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)