Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Women and the Year 2000 (1967)

Glenn T. Seaborg, former chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, wrote a piece for the April, 1967 issue of the Futurist (the second ever!) titled "Women and the Year 2000." An excerpt appears below.
In the year 2000, I think that our society will be much more enlightened than it is today with respect to the role and position of women. By the turn of the century, we will be doing much more to help our women appreciate the diversity of roles they can play and the growing values of high-level skills and education . . .

I also think that in the year 2000 we will attach more importance to education for married women - both as preparation for community service and for re-entry into the labor force when their children reach an age where mothers are more able to work outside the home . . . Housewives in general should have more time for study due to automation, more money for educational expenses due to the expected rise in family incomes, and more opportunities for continuing their education due to the increased availability of local colleges and universities. There will probably be many day care centers to enable student mothers to undertake part-time study, and local colleges may even have supervised nurseries and playgrounds to keep young children occupied while mothers attend class. For mature women wishing to enter the labor force but without marketable skills, there will probably be scholarships and educational guidance counseling of both an academic and vocational nature . . .

Glenn T. Seaborg's 1989 (1964)
Lives of Women to Improve (1923)
Hawaii As Educational Resort (1970)
Hubert H. Humphrey's Future (1967)
Longer Honeymoons, Happier Wives (1923)
Headlines of the Near Future (1972)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Robots vs. Musicians (1931)

This ad from the March 9, 1931 Simpson's Leader-Times (Kittanning, PA) is in no way subtle. The consequences of using recorded music at theatre performances rather than live musicians are, "Monotony in the theatre - corruption of taste - destruction of art." Yikes.

Here is a struggle of intense interest to all music lovers. If the Robot of Canned Music wrests the helm from the Muse, passengers aboard the good ship Musical Culture may well echo the offer of Gonzalo to trade "a thousand furlongs of sea for an acre of ground." Are you content to face a limitless expanse of "sound" without a sign of music?

Monotony in the theatre - corruption of taste - destruction of art. These must inevitably follow substitution of mechanical music for living music.

Millions of Music Defense League members cordially invite you to join them in putting the Robot in his place. Just sign and mail the coupon.

See also:
The Future is Now (1955)
All the Music of the Centuries (1908)
"I Can Whip Any Mechanical Robot" by Jack Dempsey (1930s)
The Robot is a Terrible Creature (1922)
Gigantic Robots to Fight Our Battles (Fresno Bee, 1934)
Mammy vs Robot (Charleston Gazette, 1937)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Closer Than We Think! Fat Plants and Meat Beets (1958)

The September 28, 1958 Chicago Tribune ran this Closer Than We Think! strip about meat-plants of the future.

There will be less grazing land in tomorrow's crowded world, so beefsteaks may have to be replaced by extracted vegetable proteins flavored with synthetics that taste like real meat.

According to Cal Tech biologist James Bonner, new varieties of plants, rich in fats and edible proteins will be developed. Interest in this idea is already evidenced at the Michigan Agricultural Board where plans for a "phytotron" - or ultra-controlled greenhouse - are under way. This equipment will facilitate the study of plant characteristics - and show how to modify them.

Bonner also predicted at a recent Seagram scientific symposium that future farms could be operated by tapes fed through master control panels.

See also:
Farm to Market (1958)
Robot Farms (1982)
Superfarm of the Year 2020 (1979)
Farm of the Future (1984)
That Synthetic Food of the Future (Ogden Standard-Examiner, 1926)
Electrified Topsoil (1909)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The End of the Future (1991)

In his 1991 book, Facing Tomorrow, author Thomas Hine opens with a decidedly pessimistic tone. The first chapter, "The End of the Future," expresses a feeling of betrayal that the world did not provide the future humanity was promised. An excerpt from that chapter appears below.
For at least two decades, no compelling, comprehensive vision of the future has captured the American imagination. Our culture is like a child raised without adults: We have no idea what we will be when we grow up. We don't know what to tell our own children, though we dimly suspect we are setting a bad example. We condescend to past visions of the future - the progressivist utopias of the turn of the previous century, the streamlined dreams of the 1930s, the jet age exuberance of the 1950s. But we have nothing to take their place.

Instead, our popular culture is filled with tainted dreams, manipulated horrific fantasies planted in the minds of innocents, which come true when Freddy Krueger, the sleep-invading slasher from the endless Nightmare on Elm Street movie cycle, comes to eviscerate the dreamer and most of her friends, relatives and neighbors. Today, we know all about what was wrong with the visions of the past and are, we tell ourselves, more realistic. But we are more limited, too. Besides, there's no evidence, outside of the movies, that a refusal to dream prevents nightmares from coming true.

When the world does not seem to be going your way, it is worth finding out which way the world is going. If progress seems self-defeating, it is time to come up with a new definition of progress. It's time for a new future, one that will enable us [to] make sense of the present and judge how the actions we take each day will shape tomorrow. We need to understand our past ideas of the future, in part so that we can understand the ways in which we have gone wrong. But we can't slap a new coat of paint on our old tomorrows. We need to conceive of our future new and whole, from the ground up. We have to examine our fears, to see if they are real, and our desires, to understand what we really want and what we can hope to get. Today, people become angry at the future because it is not going to provide what was once expected. We need a clearer idea of what we can anticipate, what we can achieve, what we can create, so that we can once again feel the exaltation of moving toward something we want rather than the bitterness of settling for less.

Progress to Counter Catastrophe Theory? (1975)
Going Backward into 2000 (1966)
Technology and Man's Future (1972)

Vacations of the Future (1981)

The 1981 book School, Work and Play (World of Tomorrow) illustrates what the vacation of the future will surely look like. With robots and computers doing all of the work, your biggest dillema will be deciding what kind of margarita to order on your space colony retreat. Isn't it great, living in the future?

With computers and robots doing most of your work, you're going to have more leisure time in the future. You'll want to enjoy this extra time - and here computers and robots will again come to your aid.

Suppose you feel like a vacation. Planning it is easy. On the viewscreen of your home videophone computer, you watch video guides that show any place in the world - or out of it. Eventually you choose your destination - the Space Islands. These are a group of huge space colonies that are resorts for people from Earth, the Moonbase and other space colonies. They have different climates in order to attract all kinds of tourists, and you choose a colony that is like several South Sea islands inside. However, unlike the real South Sea islands, you can play weightless games there and experience other such delights that only the Space Islands can offer.

Getting from your home to the colony is a long and complicated journey, but your computer arranges all the various stages of the trip, books your seats, reserves your hotel rooms . . . and pays your bills.

Then it's off on a whole variety of robot transports as exciting as the vacation itself - beltways, autotaxis, high-speed monorail trains, underground vacuum bullet trains, mammoth jets, space shuttles and finally a spacecruiser out of the colony.

You're there at last, and a wonderful vacation lies before you. There's only one problem - no one speaks English. The Space Islands are designed to suit all the people on Earth, and so their languages vary. You've chosen one in which Spanish is spoken. You can't speak Spanish, so you hire a portable computer that translates instantly from one language to another.

See also:
Language of the Future (1982)
Man and the Moon filmstrip (1970s)
The Future of Real Estate (1953)
Year 2000 Time Capsule (1958)
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 1, 1993)
Vision (Clip 1, 1993)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Not a Robot - A Fire Eater (1937)

This photo ran in the October 29, 1937 Chester Times (Chester, PA).
The firefighter of the future is shown making his bow at a demonstration in the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Garbed in an asbestos suit, this smoke eater walks undaunted into the flames, armed with a chemical pump which quickly subdues flames. The equipment is to be used on airplane carriers.

French Prints Show the Year 2000 (1910)
Part-Time Robot (1923)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Pacific Bell Concept Video (Part 2, 1991)

Part 2 of this unnamed Pacific Bell concept video has a visual voicemail feature (or in this case, audible voicemail) that iPhone users may find familiar.

See also:
Pacific Bell Concept Video (Part 1, 1991)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Forbes: Special Report on the Future

Forbes currently has an extensive examination of the future, with both past and present perspectives, posted online. Neil Steinberg's look at the videophone should be of particular interest to paleo-futurists.
Somehow, these future marvels of the past--food pills, jet packs, flying cars and, yes, video telephones--have an inertia that reality doesn't seem to be able to completely thwart. They manage to be both old and repudiated, yet somehow retain their cachet as attractive potential future wonders. Video phones remain a real possibility--if they wish, people placing phone calls over the Internet can already see each other using Webcams. It's easy to imagine this becoming standard practice.

Or not. Because no matter how cheap and easy pervasive computer technology makes video telephones, they still bump up against one central issue: whether people will want to see and be seen by those they communicate with.

"People did not want to comb their hair to answer the telephone," said Lucky in an interview with Bill Moyers.

See also:
Picturephone as the perpetual technology of the future
The Future is Now (1955)
Television Phone Unveiled (1955)
Governor Knight and the Videophone (Oakland Tribune, 1955)
Face-to-Face Telephones on the Way (New York Times, 1968)
Tomorrow's TV-Phone (1956)

Sky Toboggan (1935)

Forget personal jet packs, where's my sky toboggan? The April, 1935 issue of Science and Mechanics featured this wonderful "Sky Sled" on its cover.

See also:
Cyclonic Rocket (circa 1930)
'Flying Saucer' Buses (1950)
New York in 1960 (1935)
Amphibian Monorail (Popular Science, 1934)

PC Magazine's 100 Favorite Blogs

The Paleo-Future blog made PC Magazine's list of their 100 Favorite Blogs. It's truly an honor and I'd like to thank everyone for reading. Pretty soon, all this attention is going to go to my head.
When starting a blog, the simplest ideas are sometimes the best. High-concept sites are often better left in the conceptual stages. Occasionally, however, really terrific concepts are even better in practice, as is the case with Paleo-Future, a blog dedicated to cataloging concepts of the future as envisioned by denizens of past decades, from the 1880s through the 1990s. Paleo-Future is a fantastic trip through days of future past, from Victorian air travel to Zemeckis-era Nikes. But it's a sobering reminder of the sideways march of technology. Flying cars, my butt.

See also:
Paleo-Future in the Wall Street Journal
Article for MungBeing
Sincerity and the Paleo-Future

Monday, October 15, 2007

Future City: 20 | 21

The Skyscraper Museum, at 39 Battery Place in New York, has an exhibit opening at the end of the month that will certainly interest paleo-futurists.
New York Modern, which opens on October 24 and runs through March 2008, looks back at prophecies of the skyscraper city in the early 20th century when the first dreams of a fantastic vertical metropolis took shape. From the invention of the tall office building and high-rise hotels in the late 19th century, New York began to expand upward, and by 1900, the idea of unbridled growth and inevitably increasing congestion was lampooned in cartoons in the popular press and critiqued by prominent architects and urban reformers.

(Found via Suggested Donation)

See also:
The Metropolis of Tomorrow (1929)
Pictures Stately Edifices (1923)
New London in the Future (1909)
Collier's Illustrated Future of 2001 (1901)
What May Happen in the Next Hundred Years (Ladies Home Journal, 1900)
The Predictions of a 14-Year-Old (Milwaukee Excelsior, 1901)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Pacific Bell Concept Video (Part 1, 1991)

This unnamed Pacific Bell concept video from 1991 is set in the year 2003. With a young woman giving birth as our main plot device, we're able to see how people of the 21st century will work, shop and communicate. Below is part 1 of 3.

See also:
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (1993)
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)
GTE's Classroom of the Future (1987)

Glenn T. Seaborg's 1989 (1964)

The September 20, 1964 Chicago Tribune ran an article about Glenn T. Seaborg's predictions for the futuristic year of 1989. An excerpt appears below.
In another 25 years, [Seaborg] speculates, teen-agers and adults will have two-way wrist watch radios . . . their own computers to aid studies or automatically translate foreign tongues into English . . . vaccines against cancer . . . synthetic foods . . . books from electronic libraries via closed-circuit TV into their homes . . . flights to Europe in one or two hours . . . clothes of special material which they'll wear once or a few times and then throw away . . . security from hurricanes or tornadoes because scientists will have learned how to prevent disastrous storms.

See also:
Closer Than We Think! Throw-Away Clothes (1959)
The Answer Machine (1964)
Health Care in 1994 (1973)
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 1, 1993)
Vision (Clip 1, 1993)
Lyndon B. Johnson on 2063 A.D. (1963)
Language of the Future (1982)
Tomorrow's TV-Phone (1956)
That 60's Food of the Future

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Tomorrow's TV-Phone (1956)

The November 23, 1956 Pasadena Star-News (Pasadena, CA) ran this picture of the "TV-Phone" of the future. If I'm not mistaken, that looks like Dick Clark on the screen.

The phone of the future will fit in the palm of the hand and enable a caller to hear and see the other party in color and 3-D. That's the concept of Harold S. Osborne, retired chief engineer of the American Telephone and Telegraph Co., as pictured and described in the September issue of Mechanix Illustrated Magazine. On the other side of the pocket watch-sized videophone are buttons which Osborne says the caller of tomorrow will push to talk to anyone anywhere on earth. The device may be carried in a pocket or purse, or worn as a locket, Osborne says.

See also:
Ristos (1979)
Wristwatch of the Future as Crimefighter (1979)
Picturephone as the perpetual technology of the future
Closer Than We Think! (1958-1963)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

GTE's Classroom of the Future (1987)

GTE's 1987 concept video Classroom of the Future envisions a bright future for voice synthesis, speech recognition and insanely small monitors. Will's acting career, however, holds less promise.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

See also:
Classroom of the Future (Part 1, 1987)
Classroom of the Future (Part 2, 1987)
Classroom of the Future (Part 3, 1987)
Homework in the Future (1981)
The Answer Machine (1964)
The Road Ahead: Future Classroom (1995)
Closer Than We Think! (1958-1963)
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 7, 1993)

Atomic Power Plant of the Future (1939)

The October, 1939 issue of Amazing Stories published this painting of the atomic power plant of the future. The image can also be found in the book Out of Time by Norman Brosterman.

If you look closely you can see the streamlined cars and trains of the future driving by. As noted in the book, the first functioning nuclear reactor was built in 1951.

See also:
Solar Energy for Tomorrow's World (1980)
Closer Than We Think! Polar Oil Wells (1960)
Future of Steam (1889)
The Future World of Energy (1984)
1980-1990 Developments (1979)
Solar Power of 1999 (1956)

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Future is Now (1955)

The 1955 short documentary The Future is Now showed viewers what technological changes they could expect in the near future. The clip below demonstrates home video, videophone and electronic music.

What do you wear to answer the phone? What difference does it make? None, today! But tomorrow, if videophone comes, as well it might, then the world has found itself another problem.

A special thanks to Jake over at the Paleo-Future Google Group for alerting us to the TCM airing of this paleo-futuristic classic.

See also:
Television Phone Unveiled (1955)
Futuristic Phone Booth (1958)
Governor Knight and the Videophone (Oakland Tribune, 1955)
Face-to-Face Telephones on the Way (New York Times, 1968)
Disney's Magic Highway, U.S.A. (1958)
Picturephone as the perpetual technology of the future

Friday, October 5, 2007

Space Age Lunch Boxes (1950s and 60s)

The Smithsonian has an online exhibit which includes these lunch boxes from the late 1950s and early 1960s. The satellite lunch box from 1958 shows a torodial space station, which is featured prominently in the short film Challenge of Outer Space. Excerpts from the Smithsonian website appear below each picture.

Satellite Lunch Box (1958)
The Soviet launch of the Sputnik satellite in late 1957 sparked interest in the United States in science education even among elementary school children. In 1958, King Seeley Thermos produced this imaginative box evoking space travel and landings on distant moons and planets. Children provided a receptive audience to this imaginary yet hopeful view of scientific achievement in the early years of the space race. This is one of the few pop culture lunch boxes from the late 1950s not designed around a television show.

Jetsons Lunch Box (1963)
Aladdin Industries profited from the success of The Jetsons television cartoon series in the fall of 1963 by introducing a domed lunch box featuring that space-traveling suburban family and their robotic maid. American notions of family life in the 1960s traveled effortlessly outward to interplanetary space on this fanciful box.

Domed metal lunch boxes traditionally were carried by factory employees and construction workers, but Aladdin and other makers found the curved shape made an excellent young person's landscape, ocean scene, or starry sky. Despite the more earth-bound adult concerns of the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 and the Kennedy assassination, The Jetsons box and bottle showcase the metal lunch box at the zenith of its design life and its popularity among school children.

(Found in yesterday's USA Today)

See also:
Challenge of Outer Space (circa 1950s)
The Complete Book of Space Travel (1956)
Mars and Beyond (1957)
Man and the Moon (1955)

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Instant Baby Machine (1930)

This scene from the 1930 film Just Imagine shows how babies will be made in the futuristic world of 1980. The clip directly follows the scene we looked at a few months back about meal pills.

Thanks again to Amy Macnamara for this paleo-futuristic classic that hasn't yet been released on VHS or DVD.

See also:
Just Imagine (1930)
Future Shock - Babytorium (1972)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Paleo-Future in the Wall Street Journal

If you read today's Wall Street Journal you may have seen a piece by Lee Gomes, which mentions the Paleo-Future blog.
Another way to follow evolving social attitudes about computers is through the "concept videos" made by computer companies. Analogous to Detroit's concept cars, these videos are designed to show a company's visionary idea about what computers might be one day, without obliging it to actually build them.

The best place to look at these videos is at PaleoFuture (paleo-future.blogspot.com), which allows an amazing look back at visions of the future, starting back in the 1880s. The exhibit is curated with great wit by 24-year-old Matt Novak of Minneapolis. Most of these retrofutures are full of optimistic technology, like what you'd see at a World's Fair or Disneyland's World of Tomorrow.

Computer-company concept videos tend to be set in the immediate future, a happy time of well-dressed people who spend their days either running small businesses or preparing sales reports. PaleoFuture has two videos from the early 1990s, one from Sun Microsystems and the other from AT&T, telling us about life in 2004.

These videos avoid the silliness of similar efforts from the 1960s, such as the 1967 movie from Philco-Ford showing moms in 1999 pushing a button to make dinner. Still, they manage to blur easy engineering problems with very hard ones, which results in their being off by miles in some of their predictions. In most of these videos, for example, the computer understands casual spoken English well enough to be able to act as an ever-alert concierge, dialing up business associates on the phone and yanking reports on demand from its memory, then cheerfully saying something back to their owner after finishing a task.

Mr. Novak says that since then, the computer industry seems to have gotten smarter about how dumb computers can be and what they're really good for. "Computers of the future were to be artificial humans," he says. "At some point, we realized that we didn't care to talk with machines. We wanted to communicate with humans more efficiently."

See also:
Article for MungBeing
Sincerity and the Paleo-Future
Postmodern Paleo-Future

The Future of Personal Robots (1986)

The May-June 1986 issue of The Futurist magazine ran an article titled, "The Future of Personal Robots." An excerpt appears below.

Robots can already be used to entertain young children. Their entertainment value for older children and adults, however, is for the most part limited to the intellectual challenge of programming them. But future robots will be complete home-entertainment centers, able to sing and dance and tell jokes, as well as control all your electronic entertainment equipment - TV, radio, stereo, computer games and telephone.

Like many paleo-futuristic images of robots, the article imagines the robot as a mechanical person, one of the least useful forms a robot can take for those living in 2007. Taken literally, it is difficult to image the robot that will, "sing and dance and tell jokes," being mass-produced anytime soon.

Also, do the people above live in a house with kitchen counters just two feet tall or is Omnibot one hell of a jumper?

See also:
Closer Than We Think! Robot Housemaid (1959)
Robot Farms (1982)
The Robot Rebellion (1982)
Japanese Retail Robots (1986)
Robots: The World of the Future (1979)
Living Room of the Future (1979)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

All the Music of the Centuries (1908)

The article below appeared in the January 3, 1908 Des Moines Daily News (Des Moines, Iowa) under the title, "The Poor Past Centuries." The piece describes a ceremony in Paris where phonographic records were buried beneath an opera house, to be opened in 2007. Sadly, I have not heard if this treasure has been unearthed yet.

Articles like these remind me of the genuine sense of wonder people felt about new inventions of the late 19th and early 20th century. Recorded music was to survive beyond the life of the creator thanks to new technologies. Hopefully, copyright law won't keep that from happening in the 21st century.

That was a curious ceremony performed last week in the subterranean passages of the opera house in Paris. Dignified people solemnly deposited in a specially constructed vault phonographic records of the great voices of today. There are songs and arias by Tamaguo, Caruso, Scotti, Plancon, Pattl, Melba, Calve and others. They are to remain there, hermetically sealed, for one hundred years. Then in the year 2007, they will be withdrawn, and the airships will stop while the passengers hear the historic voices of "the last century."

It's when we read of such things and think what they mean that we begin to realize what a wonderful age this is in which we are living, how different it is from other ages, and what it might have meant to us if the things we know today had been known hundreds of years ago.

Suppose the phonograph alone was nothing new?

We could go today and command all the music of the centuries. We could listen while Bach played the organ, Amati the violin and while Arion swept his harp. We could hear Paganini. We could listen to Palestrina directing the choir in the church of Santa Maria Maggioro, or to Father Ambrose chanting in the dim cathedral at Milan. We might even hear again of David in the psalms, or go back to the shores of the Red sea and listen to the song of Miraim.

And this is only a little in the realm of music alone. There are the orators and the poets and the players who might speak for us. Webster and Patrick Henry and Sapphe and Homer and Demothsenes and Aeschylus - the voices of history in our sitting rooms!

But what is the phonograph? Only one little invention of a multitude. Rameses could never call up the great pyramid. William the conqueror never dreamed of wireless telegraphy. Xerxes never saw a moving picture. Charlemagne never even got a glimpse of a single electric light.

At this moment the cub reporter stirred himself. He has been to college.

"No," he said, "and Darius never had any breakfast food."

"And Adam didn't have no street cars," observed the other boy.

See also:
Gardens of Glowing Electrical Flowers (1900)
Moving Sidewalk (1900)
Moving Sidewalk Mechanics (1900)

Monday, October 1, 2007

Chuck Klosterman on Tulsa's Time Capsule

The August 28, 2007 issue of Esquire ran a piece by Chuck Klosterman on the Tulsa time capsule we examined a few weeks back. An excerpt appears below and you can read the entire story here.
In June of 1957, the community of Tulsa buried a Plymouth Belvedere in a downtown concrete bunker beneath the Oklahoma topsoil. The car would act as the public vortex for a time capsule that would be unearthed five decades later. It would also be the grand prize in a stridently futuristic contest: During the summer of its entombment, various local citizens were given the opportunity to guess what the population of Tulsa would be in 2007. Whoever was closest (and was, presumably, still alive) would win the (now classic) car, along with several gallons of gasoline and oil. It appears that people in 1957 weren't positive that gas and oil would still be in use half a century later. This is how optimistic Americans used to be: We used to imagine that cars of the future would probably run on uranium, potato peels, and distilled water.

See also:
Tulsa Time Capsule (1957)