Friday, December 28, 2007

X-20 Monorail Toy (1962)

This ad in the December 14, 1962 Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM) shows the X-20 Monorail toy, selling for $5.97.
An amazing invention that's fun for everyone . . . the HO Gauge Monorail. Thrilling speeds on a single rail, carries messages to neighbor's house, travels long distance. Deluxe set includes self-propelled battery-operated monorail engine, 40 ft. flexible aerial track with curve support, 15 ft. of monorail track, 10 monorail suspension towers, variable speed control tower and more.

Those of you intrigued by the half turtle, half frog, Odd Ogg can read more about him at Older Than Me.

See also:
Frederick & Nelson Ad (1962)
Closer Than We Think! Monoline Express (1961)
Amphibian Monorail (Popular Science, 1934)
Monorails at Disneyland (1959 and 1960)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

We Are Animals, Says Mr. Edison (1910)

The January 28, 1910 Decatur Review (Decatur, Illinois) ran portions of an interview with Thomas Edison titled, "We Are Animals, Says Mr. Edison: Inventor Predicts Cheaper Clothing and Less Manual Labor." The entire piece appears below.
In an interview published in the Independent, Thomas A. Edison speaks of future inventions and refers to the problem of getting the most out of fuel as one of the important problems of the day. He has something to say about the clothes of the future.

"The clothes of the future will be so cheap," says Mr. Edison, "that every young woman will be able to follow the fashions promptly, and there will be plenty of fashions. Artificial silk that is superior to natural silk is now made of wood pulp. It shines better than silk. I think that the silk worm barbarism will go in fifty years, just as the indigo of India went with the production of indigo in German laboratories.

"There is much ahead of us. We don't know what gravity is; neither do we know the nature of heat, light and electricity. We are only animals. We are coming out of the dog stage and getting a glimpse of our environment. We don't know - we just suspect a few things. Our practice of shooting, one another in war is proof that we are animals. The make-up of our society is hideous.

"Communication with other worlds has been suggested. I think we had better stick to this world and find out something about it before we call up our neighbors. They might make us ashamed of ourselves. Not individualism but social labor will dominate the future. Industry will constantly become more social and interdependent. There will be no manual labor in the factories of the future. The men in them will be merely superintendents watching the machinery to see that it works right. Less and less man will be used as an engine or as a horse, and his brain will be employed to benefit himself and his fellows."

Regarding the possibility of using radium as a fuel, Mr. Edison says that is only speculative.

"Radium has great power," he adds. "It has no appreciable limit or end. It is not combustible. A carload of radium would have as much energy as all the millions of tons of coal mined in the United States in a year. I have a spinthariscope, which contains a tiny bit of radium of a size that will go through the eye of a needle. It has been shooting off millions of sparks for six years that I have had it, and I expect it will be shooting sparks the same way for thousands of years. Some day we might find immense deposits of it, then it will be a problem how to handle it without dangerous consequences."

See also:
Edison Battery Solves Old Problems (1909)
Moving Sidewalk (1900)
In the Twentieth Century (Newark Daily Advocate, 1901)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Our Friend the Atom (Book, 1956)

Walt Disney Productions published a book in 1956 titled, Our Friend the Atom. A television episode of Disneyland aired in 1957 under the same name and can be found on the DVD set Tomorrowland: Disney in Space and Beyond.

In the book, the promise of the atom is illustrated quite literally as a genie, ready to grant humanity wishes. The final section of the book focuses on these wishes with that special blend of sincerity and hope the 1950s is best known for.

The wishes are shown below along with some of the accompanying illustrations. To read the prologue of the book you can check out "the other blog."

The coal and oil resources of our planet are dwindling, yet we need more and more power. The atomic Genie offers us an almost endless source of energy. For the growth of our civilization, therefore, our first wish shall be for: POWER!

Mankind has long suffered from hunger and disease. The atomic Genie offers us a source of beneficial rays. These are magic tools of research which can, above all, help us to produce more food for the world and to promote the health of mankind. Our second wish, therefore, shall be for: FOOD AND HEALTH!

There is left to us the third and last wish. It is an important one that demands wisdom. If the last wish is unwise, then - as some of the legends tell - all the wishes granted before may be lost.

See also:
Atomic Power Plant of the Future (1939)
Closer Than We Think! Polar Oil Wells (1960)
Solar Power of 1999 (1956)
The Future World of Energy (1984)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Future of Religion (1980)

For the October, 1980 issue of The Futurist Ted Peters, associate professor of systematic theology at the Pacific Lutheran Seminary (Berkeley, CA), wrote a piece titled, "The Future of Religion in a Post-Industrial Society." An excerpt appears below.
Western society is so pre-occupied with the consumption of goods and services that even religion may become just another commodity, like the packaged tour to an exotic island. If so, the world may lose a possible solution to its great crises.

What is to become of religion as our society moves further and further into the post-industrial period? Certain trends are fairly easy to identify. For example, an extension of Islamic influence due primarily to the sudden expansion of wealth in Muslim hands. But I would like to bypass trends of this type and focus on something else, namely, the potential interaction between religion and the current understanding of the human self which has developed during the now passing industrial period.

My thesis is that as our civilization becomes increasingly post-industrial, our preoccupation with consuming goods and services will most likely commoditize religion. There is now a strong trend - which I believe will continue - toward treating the moral and spiritual dimensions of life as commodities to be acquired and disposed of according to tastes and whims of shoppers in the religious marketplace.

Excessive consumption, however, whether it be consumption of material goods or spiritual values, is the root of the crisis we call the "world problematique." In addition, as long as the consumer mentality prevails, we will be condemned to a prostitution of the essential religious vision, a vision of the transcendent unity of all things which requires a sacrifice of the human ego. It is just such a vision, however, that holds the greatest promise for resolving the world problematique.

See also:
Headlines of the Near Future (1972)
Future Shock (1972)

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Ultimate Necessity of Space Travel (1959)

Philip N. Shockey wrote a piece for the March-May, 1959 issue of Space Journal titled, "The Ultimate Necessity of Space Travel." Shockey makes the case for a trip to the moon and eventually further into space as a necessity brought about by the eventual destruction of Earth a few billion years from now.

That trip to the moon was still a decade away but, as noted in the piece, was anticipated to be no sooner than 20 years out. An excerpt from the piece appears below.
When one considers that our planet is doomed, at least as far as life is concerned, it is impossible to put meaningful value on the titanic forward struggle of life on Earth through billions of years. This struggle, whether conscious or not, appears agonizingly futile if the gigantic mass contribution can not be perpetuated.

Shockey's daughter, Jeane Goforth, was kind enough to scan the entire issue which can be viewed here.

See also:
Challenge of Outer Space (circa 1950s)
The Complete Book of Space Travel (1956)
Mars and Beyond (1957)
Man and the Moon (1955)
Wernher von Braun's Space Shuttle (1950s)
Animal Life on Mars (1957)
Plant Life on Mars (1957)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Stepped Platform Railway (1890)

These images of a moving sidewalk of the future ran in an 1890 issue of Scientific American. A moving sidewalk very similar to this was actually built for the 1900 Paris Exposition. You can even watch film of the sidewalk in action, shot by Thomas Edison. The images below can also be found in the excellent book Victorian Inventions by Leonard De Vries.

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

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

1999 A.D. Controversy

Back in April, I started posting clips from the 1967 film 1999 A.D. I never expected controversy. The video below should hopefully clear things up. Many thanks to Skip at A/V Geeks for the link.

There is a fair amount of skepticism from people questioning the authenticity of material I post here on the blog. Oddly enough, people tend to question the posts of microfilm scans rather than articles I've transcribed.

See also:
1999 A.D. (1967)
Online Shopping (1967)
1999 A.D. Intro (1967)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Paleo-Future Online Store

Do you love the Paleo-Future but don't know how to properly express that love? Buy some buttons. Or a poster. Or print your own.

The 45 button set includes every flying machine featured in this post from August.

You can check out the Paleo-Future Online Store main page here.

See also:
Flying Machines (circa 1885)
Futuristic Air Travel (circa 1900)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dawn of a New Day (1939)

The 1939 New York World's Fair song "Dawn of a New Day" was written by George and Ira Gershwin. Unfortunately, I don't remember where I found the song so I can't give credit where credit is due. You can listen to the song here.

See also:
Railroads on Parade (1939)
All's Fair at the Fair (1938)
Memory of 'Tomorrow' (New York Times, 1941)
Donald Duck's "Modern Inventions" (1937)
Metal Man Comes to Life (1939)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Our Dread of Robots (1932)

The September 27, 1932 Ruston Daily Leader (Ruston, Louisiana) ran a cautionary editorial about an inventor who was supposedly shot by his own robot. From the late 1920s until the late 1930s you can find countless news articles of the wondrous feats robots were supposed to have performed.

The uneasy feelings we had about automation and mechanization are articulated quite well by the editorial. The end of the piece is accurate in stating, "Machinery has created a revolution in our life. The wage-earner, the farmer, the soldier, the merchant, the politician, the schoolmaster, the printer - all of us, in every moment of our lives, live differently than our ancestors lived because of the constant increase in the mechanization of society."

The entire editorial appears below.
A fable that has held the attention of writers for more than a century came very close to coming true not long ago.

An English inventor had built a big steel "robot," or mechanical man, which was operated by wireless. At a word of command the robot would do various things, including fire a revolver at a target. And one day, when the inventor was just about to give the command, the robot unexpectedly raised the gun and fired, shooting the inventor in the hand.

"I always had the feeling that he would turn on me some day," the inventor remarked afterward. "I don't know why he fired before I gave the signal."

Ever since Mrs. Shelley wrote about Frankenstein, who made a mechanical man which got out of his control, this motion of an automatic, lifeless man created out of machinery has attracted writers; and the writer who handles it nearly always has his mechanical man, at last, go on a rampage and start destroying things.

Indeed, fable has become the modern ghost story. We don't shudder over tales of spooks and haunts the way our fathers did, but we can always get cold chills by thinking about a steel monster that goes about with no brain or heart to control it. We find it more horrifying to think of a body without a soul than to think of a soul without a body. Furthermore, we find it easier to believe in such a thing.

And now, apparently, it has happened. Life has imitated art once more. A robot has shot its master.

A psychologist could probably make a good deal of this fascinating dread of ours for mechanical monsters. Machinery has created a revolution in our life. The wage-earner, the farmer, the soldier, the merchant, the politician, the schoolmaster, the printer - all of us, in every moment of our lives, live differently than our ancestors lived because of the constant increase in the mechanization of society.

See also:
"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)
The Mechanical Man of the Future (1928)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Big Laughs Coming (1922)

The May 31, 1922 Modesto Evening News (Modesto, California) ran an article titled, "Big Laughs Coming," about how future generations may look at the styles, technology and work life of 1922.

The writer of this piece clearly romanticizes the notion of rural life by proclaiming, "We, voluntarily imprisoned in cramped apartments or small house, will seem queer to our descendants. Daily we go to work in our prison cells, to pound typewriter keys, push a pen or perform monotonous operations with machinery - when we might all be free in the outdoors of farmland." The entire article appears below.
In cleaning house this spring, maybe you ran across the old family album. If so, you had a laugh at the peculiar clothing styles and solemn expressions on the faces of former generations.

Did it ever occur to you, that our photographs are also going to get "the merry ha-ha" when future generations discover them in some obscure nook of the airship-houses that will be in use 75 or 100 years from now?

The marvels of today will be laughably old-fashioned later on. It is hard for us to believe this. That has always been the way. Vanity being eternal, each generation - while laughing at the past - is cock-sure that the present is "the real thing."

Have you read Mark Twain's satire, "A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court?" Its film version makes movie audiences roar at the ludicrous effect of a modern American transported back into time 1400 years, unhorsing armored knights with a lasso and knocking them down like nine-pins with a flivver.

The stately dignity of the ancients is farcical, from the 1922 viewpoint.

At lumber mills, teams used to haul boards to boxcars, where they were leisurely transferred by roustabouts.

At a modern mill, the lumber is carried out to the boxcars on a long conveyor belt, a sort of endless moving platform. The lumber comes in a steady stream. An efficiency expert has calculated how fast the loader at the car should work, and the belt is geared accordingly. The loader works at a set speed or gets buried under oncoming boards.

We regard this arrangement solemnly. But, having all the elements of humor, it will make future generations haw-haw.

In the future, automatic machinery and inventions will free men from industrial slavery. Cheap, fast-flying airplanes will enable all to live in the country. Cities, at night, will be deserted groups of factory buildings.

We, voluntarily imprisoned in cramped apartments or small house, will seem queer to our descendants. Daily we go to work in our prison cells, to pound typewriter keys, push a pen or perform monotonous operations with machinery - when we might all be free in the outdoors of farmland.

Will the future consider us laughable, pathetic or crazy?

It's a good thing the average person's sense of humor is not highly developed. Otherwise, we might either revolt against the stupidity of civilization - or laugh ourselves to death at our dignified solemnity.

See also:
Anachronisms of the Future (1911)
The Air Ship: A Musical Farce Comedy (1898)
Sees World Better or Worse (1923)

Friday, December 7, 2007

Transportation of the Future (1992)

The 1992 children's book Transport (Timelines) features this two-page spread of futuristic bicycle wheels, solar-powered cars, high-speed trains and fire engines with robotic arms.

See also:
The Future World of Transportation

21st Century Eugenics (1967)

The CBS series 21st Century aired a program titled, "The Mystery of Life" on February 26, 1967. The program looked at genetics and the future of humanity.

In this clip, host Walter Cronkite interviews biologist James Bonner. Bonner advocates a "large-scale program of [breeding] better people," otherwise known as eugenics. Procreation by committee sounds like tons of fun!

The episode can be found in its entirety on the A/V Geeks DVD Twenty-First Century.

Bonner: Each baby, when it's born, must donate some of his sex cells, sperm or eggs, and these are put in a deep freeze and just kept. The person leads his life, and dies. And after he's all dead and gone, so the heat of passion is taken out of the matter, a committee meets and studies his life.

Cronkite: So during his lifetime then, he hasn't had any children?

Bonner: He's been sterilized, and hasn't had any children in the normal way. After he's dead and gone, the committee meets and reviews his life and asks, 'Would we like to have some more people like him?' If the answer's no they take out his sex cells of the deep freeze and throw them away. But if the answer's yes then they use him to fertilize eggs similarly selected on the basis of review and validation of a person's contributions during his lifetime. He just doesn't get to brazenly go out and propagate his own genes without assuring himself and everyone else that they're the best possible genes.

See also:
Future Shock - Babytorium (1972)
Instant Baby Machine (1930)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Paleo-Future Inventions Quiz

Encarta has an interesting online quiz about paleo-futuristic products. The quiz was produced by the Discovery Channel and asks questions about jet packs, nuclear-powered cars, meal-in-a-pill, videophones, among others. You can take the quiz here.

(The last question is particularly sad, and doesn't end up well. We'll probably look at news articles from that failed invention next week.)

See also:
Jet Flying Belt is Devised to Carry Man for Miles (New York Times, 1968)
The Future is Now (1955)
Jet Pack Video (1966)
Tomorrow's TV-Phone (1956)
Television Phone Unveiled (1955)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Closer Than We Think! Universal Language Boxes (1960)

The August 21, 1960 Chicago Tribune ran this Closer Than We Think! strip about "Universal Language Boxes" of the future.
In the world of tomorrow, you'll be able to talk in English and be understood by a Japanese who knows only his own tongue, or by an Ottoman Turk who's acquainted with his own language and no other.

A robot translating machine has already been developed by our Air Force. Right now it operates at only 40 words per minute and is bulky and complicated. But miniaturization, combined with magnetic tape, suggests far more dramatic possibilities for the future - a translating box that might listen to one vernacular and instantly relay a verbal translation. Any language would than be usable anywhere, universally!

See also:
Language of the Future (1982)
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (Part 1, 1993)
Vision (Clip 1, 1993)
Vacations of the Future (1981)
Closer Than We Think! (1958-1963)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Robo-Shop (1989)

The December 11, 1989 Post Standard (Syracuse, NY) ran this piece about Jean Du Teau and his newly opened robotics store, Robot World. Du Teau appears immensely optimistic about the future of personal robots. "Robots are today where computers were 10 years ago," he said. "Most people perceive that the robotic age is going to happen in the year 2000. The robotic age is here." The full article appears below.

See also:
In a Cashless Future, Robots Will Cook (1996)
The Future of Personal Robots (1986)
Japanese Retail Robots (1986)