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!
Imagine 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.