27.3.09

Paleo-Future or the Futures of the Past

Microsoft Office Labs has produced a montage video about what information technology will be like in 2019. In my opinion it's a neat and inspiring video but like any vision of the future, it has little to do with what the world will actually be like. The future just sort of shies away from most predictions, and the visions end up telling more about the contemporary world than the future.

Reading the the comments discussing the MOL video at iStartedsomething I myself started to rekindle my long lost idea of doing research on the past futures. Or the futures of the past. Then I came across Tim R. Mortiss' blog with some links to websites and blogs discussing the theme.

Paleo-Future is a blog that takes "a look into the future that never was". Paleo-future as a concept means a historical look at the visions of the future. The blog has plenty of interesting material on its subject. Here's a few pictures (click for hyperlink to original post) of how the future was imagined in the past.

"Going to the Opera in the Year 2000" (1882) - Of course on the all too non-existent flying cars!

"Everyman's Folding Auto" (1939) - Not yet, but we do have the folding bike though.


"Game Parlor in the Future" (1982) - Pretty perceptive story actually!


"Tomorrow's Kitchen" (1943) - No pots and pans anymore!

"The Future of the Helicopter" (1955) - Handy, eh?


Other interesting posts in the blog include: Postcards Show the Year 2000 (circa 1900), Collier's Illustrated Future of 2001 (1901) and Movies to be Produced in Every Home (1925). Check them out!

You can also browse through Daily Motion for paleofuturistic video clips. See, for example, The Electronic home (late 1980s) commercial with "computer-television" controlled with a joystick and "computerized yellow pages". The video is produced by a telephone company and they predict that information services through the "computer-television" will be as natural as driving a car in the future. Not bad, eh?

Or check out Magic Highway, a clip where an American vision of traveling by motorcar is presented in 1958. In The Future is Now (1955) electronic photography, video telephone and electronic music synthesizer are visioned.

And where's my jetpack already?! See the Jetpack Dreams trailer of a book by Mac Montandon (see also the Pale-Future post about it).

"How would you feel if those futurescapes of fifty years ago materialized today?" asks William Gibson. Read his essay at American.Heritage.com.


Pic sources as sited by Paleo-Future blog: Lithograph by Albert Robida in La vie électrique; The November 26, 1939 issue of San Antonio Light; a 1982 issue of Electronic Games magazine; the April 30, 1955 issue of Pacific Stars and Stripes (Tokyo, Japan). More about Microsoft Office Lab's future visions here.

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