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the future's so bright

In the early 80's, I worked at one of the first video rental stores. My boss was very into keeping up with the cutting edge of the industry, so he often sent me to seminars like "The Future of Home Entertainment!" At one of these seminars (held in a dusty motel at LaGuardia airport), a rep from Phillips introduced us to the newest, greatest, change-your-life invention - the compact disc player. Everyone oohed and aaahed and marveled at the brilliant technology that would let you listen to crisp, clean music on such a small, easy to store disc. And the discs were shiny. Us cutting edge technology people like shiny things.

While I thought the whole premise was amazing and mouth watering, I was skeptical that it would ever see the light of day. You see, I had been wronged by technology before. I had been lied to, led on and teased for so many years by "wave of the future" predictions that I no longer believe anything put before me by electronics reps, scientists or prognosticators. Fool me once, etc.

When I was much younger, I had visions of cities in the sky, monorails, jet pack travel, houses that cleaned themselves and yes, flying cars. I read all these scientific magazines that promised these things. I read books that were nothing but glorious predictions of what our space-age future held. I watched tv shows that made it seem as if life in the 80's, 90's and - if the earth held out that long - 2001, would be a life of convenience, fun and flying cars. I sort of got stuck on the flying cars thing and I still hold a grudge against the automotive industry for failing me in that respect.

Yesterday, I came across this page, which reprints an (allegedly) true piece from a magazine in 1961 (yes, I understand this page has been around forever, but I guess it was slow in making its way to me). Whether or not the article is really from 1961 is not up for discussion here; the fact remains that these are the things I was promised. This is the world I was told I would have. These are the lies the scientists fed us just so we would fund their damn studies.

What sort of life will you be living 39 years from now? Scientists have looked into the future and they can tell you.

Just how did they "look into the future" anyhow? At one time, I thought that phrase meant scientists all had these special telescopes that allowed them to see ahead in time. But if that were the case, then they would know that in 2001, there would still be no flying cars.

You will be whisked around in monorail vehicles at 200 miles an hour and you will think nothing of taking a fortnight's holiday in outer space.

Well, I've been whisked around in a New York City cab at 200 mph, does that count? As for taking a holiday in outer space, I've got three letters for you: L.S.D.

Your house will probably have air walls, and a floating roof, adjustable to the angle of the sun.

If by air walls they mean uninsulated, drafty windows then, yes. I do have airwalls!

Doors will open automatically, and clothing will be put away by remote control. The heating and cooling systems will be built into the furniture and rugs.

Ok, I'll give them the automatic doors, but the clothing thing - that's just stupid. Would all your shirts and pants and even undies have to have little remote control chips in them in order for that to work? I can't even stand size tags, I'm not about to spend all day being bothered by a chip in my shirt just because I'm too lazy to put some clothes away. Besides, who needs technology for such a thing when you can just live out of laundry baskets?

You'll have wall-to-wall global TV, an indoor swimming pool, TV-telephones and room-to-room TV. Press a button and you can change the décor of a room.

I will? Gee, they make it sound not only exciting, but affordable. These things will not just be available, you will have them. Even if this wall to wall tv is finally here (four years too late for your prediction, hah!), it's not likely any of us are going to have one soon. As for the decor thing - I think some of those scientists may have been standing too close some chemicals, if you know what I mean.

The status symbol of the year 2000 will be the home computer help, which will help mother tend the children, cook the meals and issue reminders of appointments.

My computer has never once tended to my children or cooked a meal for me. Do Macs do this? Is that where I have gone wrong? Did Bill Gates screw me again?

Food won't be very different from 1961, but there will be a few new dishes - instant bread, sugar made from sawdust, foodless foods (minus nutritional properties), juice powders and synthetic tea and cocoa. Energy will come in tablet form.

Sawdust, aspertame, what's the difference? Close enough. Foodless foods? I think that's called Burger King.

At work, Dad will operate on a 24 hour week. The office will be air-conditioned with stimulating scents and extra oxygen - to give a physical and psychological lift.

If Dad is operating on a 24 hour week, I see food stamps in your future. Notice they don't say how many hours mom will be working. While dad is at the office inhaling sweet fragrances and getting high off of too much oxygen, mom is home sniffing the baby's diaper and getting a nice physical lift from hauling the vacuum cleaner around the house all day. Oh, she'll get her psychological lift. As soon as dad comes home from his three hour workday, mom will be in the basement huffing model airplane glue. Have you ever dealt with having a husband home most of the day?

It will be the age of press-button transportation. Rocket belts will increase a man's stride to 30 feet, and bus-type helicopters will travel along crowded air skyways. There will be moving plastic-covered pavements, individual hoppicopters, and 200 m.p.h. monorail trains operating in all large cities.

Well, there are no rocket belts increasing man's stride to 30 feet, but there are pills that will increase a man's rocket to ten inches. And really, which one would you prefer?

The family car will be soundless, vibrationless and self-propelled thermostatically. The engine will be smaller than a typewriter. Cars will travel overland on an 18 inch air cushion.

See, this is where they always got me. 18 inches, 18 miles, whatever. A flying car is a flying car and these fearless predictions of autos that hovered above the ground have amounted to a thirty year foreplay session with no orgasm in sight.

Railways will have one central dispatcher, who will control a whole nation's traffic. .

One guy. A nation of trains. No wonder we never got the flying cars. The scientists were too busy planning how to kill 5,000 people a day and destroy our infrastructure in 2001.

By the year 2020, five per cent of the world's population will have emigrated into space. Many will have visited the moon and beyond.

Ok, they've still got time for this one. And I volunteer. As long as they can promise there will be no reality tv on our moon station and I won't have to put up with these guys.

Our children will learn from TV, recorders and teaching machines.

Yes, and then we'll be told that thanks to letting our kids learn from tv, they now all have short attention spans, which means....

They will get pills to make them learn faster.

Technology gives, and technology taketh away.

We shall be healthier, too. There will be no common colds, cancer, tooth decay or mental illness.

We have a better chance of flying. In cars.

And this isn't science fiction. It's science fact - futuristic ideas, conceived by imaginative young men, whose crazy-sounding schemes have got the nod from the scientists.

Crazy? Yes. Fact? Hardly. Have you seen a running theme here? Do I sound bitter over the one simple thing that I have been promised endlessly, generation after generation of imaginitave young men making promises they just can't keep? WHERE IS MY FLYING CAR, DAMN IT?

It's the way they think the world will live in the next century - if there's any world left!

What? Suprise ending! Hahahaha, we're teasing you with all the wonderful things that await you in FutureWorld. What we haven't told you is that those crazy scientists are also working on something (besides the one guy controlling the trains thing) that will effectively destroy the universe, mwahahahaha! Suckers!

carj.JPGImagine you're the curious lad of 1961 who is reading this thing, salivating over the possibilities, getting all tingly over the idea of perfect women who stay home all day and push buttons to keep the house clean, the food warm and the kids in line while you sit in an office breathing pure oxygen until it's time to take your hovercar home, and you get to the end of the list of things that await you in adulthood and bam, they hit you with if there's any world left! You piss your pants in fear and start hoarding canned goods and powdered milk under your bed and wondering just how the world is going to end and if you'll ever realize your dream of making out with MaryKate Smith in the back seat of your flying car while parked at an outer space drive-in or will the world just abruptly end before you can reach that goal?

If I could go back in time, I would find that young boy and tell him that yes, the world will still be here in 2000. But will life be worth living then? Sure, there will be color tv and cordless phones and push-up bras, but there will be no flying cars. I'll spare the kid a lifetime of holding out hope for something he'll never attain. Not just the flying car, but MaryKate Smith.

And this is why they will never pick me for the eventual time travel experiment. Because not only would I dash that boy's dreams, but I'd tell all the women to revolt against the scientists who think that the only things a wife wants out of technology is a way make her house cleaner and her kids docile.

Update: Reader Sam reminds me that not only have I previously posted about flying cars, but someone is really working on one.

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Comments

Audio version of your rant

1961 was around the time the Enlightenment began to die a slow, painful death. We have since learned that "science" is not infallible, and scientists are just a s screwed up as the rest of us!

Flying cars? Hah. Last week I saw some numbnut backing-up on the PA Turnpike because he missed the exit.

Can you imagine HIM in a flying car??

I was talking to a couple of the guys at work, one my age and a youngling of 20. Us old folks were talking about our childhood and what we expected the future to be and I said, "We were promised flying cars!!"

Michele:
you've been on fark long enough to know there is a flying car. I refuse to post the link.

They did come up with bacteria for your mouth that kills off the other bacteria that rots your teeth, but I have not heard about it lately. Probably caused male infertility. Hey Chuck, we DO have flying cars on the PA Tpk ... it's the landing part that is kinda tricky.

Mr Lawson, I'm pretty sure the fact that Bill Gates might have a flying car in his garage doesn't placate Michele in any way whatsoever...

They also promised us that one day we'd be living on the bottom of the ocean and driving around in our own personal mini-subs.
I was eight when the New Yorks World's Fair opened in 1963, and I believed.

I guess I still do...only not so much.

But, hey, at the TV's have remote controls.

Spd Rdr: YOU, too, were at the Fair in Corona?? Were you wearing a hat??

"Railways will have one central dispatcher, who will control a whole nation's traffic"...they got this one at least partly right. CSX, for example, controls its East Coast network from Jacksonville, Florida (although it takes more than one person to do it)

I was at the World's Fair in 1963! I was the little baby in the carriage. Pink hat, white coat.

I definitely remember reading about flying cars in school back then. The attraction was they drove normally, but when you got in a traffic jam or something you could just lift up and over and be on your way. It was such a vivid image it has popped into my mind at intervals ever since.

What I want to know is what happened to the Fashions of the Future. It was supposed to be wall to wall nubiles in transparent plastic tops and micro-minis. Instead the fine young ladies of today dress as if they were tossed into the dumpster outside of Goddwill and just closed their eyes and put on the first things that came to hand.
Bah.

when you got in a traffic jam or something you could just lift up and over and be on your way

Ah-ha, that's why we still don't have the damn things. Diane just named the attraction, and the drawback. Think of all the people you know who can't change lanes. Now imagine them all trying to change lanes three-dimensionally . . . .

Heh... I grew up in Corona. My grandfather's house was on 50th Street; he and my uncles used to rent parking spaces for the day during the Fairs.

Computers that tend the children? Sure...if you count the hours Anna spends on the Neopets site, looking up anime stuff and info about Orlando Bloom...and emailing back and forth to her best friend who is a phone call away. If you count X-Box and Playstation and GameBoy as computer-tending, then I've really got it made. All I have to do is hold a plate of food under her nose at regular intervals!

Actually, all of her hours spent gaming may pay off. While she's not at the level of the guy making $80,000, she has an interest in gaming beyond that of her peers, and she has decided that she wants to be a software designer. I did some research and found that there is a huge demand for female designers since the market for sales aimed at females is growing by leaps and bounds - and there are several colleges offering full ride scholarships to women who sign up for their programs. Hopefully when she's ready for college in three years (gulp) there will be more opportunities like that available, and as long as she continues keeping her 3.75 GPA, other financial aid won't be hard to get.

I'm convinced that the way they get these "future" articles is they take a bunch of undergraduate science students to a bar, buy them several rounds, and THEN start the interview. There is no other explanation for some of the hilarious crap I've heard and seen come out of these things.

Not to ruin a perfectly good fisking... but there are a lot of things in there that have come true, more or less:

- You'll have a home control room - an electronics centre, where messages will be recorded when you're away from home. This will play back when you return, and also give you up-to-the minute world news, and transcribe your latest mail. Check. Home entertainment center, media center computers, voicemail, the internet, email, RSS readers... they all fill that promise pretty well

- The status symbol of the year 2000 will be the home computer help, which will help mother tend the children, cook the meals and issue reminders of appointments. Ok, there may not be a robot nanny, but you can hit google for a recipe, or go to WebMD to find out what your kid has. And don't forget about Outlook reminding you of your appointments.

- Mail and newspapers will be reproduced instantly anywhere in the world by facsimile. It may not be with facscimile... but we definitely got that.

- There will be machines doing the work of clerks, shorthand writers and translators. Machines will "talk" to each other. Check... computers definitely talk to each other... after all that's how you're reading this right now.

- Our children will learn from TV, recorders and teaching machines. They will get pills to make them learn faster. We shall be healthier, too. There will be no common colds, cancer, tooth decay or mental illness. They do learn from TV, whether we like it or not... and computers are teaching machines for many. We are healthier, though the eradication of all disease thing hasn't happened yet.

- Medically induced growth of amputated limbs will be possible. Rejuvenation will be in the middle stages of research, and people will live, healthily, to 85 or 100. We may not be able to grow a limb yet... but that age thing isn't too far off.

Not to ruin a perfectly good fisking

Really?

And the little tickle in the back of my mind pays off...

There WERE flying cars, before 1961 no less. They just weren't very good.

Aerocar

(If that link doesn't work, I'll just paste the damn thing...)

I know a guy who is actually working on a flying car. no kidding- its not the guy in the link

That's the problem -- they gave the flying car project to the cable guy. He's never on time.

At one time they talked of a helicopter in every garage well we dont have that but during the 1939 worlds fair in New York they showed the future including a TV and can you remember the idea of cars the travel on a cusion of air? or traveling through space? or robots to help with the work and hey i remember THE JETSONS dont you?

Ah, days of future passed is how I refer to those types of stories. There are some great ones in the comics. One of my favorites is from Wonder Woman #7 (sometime around 1943). Wonder Woman travels to the future, where things are much better for women. Before she leaves her mother shows her one marvelous invention of the future:

"The microphone on the secretary's forehead takes the employer's dictation. Electric impulses pass through the headband and these wires to the girl's arms compel her to type every word as it is spoken!"

"How wonderful!" Wonder Woman exclaims.

And yes, as somebody else commented, the secretaries are indeed wearing micro-miniskirts. :)

I'm a private pilot. ("Q: how do you know if there's a pilot in the room? A: Don't worry, he'll tell you.") Although it's true that learning to fly was a lifelong dream to me, I only finally got around to it after two abject waterheads in metro Atlanta tried to kill me on my Harley and very nearly succeeded. That was it: I figured I was safer in airplanes to get my kicks.

The very idea of all these assholes on the roads able to fly is utterly horrifying to me. Do you understand? Horrifying. I don't know what could possibly be worse.

Mini-subs have been available; they aren't economically viable as an alternative to ordinary SCUBA gear.

Hover craft have been available; they are only economically viable for transportation in marshland, or if really large, as amphibious landing craft. They are still notoriously hard to steer.

There have been significant advances in life extension, and stem cell research represents the beginnings of regen.

Every prediction of flying cars I ever saw (my favorite featured motorscooters) included the extension of traffic jams to the third dimension.

I have maintained since the days when Robotics Age was a hobby magazine that computer enhancement of the current dishwashing machine was more rational than an anthropoid robot up to "her" elbows in dishwater. I don't think the vision system monitoring cleanness has been implemented yet, but dishwashers are improving. Unfortunately, the new programmable CrockPot is reportedly flawed.

Oh yeah, as if the present day governing classes would allow private citizens to have flying cars.

Were the automobile invented today, it would be prohibited to everyone but the governors.

Oh yes, obviously a case of The Man holding back progress. Damn the elite and powerful for denying me a flying car. After all, they blocked off the Internet in order to deprive us of knowledge and information; choosing instead to keep it only for themselves.

People keep recoiling in horror at the idea of flying cars because they keep assuming that people will have flying cars and live in crowded cities.

There is no reason on Earth for people to do that. The flying car would enormously extend the feasible commuting distance, and people will tend to take advantage of it. People will locate homes, offices, schools and shops far away from today's population centers, surrounded by miles of wilderness, and they'll tend to prefer to travel to, from, and through sparsely populated areas because it's safer and easier.

Not to mention insurance companies would tend to charge a lot less for people that stayed away from cities.

As the groundcar made its way into the museum where it belongs, the cities would similarly become historical relics.

I remember hearing, in 1977 or so, an audiophile program featuring "direct to disk" and digital CDs. I knew at the time I was listening to the death of vinyl.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane.