Some Vintage Predictions from 50 Years Ago Shed Light on Today
Every year is rammed full of anniversaries. 25 years since that, 10 years since this and a century since the other. The centenary of the start of the First World War is the biggy at the moment.
But one that caught my eye is 50 year since the 1964 World’s Fair and the best and worst predictions that it saw made available. ABC News sets the scene:
‘You can just barely see them through the window of the No. 7 subway as it rattles into the elevated station in Corona, Queens: a gigantic steel sphere, two rocket ships, and towers that appear to be capped by flying saucers.
These unusual landmarks are among a number of attractions still standing from the 1964 World’s Fair, which opened in Flushing Meadows Corona Park 50 years ago, with marvels ranging from microwave ovens to Disney’s “It’s a Small World” ride to Belgian waffles with strawberries and whipped cream.’
People love to make predictions. You could argue that each bet placed, each business move, each insurance decision is a form of predictive futurology. But what did people back in 1964 get right or wrong?
Some 51 million visitors gazed in amazement at technological innovations yet to arrive. Remember then that people were perhaps more willing to believe experts, were less conditioned to the rapidity of technological change as we are…
Some Right Things
The film franchise Back to the Future is reputed to have been seen as a guide to forthcoming technology. Well, we haven’t yet got time travel nor hover-boards, but perhaps we will.
According to a piece on Huffington Post (April 2014) these proved accurate guesses:
1. Picturephone, allowing people to see who was calling. Bell System were first with this idea which took awhile to become accepted but is now alive and well in Skype and Facetime.
2. Personal use of a computer. In an age when the idea of computers for purely personal use had not been understood, people could visit pavilions and ‘ask computers for information and get responses in seconds.’
3. Robotics, in the sense that we would now call them animatronics. Walt Disney’s ride It’s A Small World premiered robotic animation where characters sang, spoke, and made some almost life-like gestures (smiles, blinks, heads turning).
4. The Ford Mustang two-seater, mid-engine sports car came along, with its long hood and short rear deck and became instantly very popular as it has done ever since.
5. Touch tone phones had arrived at Seattle in 1962, but by 64 most people had still not seen them or used the technology.
Some Wrong Things
The article identified three areas of technological change confidently predicted but which haven’t exactly happened just yet.
1. Colonies on the moon, underwater and in Antarctica: The “Futurama 2” ride from General Motors, which featured images of people living in places where they clearly don’t.
2. Paved-over rainforests: Another image from “Futurama 2” featured a machine that used a laser to cut through the rainforests and left behind paved roads. Although it could be argued that many rainforest have been concreted over by modern development.
3. Jet packs: There were demonstrations of jet pack power at the fair, with men wearing them and zooming around the grounds. Sadly, they remain a mode of transport found mainly in science fiction.
The Daily Mail has pictures and a video.
Other futuristic blogs from the past archives of MBF Blogs:
Domestic Robots Are But a Few Months Away from Rescuing Us, 25 March 2014
The Future of Work In 5 Years Is Both Good News and Bad, 18 March 2014
Beyond Blue Sky Thinking Will Sort Out Jobs for Our Future, 27 January 2014
Some People Have Seen the Future: It’s a Legal Minefield, 26 November 2013
In the Future, The Average Is History, the Machine Is King, 30 September 2013
Does the Past Matter When We’re All Going Forwards? 15 July 2013
Forward to the Past as Polaroids Make a Comeback, 25 March 2013
How Technology Serves the Past, Present and Future, 14 September 2012