Tag Archives: retro technology

Imagining the year 2000 (in 1900)

19 Aug

The other day, I stumbled across these brilliant French illustrations imagining what life would be like in the year 2000. Issued between 1899 and 1910, they were enclosed inside cigarette/cigar boxes or sent as postcards, and the first series was produced for the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900.

It’s pretty funny now to look back at some of the artists’ predictions – one can’t help but think they might be a little bit disappointed with today’s lack of flying firemen and ever-present robots. But I wonder how many of our predictions for the year 3000 will come true (according to Busted, we’ll all be living underwater with lots of naked, triple-breasted women).

Anyway, here’s a few of the retro-futuristic illustrations by Villemard and Jean-Marc Côté (view the full set here):

Gravity-defying firemen

A conductor operates his mechanical orchestra

Madame at her toilette

Croquet in diving helmets!

A lazy teacher feeds textbooks into his pupils’ heads

Not all of them are so far-fetched though. This one is essentially Skype, albeit with vintage equipment…

Skype, retro-future style. Check out that hat…

And I’d be very grateful if anyone could explain this one to me. Some kind of equine theatre maybe? A fully-clothed version of Equus?

A horse on a stage. No idea what this one’s about…

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Tomorrow’s World, today

14 Dec

During one of my recent procrastination-fuelled trips across the internet (the kind where you begin on Wikipedia and end up fifteen minutes later watching a video about bog snorkelling), I came across an undiscovered gem.

Up until 2003, the BBC broadcast a science-themed TV show called Tomorrow’s World. It was often a showcase for new inventions, giving a nation of goggle-eyed viewers their first ever glimpses of PCs, compact discs, mobile phones, and, errr, the Segway. So I was chuffed to find out that the BBC have uploaded some old Tomorrow’s World episodes to their archive, dating all the way back to 1965.

In the following clip, originally broadcast in 1967, Europe’s very first home computer terminal is introduced, featuring a businessman who seemingly likes to work in his pyjamas:

Rex Malik sees a future world where…every home will have its own terminal plugged into a central brain.” Ring any bells? I think Tomorrow’s World may just have predicted the internet.

He sees his son growing up in a world where eventually his very thoughts could be stored and perhaps assessed for his future use.” I’m not sure about this bit, but it does sound a little like Facebook.

And the next video, from 1979, showcases an experimental cordless mobile phone:

Texting must’ve been a nightmare with that rotary dialer. Keep watching for the outtake at the end…the first incorrect number dialed on a mobile phone.

But although Tomorrow’s World was usually ahead of its time, the show also featured some inventions that are now best forgotten. This clip, from 1968, introduces the plastic garden:

No more weeding! No more withered flowers!  No more mowing! That may be true, but does anyone really want a garden that’s a cross between an AstroTurf football pitch and a tacky restaurant? At least plastic garden chairs caught on…

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