Leadership

A 1969 perspective on computers in the future

Remember The Jetsons and how cool 'the future' was supposed to be? This 1969 video shows the convenience of online shopping, banking, and an 'electronic correspondence machine'. It shows a future with a passable resemblance to today.

Remember The Jetsons and how cool "the future" was supposed to be? This 1969 video shows the convenience of online shopping, banking, and an "electronic correspondence machine." It shows a future with a passable resemblance to today.

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One of the most fun things about looking at how things used to be is looking at what people used to think "the future" would look like. This video is a case in point. Here we have a vision of home computing from the time the original Star Trek was on the air.

Today we do pretty much everything shown in this video, just a little differently. The dials and push buttons look quaint by today's technological standards. It's interesting to see flat screens, however, in an era that didn't have TV tubes as large as the displays shown. The "electronic correspondence machine" is interesting in that it foreshadows the development of tablet PCs, a technology that still isn't quite where it needs to be for mass adoption.

It's interesting what the video says goes on in the background:

"To maintain these, and hundreds of complex electronic circuits, a monitor checks all circuits every few seconds, inserts a backup circuit if and when trouble develops, and alerts the Communal Service Agency for replacement."

The images on the video suggest that they're talking about physical circuits in the home computers, but I can't figure out how they thought that would work. It's much more analogous to the network connections that happen on the Internet between routers today. That may be more what they were suggesting.

Of the nontechnical aspects to the video, I thought it was interesting to notice the misogynistic aspect of it whereby the wife would do nothing but shop and watch the kids, while the husband did all the bills, banking, and correspondence from his workstation. And he did all this while holding his head and shaking it at his wife's extravagance. I guess they didn't expect culture to change much in the future even if the technology did.

What views of the future do you think we have today that we'll look back on in 40 years and go "What were they THINKING?"

16 comments
dpf027
dpf027

All I know is that the guy looks just like Wink Martindale.

Eric_Peterson
Eric_Peterson

NOW we know where Ted Stevens found out about the series of tubes...

ecansler
ecansler

The quality of storage back then, and their lack of hopes for it in the future, is reflected by the fact that The Wife is shopping remotely by viewing a live camera panning over a bunch of clothing displays rather than looking at stored images.

DadsPad
DadsPad

There has been futurists for a very long time. Kind of makes you wonder about how the futurist shows on now will be to the real future. :D I have seen several shows about how we will live in the future, on water, flying, living hundreds of years, increasing memory, etc.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

In Classics Rock, I found a view of computers in the future from 1969 that resembles the modern Internet. http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/classic-tech/?p=192 Apart from the chauvinism that's displayed in it, it's a reasonably accurate description of the way things work. The technology is far different, but the skeleton of the methods are there. What views of the future do we have today that we'll look back on in 40 years and be embarrassed by?

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

I thought that guy looked familiar, but I couldn't come up with the name off the top of my head. I think you're absolutely right though. Looks just like him. Nothing similar to this turns up under his bio in IMDB though.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

It's efficiency. Just think... Gone are the messages of "Sorry, This item is no longer available." :)

dmm99
dmm99

Most embarassing predictions: 1) Obama will make a great president who will get rid of "business as usual" in Washington. (Unless we get really lucky. We can hope. Audaciously.) 2) GW Bush will be remembered as an absolute and total failure. (C'mon, NOBODY is as bad as some people are claiming!) OK, that's enough politics. Now for my "against the flow" tech predictions: 3) Very little will be done about global warming, and it will NOT turn out to be the end-of-life-as-we-know-it calamity currently being claimed. Except for Bangladesh. Sorry dudes. 4) Unless someone discovers warp drive or its functional equivalent, permanent human settlements beyond Earth will NOT happen. Too high TCO; too little ROI. 5) Human beings are NOT going to be practically immortal. Average lifespan of a 1st-world citizen will top out at about 100 years. Why? Well, just for starters, most people are so stupid they shouldn't even be allowed to breed, much less live indefinitely. 6) Commuters will NOT be flying around in air cars or jet packs. Rolling is simply too fuel-efficient and safe to give up. 7) Energy will NEVER be too cheap to meter, even if we somehow manage to develop fusion reactors. 8) Ditto for bandwidth. 9) Computers and computerized devices will NEVER become hacker-proof. I could try to make this all noble -- Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, blah, blah, blah -- but the truth is simpler: people are generally lazy and incompetent, and hackers only need one little hole. 10) China will NOT become the most powerful country in the world. Not unless the coastal cities can band together and take over the government, and that government can enforce the rule of law while still allowing dissent and freedom. All of which requires vast changes in the mindset of the average Chinese, not to mention the ruling elite, which I don't see happening in only 40 years.

T-Ed
T-Ed

The telephone company did have dreams once-upon-a-time. That was the state of things before the rise of the packet and the reign of software. They missed the whole porn thing, too...

Mikebanks
Mikebanks

A key to how they were thinking is the fact that there are several dedicated machines. That was the convention, though entertainment appliances such as TV/radio/record player combos were popular. Things got really specialized in the 1960s, with lots of one-job devices: hot dog cookers, hamburger patty-cookers, and so forth. --Mike Banks http://www.michaelabanks.com

santeewelding
santeewelding

Maybe the ratio of thinking itself, although I doubt that is what you were thinking.

Wally Bahny
Wally Bahny

Yeah, until the video feed is no longer available... :-)

Bizzo
Bizzo

When the thoughts of the future become the memories of the past, that's when clarity ensues.

seanferd
seanferd

A bunch of dedicated terminals, flat projection screens, handwriting recognition; and did you catch that shot of the core memory at the end? I can't stop drooling.

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