Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Super-Highway of Tomorrow (1939)

While not spectacular to someone from 2008, this illustration of the "super-highway of tomorrow" was quite extraordinary to people attending the 1939 New York World's Fair. A concept drawing for the original Futurama, this image was found in the Official Guide Book to the 1939 World's Fair.

Read more:
Official Guide Book: 1939 World's Fair (1939)
Dawn of a New Day (1939)
Railroads on Parade (1939)
Memory of 'Tomorrow' (New York Times, 1941)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Inevitable Flying Car (USA Today)

You may have noticed a certain paleo-futurist quoted in yesterday's USA Today:
Matt Novak, however, remains unconvinced. The host of Paleofuture.com, a blog that looks at past predictions of the future, says flying cars look even further away these days.

"We had this sort of optimism in the '50s and '60s, a feeling that things were inevitable because of technology. And flying cars were on the short list," Novak says. "I don't think we're going to have freeways in the sky any time soon."

Read More:
What the future didn't bring
New Hampshire Public Radio (Jan, 2008)
Paleo-Future in the Wall Street Journal
Streamlined Cars of the Future

Monday, August 18, 2008

RCA's Two Thousand (1969)

Remember when adding "2000" to a product name was shorthand for futuristic, cutting-edge technology?

In 1969 RCA invited the American public to "take a leap into the year 2000" with a new television set called The Two Thousand. Selling a limited edition of 2,000 sets at $2,000 a pop, (about $12,000 in 2008 dollars), The Two Thousand certainly turned heads.

The advertisement above appears in a book about the history of television advertising, Window to the Future. The ad below appeared in the December 18, 1969 Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM).

From the Albuquerque Journal:
In one giant step RCA harnessed the speed and accuracy of the computer to help unveil a new century in color television. It's a limited edition (2,000 sets) with unlimited advancement.

First and most obvious, is its 21st century design, its sculptured whiteness curves to a rosewood veneer top. The black translucent doors slide back and disappear into the set, revealing the 23-inch diagonal screen.

And what a picture you'll see on that screen.

It's the new RCA Hi-Lite 70 tube - computer designed and engineered for 100% more brightness than any previous big screen RCA color tube. The Hi-Lite 70 tube gives such a vivid, detailed picture, you can even watch it in a brightly-lit room.

The remote controls of color, tint and volume are computer-designed too. They operate electronically so there are no motors, no noise, and no moving parts to wear out or break down.

Inside The Two Thousand, though, is the biggest news.

RCA eliminated the conventional VHF tuner. In its place are new computer-like "memory" circuits - electronic circuits with memories like tiny computers.

When you press the remote control button, the circuits automatically remember which channels you have programmed. So there's no wandering through empty channels for the station you want. You simply go silently and instantly from one live station to the next.

Press the UHF lever and the signal seeking circuitry takes over. A silent motor sweeps up and down the UHF band, seeking an active channel. When it finds one it stops. There's never any need to fine-tune the pictures. It's done for you electronically.

The Two Thousand represents the pinnacle of achievement in Color TV engineering and performance. Open its doors and embark on a totally new viewing adventure.

Read More:
Television of Tomorrow (1974)
Living Room of the Future (1979)
Motorola Television (1961-1963)
Motorola Television Revisited (1961-1963)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Aerial Mono-Flyer of the Future (1918)

The August, 1918 cover of Hugo Gernsback's Electrical Experimenter magazine featured the "aerial mono-flyer of the future."

This monorail seems like only a modest improvement in safety over the 1930's sightseeing death-trap known as the sky toboggan. But the mono-flyer is assuredly a less safe concept than the monorail of William H. Boyes, built around 1911.

This image was found in the book Out of Time: Designs for the Twentieth-Century Future. According to the book, Gernsback introduced Electrical Experimenter in 1915 and changed the name of the magazine to Science and Invention in 1920.

Read More:
William H. Boyes Monorail (1911)
Amphibian Monorail (Popular Science, 1934)
Sky Toboggan (1935)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Cigarettes of the Year 2000 (1944)

Making things smaller and more efficient has, at least since the Industrial Revolution, been a staple of American futurist thinking. A women's dinner event in 1944 included "The Year 2000" as its theme and even the cigarettes were "concentrated." From the January 26, 1944 Maryville Daily Forum (Maryville, MO):
The group was served food suggestive of the theme and included tutti-fruitti pills; a pill of golden brown for the meat course; the dessert course was a miniature chocolate pellet and concentrated cigarettes. At the close of this banquet, food of 1944, including sandwiches and coffee, was served.

Read More:
Whole Meal in Pill (1923)
A Glimpse Into 2056 (1956)
Just Imagine (1930)
That Synthetic Food of the Future (Ogden Standard-Examiner, 1926)
Food of the Future (Indiana Progress, 1896)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Computers: Get Used to Them! (1982)

I would argue that the most funny, edgy and entertaining writing in the U.S. does not come from The Onion, but from high school newspapers. Granted, the humor coming from the Hormonal Fourth Estate may be largely unintentional, but it can be hilarious nonetheless.

As editor of the "Reviews" section of my high school newspaper I was notoriously bad at my job. I rarely attended class and edited my stories with the same attention to detail Don Draper gives his wife. My lack of diligence even got the "f-bomb" inadvertently published in my high school paper.

It is with this same high standard that I present a piece by Kevin Jensen. His story appeared in the November 26, 1982 edition of his high school newspaper, the Oelwein Husky Register.

Titled, "Computers, Get Used to Them!" the article says that computers are on their way but we have nothing to fear (as long as we have sledgehammers). The opening line starts by insulting the reader and just keeps getting better. The entire piece appears below.
Unless you're totally ignorant, you have probably noticed that computers are the talk of the early 1980's.

If you're a typical American, you are probably also growing tired of hearing how these computers will be running your life in the near future.

You may even have a slight fear of computers. No, I don't mean you wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat screaming, "Don't hurt me, computers!" But I think we all have a slight fear or uneasy feeling over things we are unfamiliar with.

Contrary to what you may have heard, your hands will not fall of when you touch the keyboard of a computer.

I was a little apprehensive when I walked into a computer programming class for the first time this year. All I knew about computers, prior to class, was they had computed my class schedule the last two years.

As I began to become more familiar with computer language and how to write computer programs, my uneasiness went away and I found working with computers enjoyable.

If you are considering taking a computer class (whether you are an adult or a student), I think you'd enjoy it. You may struggle a little at first learning the language and proper usage of statements, but with some persistence on your part, your mind will start picking up the techniques naturally.

You will probably also discover in your early stages of computer study that the computer can be a friend at times or a foe at other times, because of your inexperience.

For example, in computer programming class, when a program you have sweated over and worked on ruthlessly for a considerable length of time is run on the computer screen just as you planned, you might give the computer a nice pat on the top and then proceed to print out "your pride and joy."

On the other hand, when a different program assignment does not run on the computer screen as planned and the screen is showing you what seems like an infinite number of incorrect statements in your program you wish like heck you had a "nice" sledgehammer to make the computer see things your way.

Whether you like or dislike computers or are or aren't interested in them, you had better get used to hearing about them in the media. The experts predict that computers are going to be with us a long time and will be as commonplace in the home as the telephone by the year 2000.

Read More:
Computer Games of the Future (1981)
Computers in the Home by Year 2000 (1978)
Living Room of the Future (1979)
Computersville is almost here (1970)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Bloodless Surgery, Closer Than We Think! (1959)

The November 15, 1959 edition of Closer Than We Think, (syndicated by the Chicago Tribune, written and illustrated by Arthur Radebaugh), predicted "bloodless surgery."
With the development of an "atomic knife," tomorrow's hospital operations may be as easy on the patient as relaxing in an easy chair - no incisions, no bleeding. The technique has already been used successfully in reducing hormone flow from the pituitary, in relieving depressed mental states by "cutting" brain segments, in treating certain cases of cancer.

Specialists at the University of California and in Uppsala, Sweden, have been able to destroy unwanted tissues by directing a proton beam toward them. Later, many researchers feel, the method may be used in any operation that doesn't require reconnecting of tissues.

Next week: Stop-and-Go Rockets

A special thanks to Tom Z. for today's scan.

Read More:
Our Friend the Atom (1956)
How Experts Think We'll Live in 2000 A.D. (1950)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Future of Futurism

A June 29, 2006 Slate piece by Reihan Salam reflects on futurism and had some fascinating insights. An excerpt appears below.
Even so, it's not fair to say that all futurism is misguided. Just most of it. In his 1976 Time essay "Is There Any Future in Futurism?" Stefan Kanfer wrote that you could divide futurists into neo-Malthusians and Cornucopians. Neo-Malthusians are convinced that the world is going to hell. Some, like The Population Bomb's Paul Ehrlich, blamed population growth; others, like the Club of Rome, blamed economic growth. Either way, the prescription remained the same: You've got to change your evil ways, Earthlings.

Is Futurism Dead? (New York Times, 1982)
Progress to Counter Catastrophe Theory? (1975)
Going Backward into 2000 (1966)
The Population Bomb: Scenario 1 (1970)
The Population Bomb: Scenario 2 (1970)
The Population Bomb: Scenario 3 (1970)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Harry Truman and the Year 2000 (1950)

The year 1950, (as we are wont to do with "round" numbered years), provided plenty of predictions of what the second half of the 20th century held.

An angry editorial critical of President Harry Truman, (a Missouri native), and his vision for the year 2000 appeared in the January 6, 1950 Sedalia Democrat (Sedalia, MO). An excerpt appears below. You can read the entire article here.
Mr. Stalin and the Moscow planners never offered the comrades anything nearly as good as what Mr. Truman promises. The pie he puts in the sky would really be worth waiting for, if it could be had by the year 2000.

In international affairs, there will be world peace. The atom will be under international control. The United Nations will be a going concern and will have forces to preserve international law and order. World commerce will be regullated under the new International Trade Organization. Other nations will share America's prosperity through an expanded Point Four Program of technical assistance to under-developed countries. Communism will be suppressed, not by force of arms, but by an appeal to the minds and hearts of men.

See also:
Subject: Politics
Lyndon B. Johnson on 2063 A.D. (1963)
Hubert H. Humphrey's Future (1967)
Hubert H. Humphrey's Year 2000 (1967)
Negro President by Year 2000 (1965)