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Saturday
Jul162011

Americans Journey Into Space at the 1964 New York World's Fair

The Official Souvenir Book of the 1964 New York World's Fair includes some gorgeous illustrations of futuristic space exploration. The Fair had phenomenal exhibits showcasing the American push into space, but if you're wondering what the Soviets put on display for 1964 -- smack in the middle of the space race -- you'll be disappointed to hear that they didn't even have a pavilion.

Did the tensions of the Cold War keep the Soviets from coming to a fair whose motto was "Peace Through Understanding"? Not quite. The 1964 New York World's Fair wasn't even an officially sanctioned World's Fair. Robert Moses, the head organizer, decided to charge site rental fees for countries that wanted to have a pavilion and this put the Fair at odds with the Bureau of International Expositions (BIE). Many countries -- including Canada, Australia, the Soviet Union and most of Europe -- didn't have representation at the Fair when the BIE encouraged its members not to participate.

With Americans trotting out jetpacks, videophones and futuristic highways it's kind of interesting to wonder what the Soviets might have done at the Fair in the name of Cold War competition.

Below are pictures that appear in the Official Souvenir Book to the 1964 New York World's Fair.

Without pause, man has rushed headlong into the nuclear age, the space age and the age of automation. A variety of exhibits at the Fair help the fairgoer catch up with this runaway revolution in technology and science. High points of this revolution are shown on these and the next eight pages. America's first steps into orbit around the earth and plans for future ventures into space are set forth in a number of cinematic space trips as well as in a host of real and scale-model exhibits of space-age hardware. The Cape Kennedy story at the Florida pavilion offers a photographic account of launchings, and the U.S. Space Park provides a showplace for Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and a unit of Saturn V, the rocket destined to boost Apollo to the moon.

 

 

Essential to Apollo's journey of discovery, this vehicle will ferry astronauts between their capsule and the moon. It is in the U.S. Space Park.

 

 

A Saturn I booster, with 1.5 million pounds of thrust, lifts a 20,000-pound payload in a blast-off typical of the space age. A scale model of Saturn I is displayed in Florida's Cape Kennedy exhibit.

 

 

A spaceport and supply rocket, designed by the Martin Marietta Corporation, meet in mid-air in this scene from the Hall of Science space show. In such a port, astronauts may orbit for half a year.

Monday
Jul112011

David Byrne's 1987 Predictions for the Computers of 2007

The January, 1987 issue of OMNI Magazine included a cover story titled, "14 Great Minds Predict the Future." OMNI asked influential people from a variety of fields what was in store for humanity in the year 2007, twenty years into the future. There were predictions about everything from peace in the Middle East to 3D televisions.

David Byrne, lead singer and songwriter of the Talking Heads, gazed into his crystal ball to write about pop art, the future of television, and why computers will never help the creative process. With the benefit of hindsight it's a little hard to believe that Byrne was so pessimistic about the potential for computers as a creative tool, especially when futuristic designs for computers were getting so many others excited. An excerpt from the OMNI piece appears below. 

David Byrne, Lead Singer, Talking Heads

I don't think computers will have any important effect on the arts in 2007. When it comes to the arts they're just big or small adding machines. And if they can't "think," that's all they'll ever be. They may help creative people with their bookkeeping, but they won't help in the creative process.

The video revolution, however, will have some real impact on the arts in the next 20 years. It already has. Because people's attention spans are getting shorter, more fiction and drama will be done by television, a perfect medium for them. But I don't think anything will be wiped out; books will always be there; everything will find its place.

Outlets for art, in the marketplace and on television, will multiply and spread. Even the three big TV networks will feature looser, more specialized programming to appeal to special-interest groups. The networks will be freed from the need to try to please everybody, which they do now and inevitably end up with a show so stupid nobody likes it. Obviously this multiplication of outlets will benefit the arts.

I don't think we'll see the participatory art that so many people predict. Some people will use new equipment to make art, but they will be the same people who would have been making art anyway. Still, I definitely think that the general public will be interested in art that was once considered avant-garde.

Sunday
Jul102011

Futuristic Fliers for the Army (1958)

Who needs an army of robotic killing machines when you've got planes that look so darn intimidating and futuristic? According to this blurb in the March 29, 1958 Miami News, scaring the enemy to death was a possibility with a platton of these "fantastic fliers."

PHILADELPHIA, March 29 -- If the U.S. Army of the future can't beat an enemy, it may scare it to death with a platoon of flying machines like these. This is an artist's conception of air-ground vehicle designs submitted to the Army by various aircraft firms. The goal is to provide the Army with a utility vehicle that will give troops more mobility. These machines are supposed to rise vertically, hover at three feet or zip over mountains at 150 mph. They also are designed to fire rockets, duck behind hills, fly down an alley, hide amid trees and turn in their own length without touching the ground.

Saturday
Jul092011

Waiter, there's a fly in my mealworms... (1978)

It's no secret that I love food. The first issue of Paleofuture Magazine and the first episode of paleofuture.tv are certainly a testament to that. And some might even consider me an adventurous eater. I recently tried cow brain for the first time and will occassionally indulge (much to the disgust of coworkers) in a tongue-stuffed burrito. But for some reason I just can't bring myself to eat bugs. I don't know if it's the texture or the fact that I'm already so full on spiders* after a good night's rest, but a grasshopper salad has never appealed to me.

The 1978 book Future Food: Alternate Protein for the Year 2000 by Barbara Ford includes a menu chock full of creepy crawly delicacies and scientifical concoctions. On Ms. Ford's menu you'll find not only crickets and mealworms, but also pueblo chenopod salad, science soy bread, roast chevon a la heidi, opaque 2 corn, lake chad algae, and tofu fruit whip.

Predictions about a move away from animal products or simply finding "alternative proteins" aren't new. This 1914 article from a Montana newspaper predicted that by the end of the 20th century animal food would be abandoned entirely. Ford's book doesn't predict the end of humans eating meat, but she's a big advocate of finding alternatives to what's currently considered acceptable for our plates. The book presents a fascinating collision of post-WWII food science utopianism and 1970's health food earthiness that I haven't often come across.

And yes, you read that right, chapter four is indeed titled "The Magical Fruit."

In this fascinating and important book, Barbara Ford tells us that by the year 2000 Americans will obtain a large portion of their protein from alternate proteins: food sources such as beans, high-protein grains, non-dairy cheese and milk, unusual forms of marine life, leafy plants such as alfalfa that are now fed exclusively to livestock, one- celled plants such as algae, strange plants you never heard of but undoubtedly will, and an assortment of "weird" proteins that includes insects, reptiles, rodents, small game such as possum, raccoons, and even dogs. 

Our sense of obligation to other people as well as our hardheaded interest in a stable world society almost demand that we cease feeding 98 percent of our soybean crop to animals, as we do today. The use of alternatives to animal protein frees vegetable protein for human use. The chief reason, however, for the predicted change in the American diet is economic. Traditional sources of protein cost more than they used to; from all indications they will continue to rise in price. Future Food is an invaluable and assiduously researched study. In it, Barbara Ford appraises the most important work being carried out 61 scientists to develop new kinds of protein, and she assesses their value. She advises on where to find these new food sources and how to incorporate them into our diet in the most nutritious form. She shows us that by the year 2000 we will be eating Squid Stew and Buffalo Gourd Meal and loving it. 

*Yes, I realize spiders are arachnids. Shut up, nerds.


Thursday
Jul072011

Our Drunken Videophonic Future (1943)

The 2002 Taschen book Future Perfect is kind of like a dead-tree Tumblr; no credits for illustrators, no dates, and no context. I even tried to reblog a page from the book by nailing it to a tree, but my neighbors tore it down. What a bunch of jerks.

With a little old fashioned detective work I was able to figure out that this image in Future Perfect is probably from a 1943 Seagram's Whiskey ad. It reminds me a bit of this job interview conducted across continents. [cue It's A Small World muzak]

Videophone technology has been with us for quite some time, but it's a perfect example of technology that didn't turn out the way that futurists were predicting. When was the last time you got off a plane to look for the video-payphone? So, raise a glass to your favorite transcontinental client, or whatever is supposed to be happening in this drunken, videophonic future of ours.

 

 

Monday
Jul042011

Dear People of the Year 2076 (1976)

The 1970s was a tough decade for America. As we saw in the second episode of paleofuture.tv, many people were predicting apocalypse. But in 1976, it seems Americans were determined to hold their heads up high and celebrate 200 years of a country that was experiencing some major growing pains. If there's one thing Americans know how to do well, it's throw a party. And the U.S. Bicentennial was supposed to be one hell of a party.

On July 4, 1976 newspapers all across America dedicated special sections to the history and future of the country. The Grand Prairie Daily News in Grand Pairie, Texas invited readers to write letters to the people of 2076, who would presumably be celebrating the United States Tricentennial. Today we have some of those letters from high school students of the year 1976. What's pretty clear in reading the letters is that even most high school kids weren't very optimistic about what the next hundred years had in store for them.

[I've redacted the number that appears under Mike Sharp's letter because it looks like a Social Security number. I'm not sure why Mike would include his Social Security number, but I'd rather not create any unnecessary problems for ol' Mike, because most of these people are probably alive today.]

The drawing above was made by little Lisa Givlar in 1976 and appeared in The Tricentennial Report

 

Dear People of the Year 2076,

In the year 2076, the world will be far ahead in space travel and modern technalogy. There will be space flights to other planets.

Machines will take over, modern man will become a living blobb.

California will not be on the map and the weather will change through out the world.

Hungar will strike Asia and Europe. The civilization of 2076 will depend upon the polluted sea waters for food.

Nuclear enery will supply our needs.

Population control will be put into affect. The world will be over populous.

Schools wll be television programs. This may all seem funny to you but I remember a time when space travel was all just a dream.

 

Earthling,

Pat Bentley

 

 

To the people of the year 2076,

In a hundred years I think the world will be overpopulated and people will have to live in apartments to accomodate for this. Everything will be able to be recycled and what little that can't will be shot out into space.

 

From

Greg Redding

 

Many things will change some good some bad. But most of all I hope that the people of the year 2076 still love and protect the United States and what it stands for. This world is tough, but I am glad to be born in a place such as America were I can say what I please.

 

Sincerely,

A South Grand Prairie High Warrior

[unreadable] Allen 

 

I believe 100 years from now, ("1976") the year I graduate, crime will be wiped out completely. There will be some kind of magnetic force field to stop anyone from doing something illeagle.

Someday in the future I hope the world will not need army's, but I doubt that day will come. There will be new weapons being built all the time. I feel that the wars will be push button wars not on the battefield with hand-to-hand combat.

We probably have traveled to new planets and had started new colonies. Concerts and music is something important in my life, but I doubt it will be in the future.

I hope the world is at peace, and I wish all of you Americans the best of luck.

 

Mike Sharp

 

To: Whomever,

I'm suppose to write what I think the world will be like in 100 years. Well, honestly, I doubt if the world will even exist. The earth will probably destroy itself by then with a nuclear war.

The people of today just can't get along together, or even seem to be trying. But if by some miracle, and it would be a miracle, man still exists 100 years from now, I'm hoping the world will be a peaceful place. Maybe man will have learned to live in harmony with nature. Instead of polluting the air and sea. Maybe all the countries of the world will destroy their weapons and love their fellow man. This would be a great accomplisment and I'm wishing you all the luck in the world.

 

Maura McDonald

 

There is one thing specifically I would not like to see in the year 2076 and that is war and hostility of any kind. Peace is an all important thing the people of Earth must learn in order to progress and survive.

I truly wish humanity knows what to do with itself.

 

Spirit of 76 Bi Centennial

Yours truly

Bobby Jack 

Friday
Jul012011

Miss Honeywell (1968)

Every new promise of futuristic technology brings with it the hucksters, the swindlers, and the merely confused. In the 1970s the three-wheeled Dale car was supposed to get seventy miles to the gallon, but both the car and its inventor were ultimately revealed to be frauds. In the 1930s American newspapers warned that a robot in England had risen up against its inventor and shot him.

In the mid and late 1960s a highly suspicious robot made the publicity circuit with its "inventor," magician Mark Wilson promoting everything from computers to blenders. With Wilson at the controls and a blue ladybot stiffly walking like a zombie to prove just how mechanical she was, it was quite a sight to behold. In this newsreel from 1968 the "robot" is known as Miss Honeywell and the narrator himself even calls into question the veracity of the operator's claims.

The "woman in a robot suit" stunt is so transparent as to likely be harmless, but you have to wonder how many people saw this robot's demonstration and thought it was real. As we know, there are still some children of the 1980's who think, thanks to Back to the Future II director Robert Zemeckis, that hoverboards were taken off shelves by overzealous child-safety groups.

The ad below of Miss Honeywell -- or in this case, the "housewife of the future -- appeared in the October 9, 1966 Oakland Tribune.

Come see the robot "housewife of tomorrow" plugged in October 10th to 15th.

The Hamilton Beach robot "housewife of tomorrow" will be demonstrated in our 15th and Broadway window. She is the amazing robot who is programmed to do all the cleaning. Watch the robot then come to the fourth floor housewares department to register for the free drawing for Hamilton Beach electric knives to be given away twice a day for each day of the demonstrations. Also demonstrations of Hamilton Beach's amazing blenders and carving knives.