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Entries in electronic mail (4)

Friday
Jun172011

Jetpack Mailmen (1958)

I had to buy stamps recently. It was the worst.

Nothing pushes me into full curmudgeon hack mode quite like standing in line at the post office. We're talking Andy Rooney/ Dave Barry lovechild super-curmudgeon. And don't even get me started on FedEx. Standing in line is so 20th century.

That being said, there's something charming about our antiquated postal service. People literally take letters and packages from one physical place and deliver them to another place. It's pretty darn cute.

In 1960 the future of electronic mail was still envisioned as an analog experiment. Arthur Radebaugh's Closer Than We Think ran a panel on December 25, 1960 in which physical letters would be opened, scanned, beamed to space, returned to earth and reproduced where they would then be delivered to their final destination in the form of a small capsule. It was difficult for people to imagine a world without the postal service delivering some form of physical media, dead tree or otherwise.

The October 4, 1958 edition of Radebaugh's syndicated strip imagined jetpack mailmen of the future leaping from door to door in Suburbatopia, U.S.A. The strip explains that because of its super-secret government technology they can't go into detail on how such a rocket pack might work, but rest assured, it'll make every mail carrier in town a regular Buck Rogers.

Uncle Sam's mailmen can look forward to going faster, getting farther, and doing so with less effort than ever before. All it will take will be a device like the recently prefected "rocket assists" which were originally developed to help infantrymen leap like grasshoppers.

Just how such equipment works is still a military secret. The designer, Reaction Motors, Inc., is not permitted to say how large the device is, or how long it fires, or what kind of fuel it uses. But best guess is that the rocket fires intermittently, so that the wearer can bound from spot to spot as he wishes, with no more energy then it takes to walk. Also the mechanism is believed to be of small size, simply constructed and low-priced. What a boon for mailmen and others whose work takes them from door to door!

 Many thanks to Tom Z. for the color version of this amazing panel from Closer Than We Think!

Tuesday
Aug212007

Living Room of the Future (1979)

This image appears in the 1979 book Future Cities: Homes and Living into the 21st Century and illustrates the living room of the (paleo)future.


This living room has many electronic gadgets which are either in use already or are being developed for people to buy in the 1980s.

1. Giant-size TV. Based on the designs already available, this one has a super-bright screen for daylight viewing and stereo sound system.

2. Electronic video movie camera, requires no film, just a spool of tape. Within ten years video cameras like this could be replaced by 3-D holographic recorders.

3. Flat screen TV. No longer a bulky box, TV has shrunk to a thickness of less than five centimetres. This one is used to order shopping via a computerised shopping centre a few kilometres away. The system takes orders and indicates if any items are not in stock.

4. Video disc player used for recording off the TV and for replaying favourite films.

5. Domestic robot rolls in with drinks. One robot, the Quasar, is already on sale in the USA. Reports indicate that it may be little more than a toy however, so it will be a few years before 'Star Wars' robots tramp through our homes.

6. Mail slot. By 1990, most mail will be sent in electronic form. Posting a letter will consist of placing it in front of a copier in your home or at the post office. The electronic read-out will be flashed up to a satellite, to be beamed to its destination. Like many other electronic ideas, the savings in time and energy could be enormous.

The picture [above] takes you into the living room of a house of the future. The basics will probably be similar - windows, furniture, carpet and TV. There will be one big change though - the number of electronic gadgets in use.

The same computer revolution which has resulted in calculators and digital watches could, through the 1980s and '90s, revolutionise people's living habits.

Television is changing from a box to stare at into a useful two-way tool. Electronic newspapers are already available - pushing the button on a handset lets you read 'pages' of news, weather, puzzles and quizzes.

TV-telephones should be a practical reality by the mid 1980s. Xerox copying over the telephone already exists. Combining the two could result in millions of office workers being able to work at home if they wish. There is little need to work in a central office if a computer can store records, copiers can send information from place to place and people can talk on TV-telephones.

Many people may prefer to carry on working in an office with others, but for those who are happy at home, the savings in travelling time would be useful. Even better would be the money saved on transport costs to and from work.

See also:
Future Cities: Homes and Living into the 21st Century (1979)
Closer Than We Think! Robot Housemaid (1959)
Closer Than We Think! Lunar Mailbag (1960)
Online Shopping (1967)
1999 A.D. (1967)
The Electronic Newspaper (1978)
Startling Changes in Housing in Year 2000 (Chicago Tribune, 1961)
Monsanto House of the Future (1957-1967)
Picturephone as the perpetual technology of the future
Frigidaire Kitchen of the Future (1957)

Wednesday
May302007

Closer Than We Think! Lunar Mailbag (1960)


This Closer Than We Think! strip ran in the December 25, 1960 Chicago Tribune.

Chistmas cards of the future may be transmitted electronically. The post office is studying the use of space technology for quick movement of endless quantities of mail between widely separated points.

 

To do this, microwave stations would be set up. Envelopes would be opened mechanically, and the automatic "fingers" would remove the contents and expose them to a scanner. Impulses from the card or letter might be beamed to a postal satellite or even the moon, bounced back to the destination point, reproduced there in the original printing or handwriting, sealed in a capsule and delivered. All this might be done minutes from the time the communication first arrived at a post office thousands of miles away.

See also:
Closer Than We Think! (1958-1963)
Closer Than We Think! Monoline Express

Tuesday
May082007

Online Shopping (1967)

The most accurate prediction of the 1967 film 1999 A.D. was that of "fingertip shopping". With a video console channeled into the store of your choice you could (gasp!) shop from home.

The "electronic correspondence machine" (or "home post office") was also quite visionary, although it seems no one was betting on the QWERTY keyboard.

You can find 1999 A.D. on the DVD Yesterday's Tomorrows Today, released by A/V Geeks.

See also:
1999 A.D. (1967)
Monsanto House of the Future (1957-1967)