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)