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Entries in electricity (10)

Tuesday
Jan182011

Edison's Predictions for the Year 2011 (1911)

On June 20, 1911 the Miami Metropolis published predictions about the year 2011 from the one and only Tommy "Dumbo Killah" Edison.

Edison makes some amazing predictions about a future of golden automobiles, the discontinuation of gold as currency, the rise of steel and the death of the steam engine.

I'm especially interested in his prediction about books of the year 2011. Edison claimed that books would be printed on leaves of nickel, "so light to hold that the reader can enjoy a small library in a single volume." 

He goes on to explain that, "a book two inches thick will contain forty thousand pages, the equivalent of a hundred volumes; six inches in aggregate thickness, it would suffice for all the contents of the Encyclopedia Britannica. And each volume would weigh less than a pound." Sure, but can you play Angry Birds on it?

The entire article appears below.

 

What will the world be a hundred years hence?

None but a wizard dare raise the curtain and disclose the secrets of the future; and what wizard can do it with so sure a hand as Mr. Thomas Alva Edison, who has wrested so many secrets from jealous Nature? He alone of all men who live has the necessary courage and gift of foresight, and he has not shrunk from the venture.

Already, Mr. Edison tells us, the steam engine is emitting its last gasps. A century hence it will be as remote as antiquity as the lumbering coach of Tudor days, which took a week to travel from Yorkshire to London. In the year 2011 such railway trains as survive will be driven at incredible speed by electricity (which will also be the motive force of all the world's machinery), generated by "hydraulic" wheels.

But the traveler of the future, says a writer in Answers, will largely scorn such earth crawling. He will fly through the air, swifter than any swallow, at a speed of two hundred miles an hour, in colossal machines, which will enable him to breakfast in London, transact business in Paris and eat his luncheon in Cheapside.

The house of the next century will be furnished from basement to attic with steel, at a sixth of the present cost -- of steel so light that it will be as easy to move a sideboard as it is today to lift a drawing room chair. The baby of the twenty-first century will be rocked in a steel cradle; his father will sit in a steel chair at a steel dining table, and his mother's boudoir will be sumptuously equipped with steel furnishings, converted by cunning varnishes to the semblance of rosewood, or mahogany, or any other wood her ladyship fancies.

Books of the coming century will all be printed leaves of nickel, so light to hold that the reader can enjoy a small library in a single volume. A book two inches thick will contain forty thousand pages, the equivalent of a hundred volumes; six inches in aggregate thickness, it would suffice for all the contents of the Encyclopedia Britannica. And each volume would weigh less than a pound.

Already Mr. Edison can produce a pound weight of these nickel leaves, more flexible than paper and ten times as durable, at a cost of five shillings. In a hundred years' time the cost will probably be reduced to a tenth.

More amazing still, this American wizard sounds the death knell of gold as a precious metal. "Gold," he says, "has even now but a few years to live. The day is near when bars of it will be as common and as cheap as bars of iron or blocks of steel.

"We are already on the verge of discovering the secret of transmuting metals, which are all substantially the same in matter, though combined in different proportions."

Before long it will be an easy matter to convert a truck load of iron bars into as many bars of virgin gold.

In the magical days to come there is no reason why our great liners should not be of solid gold from stem to stern; why we should not ride in golden taxicabs, or substituted gold for steel in our drawing room suites. Only steel will be the more durable, and thus the cheaper in the long run.

 

Photograph of Edison circa 1911 is from the Library of Congress.

UPDATE October 3, 2012: I just noticed that I cited the June 23, 1911 issue of the Miami Metropolis when it was actually the June 20, 1911 Miami Metropolis. My apologies. It's been corrected above.

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Thursday
Dec092010

Driverless Car of the Future (1957)

TVs that hang on walls? Automatic lights? Food cooked in seconds? American power companies sure had the future figured out! Except for one little thing... we're still waiting on those driverless cars. The futuristic family from this ad bares a striking resemblance to the family of Disneyland TV's 1958 episode, "Magic Highway, USA."

ELECTRICITY MAY BE THE DRIVER. One day your car may speed along an electric super-highway, its speed and steering automatically controlled by electronic devices embedded in the road. Highways will be made safe -- by electricity! No traffic jam.. no collisions... no driver fatigue.

I'm certainly no expert on energy politics of the 1950's, but I must say that the ad takes a weird turn when it starts explaining that power companies are so great because they don't have to wait for an act of Congress to get things done. Can anyone explain the subtleties of the dynamic at work here? Was it merely Cold War chest-pounding about free enterprise or was there a threat to nationalize American power companies around this time? 

Your air conditioner, television and other appliances are just the beginning of a new electric age.

Your food will cook in seconds instead of hours. Electricity will close your windows at the first drop of rain. Lamps will cut on and off automatically to fit the lighting needs in your rooms. Television "screens" will hang on the walls. An electric heat pump will use outside air to cool your house in the summer, heat it in the winter.

You will need and have much more electricity than you have today. Right now America's more than 400 independent electric light and power companies are planning and building to have twice as much electricity for you by 1967. These companies can have this power ready when you need it because they don't have to wait for an act of Congress -- or for a cent of tax money -- to build the plants.

The same experience, imagination and enterprise that electrified the nation in a single lifetime are at work shaping your electric future. That's why in the years to come, as in the past, you will benefit most when you are served by independent companies like the ones bringing you this message -- America's Indpendent Electric Light and Power Companies.

 

This image is from the ever gracious collector of dead tree ephemera, Tom Z. You may recognize Tom as the man who has supplied me with the vast majority of my Closer Than We Think collection. I owe that gentleman a beer or something.

 

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Friday
Jan292010

Plastic Skyscrapers and Frozen Dinners (1945)

I don't want to miss plastic skyscrapers; frozen-food dinners in one package... wireless transmission of electricity; the chance to live energetically to the grand old age of 150 years. Screwball? Nothing of the kind. All of these things are here already in the minds of men; in scientific possibility; in materials. They just have to be put together. -- Eddie Rickenbacker, 1945

 

 

From the book Future: A Recent History by Lawrence R. Samuel.

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Thursday
Jul192007

Gardens of Glowing Electrical Flowers (1900)


From October 11 until December 27, 1900 the New York Observer ran a series of eight letters by a man named Augustus. He was reporting from the Paris Exposition of 1900. The second installment of the series, which ran October 18th captures the wonder of seeing a city engulfed in electric light and the hope for harnessing that revolutionary power in the future.

When the five thousand lamps on the Chateau d’Eau are lighted, and the thousands of other incandescent lights placed in the aisles and corridors, flame out, and when on a gala night, hundreds of trees are covered with electrical fruits, and the gardens filled with glowing electrical flowers, while every outline and arch and symbol on the towers and domes and minarets, from the lofty Eiffel tower to the kiosks on the lakes and the grottoes and caves of the aquarium, glows with the electric fire, one realizes as never before, how great a mastery man has acquired over this strange and powerful agent, and wonders what marvels and glories are reserved for us, by its means in the future.

To borrow a phrase from writers that would come much later, Augustus uses commas like other men use periods. Passages like the one above help those like me truly appreciate what it means to be in awe of technology.

We often throw around words like "revolution" when describing new technologies such as the iPhone or the Internet in general, and there is no doubt that they have and will make a profound impact on society, but it is important to place them in the context of what life was like before the world saw artificial, electrical light on such a grand scale.

The photo of 1900 Paris at Night is from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection.

See also:
Moving Sidewalk (1900)
Moving Sidewalk Mechanics (1900)

Wednesday
Jun202007

Electric Belt (1903)


Many people of the early twentieth century held magical beliefs about electricity. This ad in the April 24, 1903 Manitoba Morning Free Press (Winnipeg, Manitoba) promised to cure what ails ya. From rheumatism to lame backs to stomach and bladder problems, Dr. Sanden's Electric Belt was pure magic.

For modern-day nonsense check out the Q-Ray bracelet.


See also:
Electrified Topsoil (1909)
Collier's Illustrated Future of 2001 (1901)
Predictions of a 14-Year-Old (Milwaukee Excelsior, 1901)
The Next Hundred Years (Milwaukee Herold und Seebote, 1901)
What May Happen in the Next Hundred Years (Ladies Home Journal, 1900)

Monday
Jun042007

Electrified Topsoil (1909)

The June 27, 1909 Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) ran an article titled, "The Electric City of the Future." Below is an excerpt as well as the article in its entirety.

All the well-known scientists and business men of today agree that the city of the future will be an electrical city. With a very few exceptions all the manifold requirements for speed and economy will be met by electricity.

 

Even the food products consumed in the electric city of the future will be the results of electricity applied to agriculture. The country will have an abundance of electrical power for light, power and heat on the farms. The farming communities will flourish under the stimulus of an electrical topsoil, and an increased absorption of nitrogen, procured direct from the atmosphere by electricity. These processes are already successful as experiments on a small scale.


See also:
Superfarm of the Year 2020 (1979)
Farm of the Future (1984)
That Synthetic Food of the Future (Ogden Standard-Examiner, 1926)

Monday
Apr302007

1980-1990 Developments (1979)

The last two pages of the 1979 book Future Cities: Homes and Living into the 21st Century describes what will happen over the course of "the next 120 years." Naturally, we'll begin with the 1980s.


1980-1990

-Satellites in Earth orbit beam educational programmes to many countries in the underdeveloped Third World.
-Wind turbines - modern windmill designs - are developed which can supply electricity economically.
-Domestic computers run household equipment. Electronic chores include keeping accounts, ordering supplies, suggesting menus, cooking meals and keeping a diary for the people living in the house.
-Newspapers supplied to homes either via a computer print-out or in electronic form over the TV screen.
-First domestic robots used as household 'slaves' to do simple tasks.
-Terrorists steal nuclear warhead from military base. Threaten to blow up a city unless their demands are met. General realization of the appalling risks of poor security promote measures to keep atomic weapons under proper 'lock and key.'
-Nuclear fuel detector-satellite placed in orbit to maintain a watchful electronic eye on the world's supplies of atomic material.
-Good insulation and other energy-saving features built into all new houses.
-Solar panels in general use to heat water in homes. Solar-electric cells used to generate electricity for some uses, such as recharging batteries.
- World tree planting programme begun. Aim is to restore the oxygen-producing capacity of the world's plant life. Centuries of being chopped down have reduced the world's forest areas to a fraction of their former size. Other benefits include the production of wood-alcohol to use as a substitute for petrol in cars.