Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Jim Rasenberger, author of America, 1908 wrote a fascinating piece for the January, 2008 issue of Smithsonian Magazine. As Rasenberger contends, in 1908 it seemed that anything was possible. An excerpt appears below. The illustration of a man with wireless telephone is from Harper's Weekly.
The year 1908 began at midnight when a 700-pound "electric ball" fell from the flagpole atop the New York Times building - the first-ever ball-drop in Times Square. It ended 366 days later (1908 was a leap year) with a nearly two-and-a-half-hour flight by Wilbur Wright, the longest ever made in an airplane. In the days between, the U.S. Navy's Great White Fleet sailed around the world, Adm. Robert Peary began his conquest of the North Pole, Dr. Frederick Cook reached the North Pole (or claimed to), six automobiles set out on a 20,000-mile race from New York City to Paris, and the Model T went into production at Henry Ford's plant in Detroit, Michigan.

See also:
All the Music of the Centuries (1908)
2008 Presidential Campaign (1908)
The Air-Ship or One Hundred Years Hence (1908)
Your Own Wireless Telephone (1910)


Matt said...

Saying what the world may be like in 100 years seems to be much less of a preoccupation now than it was in the 20th century.
Is this because it seems much less rosy now than back then? Or because things are moving so fast that it's just too hard to say?

Anonymous said...

I think it's a mix of things... I think there's increased pessimism, dating back to the advent of the nuclear age; I also think that science fiction has become so popularly available and accepted that it's taken the role of futurism predictions.

I.e., if everyone's seen transporters and phasers and food replicators on Star Trek, it'd be kind of a "so-what" yawn if the New York Times published a breathless article that "Someday man may be able to beam from place to place!"

And as an extension to that point, science fiction has also explored so many themes -- to the point of humans evolving into bodyless energy beings, for instance, on shows as common as the Star Trek franchise and Stargate -- that it doesn't seem like there's much that *hasn't* already been predicted one way or the other, some time or another.

Chris Jepsen said...

Is it just me, or does this guy look a lot like Griffy from "Zippy the Pinhead?"

Anonymous said...

More like Kid Koala's Fender Bender musical video.