Back to the Future
Monday/July/06 2009 Filed in: Science / Technology
"Man will not fly for 50 years."
Wilbur Wright, 1901
Graphic from Dark Roasted Blend
Isn't this the way we all once imagined ourselves in the future?
All purple-jump-suity and blissfully anxious to let our buxom loved ones know that Earth was about to collide with Saturn?
Okay, maybe that was just us here at Apocalypzia, but you get the point.
When we look back at how people in years past envisioned what life might be like in the 21st century, it's surprising how far most of them missed the mark.
"Television won't last because people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night."
Darryl Zanuck, movie producer, 20th Century Fox, 1946.
Brave New World
With the exception of Blade Runner, most visages of the future were a sterile and clinical amalgam of stainless steel and glass. Every house, every building was some smooth perfectly polished geodesic structure.
Each person wore some strange and extreme costume that looked neither comfortable nor practical.
It was as if the entire architectural, stylistic and cultural landscape of the past (our present) had been wiped clean and supplanted by some stark and gleaming new post-modern world.
"Fooling around with alternating current is just a waste of time. Nobody will use it, ever."
Things to Come (1936)
Where There is No Vision, The People Perish
While many predictions of the future either went too far or didn't go far enough, the on-target writings of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, George Orwell and, perhaps most especially, Aldus Huxley continue to amaze us.
"It's a great invention but who would want to use it anyway?"
Rutherford B. Hayes, U.S. President, after a demonstration of Alexander Bell's telephone
And while a lot has been written about retro-future -- how people in the past imagined a yet unrealized future -- what about the other side of the coin?
What about inventions and technologies of the past that we once believed were the shape of things to come that just somehow didn't turn out that way?
We can think of a few. What would you add to the list?
The Concorde SST
Though, even today, still looking like a flying machine from the future, the Concorde was first conceived way back in 1956. Concerns about airworthiness and post 9/11 financial pressures grounded the Concorde fleet in 2003.
Bell Rocket Belt
Years before Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, the world first witnessed a man flying around like Superman. Surely, we should all be rocketing to Starbucks for a Caramel Machiatto by now.
Harrier Jump Jet
Didn't we think that by now airport runways would be a thing of the past? Our Boeing 767 would slowly ascend from an O'Hare International Airport launch pad before rocketing us off to parts unknown.
Vertical take-off/landing jet aircraft technology is still the exclusive domain of the military.
And the Harrier Jump Jet is the marvel of the British RAF.
Harrier Taking Off...
True Space Travel
We're not talking about namby-pamby coffee-tea-or-milk Space Shuttle cruises, but real honest-to-goodness AOK Right Stuff fire-in-the-hole space travel. You, know. Where the goal is not to go orbiting around in circles doing odd-job handyman work but to actually go some freakin' where!
For millennia on end, humans wondered who would be the first person to walk on the moon. Now we wonder whether or not Eugene Cernan will be the last.
"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943