This 1964 ad envisioned a hand-held device that would allow people to run their home by remote control:
Easy Does It
Someday, you may be able to run your all-electric home and keep an eye on your youngsters by fingertip control
As far as we know, the amazing device you see above hasn't been developed as yet.
But it wouldn't be surprising if something like it were in the works. In this modern age of ours, only a short step separates the dreams of the moment from the realities of tomorrow.
Newsweek - July 1964
For once, the future actually delivered, since a smartphone can do everything imagined in this ad, and more.
Interesting that the gadget has controls for 'lawn care,' 'food prep,' etc., but not for turning the lights on.
At a 1932 meeting of the British Association, scientist Miles Walker proposed the creation of a colony, initially to consist of 100,000 people, that would be entirely "under the auspices of engineers, scientists and economists." He suggested that it might be located somewhere in North America, or perhaps France. And he figured that the colony would be so successful that it could eventually be expanded to include the entire world.
A striking vision of the rationalist utopia was unfolded by Miles Walker (an engineer with the British Westinghouse Company and professor of electrical engineering at Manchester University) when president of the Engineering Section at the 1932 British Association meeting. "Politicians are not engineeringly minded," he proclaimed, "and that is the reason why they make a failure of state management". He challenged the government to establish an experimental, voluntary, self-supporting colony of 100,000 people "under the auspices of engineers, scientists and economists" in order to demonstrate that, "when freed from the constraints and social errors of modern civilisation", a society run on rationalist lines would indeed operate more effectively than conventional society. Once the prototype was functioning properly, "the region under sane control would be extended until it gradually embraced the whole world".
The key to the success of the colony, he believed, would be its efficiency and elimination of waste. Interestingly, one of the things he had in mind that would allow this efficiency was electric cars:
Instead of thousands of cars burning petrol, costing the nation eighteen millions per annum, and polluting the air of our towns, we would have cars driven by home-generated electricity. Imagine hundreds of battery-charging stations, 20 miles apart along our main roads, at which we could in the course of a few seconds drop our partly discharged battery and take a new one that would carry us for the next three or four stages of our journey along the highway.
Almost 100 years later, and we're slowly working our way toward Walker's vision. At least, we are here in California where, by 2035, all new cars will have to be emission-free.
Published in the Dayton Daily News - Sep 29, 1920. What stands out to me is that the author believed that entirely new forms of power would be in use in 2020... and while wind, solar, and nuclear do provide some power nowadays, the old forms of power (coal and gas) still dominate. So the author was too optimistic about the pace of change.
Wooden houses may not be known in 2020. The street cars, railroad cars, and other familiar methods of travel doubtless will have passed the way of history a century from this hour. Out of all the agencies which men use today electricity alone seems likely to survive. Many scientific men believe that coal and gas will have passed out of common use within the century.
Some one has suggested that the air and the water will furnish us our methods of heat and power in 2020. No one can doubt but that the flying machines of a new and important type, not known today, will be in general use a century removed.
Airplanes probably will be driven by electricity with storage batteries providing the power. Gasoline is not likely to be utilized in 2020. The fuel problem will be solved in a far different way than it is solved now. The air will provide an immense motive power for various things. The sun, doubtless, will be called upon to furnish the greater portion of the heat utilized by manking. Out of the waters on the face of the earth something will be developed for the benefit of the human family.
The automobile will be succeeded by something entirely different. Horses and cows may not be known.
Students of the human race have told us that the primitive man, like the primitive animal, was great in stature. The bones that the scientists have unearthed have verified this. Maybe human beings a century hence will become either much smaller of much larger than they are today. Everything will have changed.
A century past has given us an unlimited amount of great inventions, the sewing machine, electric irons, electric washing machines, airplanes, automobiles, radium and electricity. The next 100 years will see this process of enlargement carried on until it reaches even greater heights.
It may not be a cheerful picture to paint, but most of us will not be here to see the year 2020 roll around. But we can rest assured time will bring changes and improvements. This is a progressive earth and progress has marked each succeeding year since the beginning.
Unlikely as it may seem, there are researchers who claim to have discovered something better than sex. At McGill University in Canada, Psychologist James Olds used electrodes to locate specific “pleasure centers” in the brains of rats, and then allowed the animals, electrodes still in place, to stimulate themselves by pressing a lever. Given a choice, the rats preferred this new pleasure to food, water and sex. Some pressed the lever as many as 8,000 times an hour for more than a day, stopping only when they fainted from fatigue.
Such experiments lead Herman Kahn of the Hudson Institute to predict that by the year 2000, people will be able to wear chest consoles with ten levers wired to the brain’s pleasure centers. Fantasies Kahn: “Any two consenting adults might play their consoles together. Just imagine all the possible combinations: ‘Have you ever tried ten and five together?” couples would ask. Or, ‘How about one and one”’ But I don’t think you should play your own console; that would be depraved.”
Back in 1969, fashion designer Bonnie Cashin offered both a pessimistic and optimistic prediction for how people would be dressing in 2019. I'm guessing her illustration is supposed to show the optimistic one.
The pessimistic prediction:
If the very air we breathe continues to be poisoned... If the earth and sea food-yields are destroyed... If noise continues to batter the eardrums... If violence continues unabated... If the population continues to explode...
Then each of us may have to wear an environmental covering just to survive. This would be a kind of life-preserving incubator which we would be put into at birth, never to leave. This would serve as an individual habitat. There might be no private homes as we know them. Communities of people would be "stored" for sleeping in giant, multi-level containers, probably according to income level.
In this gear, perhaps called an "environmode," there would be an oxygen system, a speaker system and other devices to maintain bodily functions and self-protection. It would be made of some still-to-be-invented material which articulates with movements of the body. It would have to be close-fitting, but it might be very light and transparent. Underneath would be worn a second-skin garment. In this, the individual might be able to express some personal taste in the choice of color and texture.
The fashion market as we know it would become extinct. A market for new kinds of accessories would come into being, individuality being possible in headgear, oxygen bag, the kind of ray gun you carry and such.
New York Sunday News, Coloroto Magazine - Sep 7, 1969
The optimistic one:
If, by some lovely miracle, Washington would immediately relinquish its Model T political thinking and grant first priority to the survival of the human being... If the brilliant minds that put man on the moon are teamed with social scientists and architects on a crash program for the "scientific restructure of man on earth," by 2019 we will have triggered a renaissance that will see exploration beyond man's oldest, and newest, dreams...
The young will no longer need to look at the world through a rear-view mirror, dressing as Edwardians or gypsies or biblical characters to make their point. They will be too busy planning ahead. They will look at their bodies with pride, conducting themselves with grace.
The "in" four-letter words might be "work" and "give." And "love," in the most delightful sense. I see young people of a half century from now looking absolutely marvelous, because they reflect the great environment in which they will live. Fashion's role will be as an adjunct to the fully involved life, not a fad, not a relief from boredom or a comic relief. And not just big business.
The future look is clean, unencumbered, free and much more individual in the pure sense than fashion is today — almost, you might say, non-fashion. I see color a much greater dimension than it is now, the head-to-toe effect composed, somewhat, as a walking collage. People will be educated to this, and each person will, in a sense, be able to design himself. Cosmetics will play a large role, not so much as facial adornment but as body insulation or chemistry to protect from extreme cold or heat. This, along with actual weather control, will cancel out the need for heavy clothing and furs. Fabrics and substances yet unborn will employ technology to a creative extent that we have not yet seen. There will be more un-cut-up "dressmaking" techniques used, but the word dressmaker may well be almost extinct. The dart, the seam, the hem, the detail fittings will go into the Brooklyn Museum Design Laboratory archives, along with the obsolete government charts of sizes used in our clothing industry today. Everything will be sized small, medium and tall (not large, because obesity will be a sin). Practically all clothing will be laminated, fused, molded or knitted into shape without sewing. Another technique will be a return to simple draping and tieing — a concept still used in some "developing" countries.
I think, too, that the "layered" concept, which has long been an involvement of mine, will continue in new applications. For instance, six very thin layers of a new substances, each permeated with certain chemical coverings, could be peeled off or donned as the need requires, much like an onion. This is the concept, I think, from which space-travel clothing will evolve, and that evolution should come before 2019.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.