Category:
Yesterday’s Tomorrows

Astrochickens

Theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson envisioned our Solar System being explored by "Astrochickens." As described in his 1992 book From Eros to Gaia:

Probably both nanotechnology and genetic engineering will have an important role to play in space science. The two technologies are likely to grow together and ultimately merge, so that it will be difficult to tell which is which. In the end, nanotechnology will give us scientific instruments having the alertness and agility of living creatures, while genetic engineering will give us living creatures having the sensitivity and precision of scientific instruments. The spacecraft of 2018 may well be a hybrid, making use of nanotechnology for its sensors and communications, genetic engineering for its legs, wings, and brain.

Here is a rough sketch of one possible shape that the 2018 spacecraft might take. I call this model the Astrochicken because it is about as big as a chicken and about as smart. It is a product of genetic engineering. It does not look like a chicken. It looks more like a butterfly. It has wide and thin solar sails instead of wings, and a high-resolution spectroscopic imaging system instead of eyes. With its solar sails it flies around the inner solar system as far as the main belt of asteroids. At any one time there will be hundreds of such birds flying, programmed to make specialized observations of Earth, Moon, Sun, planets, and asteroids as well as of the heavens beyond. Other cousins of the Astrochicken will have legs for landing and hopping around on asteroids, or solar-powered ion-jet engines for exploring the outer solar system as far as Pluto.

Wikipedia notes: "As a noted author of essays on the possibilities of science in the future, Dyson's theories, such as the Dyson sphere and the Dyson tree, have become popular in the scientific and science fiction communities. The more whimsically named 'Astrochicken' has not achieved this same level of fame."

Posted By: Alex - Sat Aug 27, 2022 - Comments ()
Category: Spaceflight, Astronautics, and Astronomy, Yesterday’s Tomorrows

Atomic-Powered Vacuum Cleaners

Alex Lewyt, owner of the Lewyt Vacuum Corporation, has been mocked for his 1955 prediction that vacuum cleaners would one day be atomic-powered.

But he also predicted self-guided, robotic vacuums, and he was right about that.

Louisville Courier Journal - May 19, 1955



Albuquerque Tribune - Jun 7, 1955



Below: a 1950 ad for Lord Calvert whiskey that, for some reason, featured Alex Lewyt. Note the vacuum cleaner in the glass case behind him.

Life - Nov 27, 1950

Posted By: Alex - Fri Aug 26, 2022 - Comments (4)
Category: Atomic Power and Other Nuclear Matters, Appliances, 1950s, Yesterday’s Tomorrows

Legs of Tomorrow

In 1939, ice skater Erna Anderson was declared to have the "Legs of Tomorrow" on the theory that "the woman of tomorrow will be more athletic."

Arguably this prediction came true. At least, it's common now for women to go to gyms, whereas it wasn't in the 1930s.

Minneapolis Star - June 2, 1939



Erna Anderson. Source: New York Public Library

Posted By: Alex - Mon May 09, 2022 - Comments (7)
Category: Awards, Prizes, Competitions and Contests, Exercise and Fitness, 1930s, Legs, Yesterday’s Tomorrows

Happy Soylent Green New Year!

Welcome to 2022, the year of Soylent Green.

From wikipedia:

By the year 2022, the cumulative effects of overpopulation, pollution and an apparent climate catastrophe have caused severe worldwide shortages of food, water and housing. There are 40 million people in New York City alone, where only the city's elite can afford spacious apartments, clean water and natural food (at horrendously high prices, with a jar of strawberry jam fetching $150). The homes of the elite are fortressed, with private security, bodyguards for their tenants, and usually include concubines (who are referred to as "furniture" and serve the tenants as slaves).



Abilene Reporter News - Jan 17, 1973

Posted By: Alex - Sat Jan 01, 2022 - Comments (3)
Category: Movies, 2020s, Yesterday’s Tomorrows

The Scarecrow of Tomorrow

Miss Penelope Shoo. A scarecrow with style. On display by the Wonder Bakery exhibit at the 1939 New York World's Fair.

Pittsburgh Press - July 2, 1939



source: The 1939-1940 New York World's Fair, by Bill Cotter

Posted By: Alex - Sat Oct 30, 2021 - Comments (1)
Category: Fashion, 1930s, Halloween, Yesterday’s Tomorrows

The Girl of the Far Future

This dress wouldn't have been out of place at an awards show in the '80s, or even today. So I'll give Ralph Moni credit for an accurate prediction.

New York Daily News - Mar 10, 1939



MISS OF 19??
Ralph Moni, noted dress designer, made this gown for Helen Meyer to show his idea of the girl of the far future at the Midwest Beauty Trades Show. Charles Book then did his stuff. . . he's a New York hairdress expert. . . and capped Helen with the "futuristic" coiffure.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Oct 25, 2021 - Comments (1)
Category: Fashion, 1930s, Yesterday’s Tomorrows

American Look

Your head will be spinning with Midcentury Modern designs by the end of this film. A Utopia that never was.

Posted By: Paul - Wed Feb 03, 2021 - Comments (1)
Category: Business, Design and Designers, Recreation, Interior Decorating, 1950s, Cars, Yesterday’s Tomorrows

Moon Zero Two

Welcome to 2021, the year in which the 1969 movie Moon Zero Two was set. It was promoted as "the first Moon western". From Wikipedia:

In the year 2021, the Moon is in the process of being colonized, and this new frontier is attracting a diverse human population to lunar settlements like Moon City, Farside 5, and others.

For some reason the trailer for the movie inexplicably identified the year as 2028, even though in the movie itself the date was clearly shown as 2021.





You can watch the entire movie for free on YouTube:

Posted By: Alex - Fri Jan 01, 2021 - Comments (3)
Category: Movies, Science Fiction, 1960s, Yesterday’s Tomorrows

Home Monitor of the Future

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.

Posted By: Alex - Tue Nov 17, 2020 - Comments (5)
Category: 1960s, Yesterday’s Tomorrows

Laboratory Land

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.

Walker didn't offer a name for his new colony, but the media dubbed it "Laboratory Land." More details from New Scientist (Aug 25, 1983):

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".


Santa Cruz Evening News - Apr 1, 1933 (click to enlarge)



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.

Posted By: Alex - Tue Oct 20, 2020 - Comments (6)
Category: Utopias and Dystopias, 1930s, Yesterday’s Tomorrows

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Alex Boese
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction, science-themed books such as Elephants on Acid and Psychedelic Apes.

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