cloud indicates a tornado may be building up. An urgent warning is sent to Weather Control Headquarters. Back comes an order for aircraft to dissipate the cloud. And less than an hour after the incipient tornado was first sighted, the aircraft radios back: Mission accomplished. The storm was broken up; there was no loss of life, no property damage.

This hypothetical destruction of a tornado in its infancy may sound fantastic today, but it could well become a reality within 40 years. In this age of the H-bomb and supersonic flight, it is quite possible that science will find ways not only to dissipate incipient tornadoes and hurricanes, but to influence all our weather to a degree that staggers the imagination.

Read more:
Closer Than We Think! Weather Control (1958)
Weather Control of 2000 A.D. (1966)
Foolproof Weatherman of 1989 (1939)
Communities May Be Weatherized (Edwardsville Intelligencer, 1952)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Future of Photography (1964)

The September 27, 1964 Gastonia Gazette (Gastonia, NC) quotes Wolf Wehran, a representative of the Camera Industries of West Germany, (and probable superhero given his badass name), about the future of photography:
"I believe the photo industry will some day eliminate the processing operation as we know it today. They will dehydrate it - that is, take the water and the mess out of it.

"Instead of liquid solutions and time and temperature factors, it would be simpler to deal with a radiation or heat process to activate the latent image.

"The photograph would take his pictures with an automatic camera, wind the film or sensitized material through a box at home or anywhere he happens to be and out would come the strip of finished negatives, transparencies or prints. It is logically and practical and the trend of the industry thinking is in that direction."
The author of the article then seems to mock the very idea with a flippant comment about crystal balls.
If you can't buy a camera or processing box like that, maybe you can shop around for a crystal ball. It certainly makes beautiful pictures.

Read more:
Movies to be Produced in Every Home (1925)
Television of Tomorrow (1974)