Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Vision of the Future

I really enjoyed this post at Accidental Mysteries: Science Writer in 1950 Predicts the Year 2000. A 1950 article from Popular Mechanics is annotated with whether or not the predictions were accurate. A few of them were rather prescient, such as

This expansion of the frozen-food industry and the changing gastronomic habits of the nation have made it necessary to install in every home the electronic industrial stove which came out of World War II. Yes (the microwave).

But some are a bit far-fetched:
• Tottenville is illuminated by electric “suns” suspended from arms on steel towers 200 feet high. NOT!

• The Dobsons use the family helicopter, which is kept on the roof. NOT!

• Discarded paper table “linen” and rayon underwear are bought by chemical factories to be converted into candy. NOT!! NOT!! NOT!!

And of course I found a few things that touch on the original writer's idea of the economy of the 21st century:

• By 2000, wood, brick and stone are ruled out because they are too expensive. NOT!

Houses are cheap. NOT!

With all its furnishings, Joe Dobson paid only $5000 for [his house]. Though it is galeproof and weatherproof, it is built to last only about 25 years. NOT!

Two-dozen soluble plastic plates cost a dollar. They dissolve at about 250 degrees Fahrenheit, so that boiling-hot soup and stews can be served in them without inviting a catastrophe. The plastics are derived from such inexpensive raw materials as cottonseed hulls, oat hulls, Jerusalem artichokes, fruit pits, soybeans, bagasse, straw and wood pulp. Not, but I like the idea. Not plastic plates, but environmentally friendly plates made of natural stuff.

• Corporation presidents, bankers, ambassadors and rich people in a hurry use the 1000-mile-an-hour rocket planes and think nothing of paying a fare of $5000 between Chicago and Paris. Yes, in the year 2000 a ticket on the Concorde cost over $8,000.

• It takes no more than a minute to transmit and receive in facsimile a five-page letter on paper of the usual business size. Cost? Five cents. Yes.

Be sure to click through and look at the original article and its illustrations-- the hose-down housecleaning of the future is hilarious!


Optioned Unarmed said...

It is always interesting to read old science fiction describing predictions for today.

By the way, there is now biodegradable plastic-like silverware and plates, etc., that seems like plastic but are really made from corn and other natural products... Here is an example:

Anonymous said...

I clicked on comments to say what Option Unarmed said.

Here in San Francisco, use of those silverware and plates are pretty widespread.