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Entries in futurist magazine (13)

Wednesday
Aug082007

Fuzzy-Duzzy, The Computer You Cuddle (1976)

The August, 1976 issue of The Futurist magazine ran this blurb about the need for humanized machines, which would make technology less intimidating for the average user. The piece appears to have originally appeared in Hal Hellman's 1976 book Technophobia: Getting Out of the Technology Trap.

We need "humanized machines." Wes Thomas, editor of the future-oriented newsletter Synergy Access and a computer expert, once told me of a "dream" he has. "What I'd like to do," he said, "is develop computer systems that are more 'human,' that people are not afraid of, in fact that they would get along with and even enjoy." He would like, therefore, to develop the "Fuzzy-Duzzy."

Today, he explains, computer terminals are made out of metal and plastic. They are cold and uninviting; therefore most people are immediately turned off by them. And they look menacing, like something a mad scientist would create.

With Fuzzy-Duzzy, he says, "you would put your hands into this warm, inviting Teddy-Bear thing, and you would be able to look inside through a porthole. Inside there would be these big knobs you could get hold of and turn, instead of the usual miniature keys everybody keeps making mistakes on. By moving things around, you'd be able to communicate with the machine.

"And the pictures that come on the screen would not be the usual angular shapes, but nice, round organic forms.

"So I'm interested in developing a sort of organic computer terminal that people will feel at home with immediately."

When I mentioned this to an acquaintance, he became furious. He called it underhanded, meretricious, and worse. A machine has no right being "friendly."

Thomas's "dream" is a bit extreme, I will admit. Yet humanized machines combined with people who are not afraid of them (and who understand where and how to use them) may be the way we will eventually do many of the things that remain to be done in basic education and job training, in health care and perhaps in many other applications as well. Just as the supermarket put the customer to work, so too may it be necessary for patients and prospective patients to do some of the pre-entry work themselves, aided by computers - humanized ones, of course.

Machines will also help us provide sight for the blind and hearing for the deaf, mobility for the lame and dexterity for the handicapped. Will humanization of such machines be necessary too?

Wednesday
Aug012007

Start 'em Young (1991)


I have three questions about this picture:

1. Why did we believe paper faxes were the future?

2. Does that toddler have Wi-Fi?

3. Why does the teddy bear have a phone?

This illustration by Tom Chalkley ran in the November-December, 1991 issue of The Futurist magazine.

See also:
Apple's Grey Flannel Navigator (1988)
Connections: AT&T's Vision of the Future (1993)
Starfire (Part 3, 1994)
Online Shopping (1967)

Friday
Jul272007

Electronic Shopping (1983)

Terry R. Hiller wrote an article titled "Going Shopping in the 1990s" for the December, 1983 issue of The Futurist magazine. Mr. Hiller was understandably skeptical of the prospect of electronic shopping. However, many of the things he asserted would not come to pass did indeed happen.

An excerpt appears below, along with graphics from the piece.


Nor is electronic retailing equipped to deal with the logistics of delivery. Product information, selection, and billing can all be transmitted electronically, but physical merchandise must be physically moved. Today's mail-order houses depend on federal or private package delivery, services that are simply not structured for the huge traffic increases that large-scale teleshopping would generate. It would require not only the total restructuring of existing routes and systems, but an investment of billions of dollars in equipment and personnel - resources we are simply unable to spare either now or in the foreseeable future.

Furthermore, since teleshoppers can only view products piecemeal, electronic marketing has severe drawbacks as a retailing device. In nine square feet of drugstore shelf space, you might easily encounter as many as 80 or more different brands and sizes of cold remedies. But in electronic marketing, shelf space is defined as time- the number of second an item appears on the screen. Allowing even 10 seconds per item, it would take more than 13 minutes to show that same 80 items. Add to this the cost of production, handling, and shipping, and we begin to suspect that the "convenience" of electronic marketing will be very expensive. Unless we are prepared to sacrifice variety - and therefore competition - some products will never be purchased "in absentia."


See also:
Online Shopping (1967)
Mobile Malls (1981)

Thursday
Jun072007

Mobile Malls (1981)


The February, 1981 issue of The Futurist featured this illustration of a "mobile mall" of the future. Below are excerpts from the accompanying article.

"It will be the age-old concept of the traveling merchant; but instead of camels or sailing vessels, the retailer of the future will transport his material via superhighway and erect his store on site," says the originator of the retailing on wheels concept, Elinor Selame of Selame Design in Massachusetts.

The advantage of mobile malls lies in their simplicity, economy, and mobility. Retailing on wheels, Selame argues, may be a popular marketing response in an era of shrinking energy supplies and hard-bargaining consumers.

See also:
Online Shopping (1967)

Friday
Apr132007

Hubert H. Humphrey's Year 2000 (1967)

Yesterday we looked at Hubert H. Humphrey's vision of 1967-1987. Today we have the second part to the Vice President's piece in the February, 1967 issue of The Futurist.

Far-Out Developments by A.D. 2000
For the year 2000, however, we can foresee some really far-out developments:
The virtual elimination of bacterial and viral diseases.
The correction of hereditary defects through the modification of genetic chemistry.
The stepping-up of our food supply through large-scale ocean-farming and fabrication of synthetic proteins.
Control of the weather, at least on a regional scale.
In space, the landing of men on Mars and the establishment of a permanent unmanned research station on that planet.
The creation, in the laboratory, of primitive forms of artificial life.
This can indeed be an age of miracles. It will be your age.

The ocean and space continue to pop up as the paleo-future's greatest unexplored frontiers.

See also:
Hubert H. Humphrey's Future (1967)

Thursday
Apr122007

Hubert H. Humphrey's Future (1967)

For the February, 1967 issue of The Futurist magazine, Hubert H. Humphrey, wrote a piece articulating his vision of the future. The Vice President broke up his thoughts into two categories; Developments of the Next 20 Years, and Far-Out Developments by A.D. 2000.

Here are some of the developments we can look forward to within the next 20 years:

In agriculture, the large-scale use of de-salinated sea water.
In medicine, the transplantation of natural organs and the use of artificial ones.
In psychiatry, the widespread application of drugs that control or modify the personality.
In education, the use of more sophisticated teaching machines.
In wordwide communication, the everyday employment of translating machines.
In industry, the extensive use of automation, up to and including some kinds of decision-making at the management level.
In space, the establishment of a permanent base upon the moon.
Some of you might say that there is nothing very surprising here. And you would be right.
Experience shows that it takes 10 to 30 years for a new idea to make its way from its inception in a scientist's mind to its general application in everyday life. Therefore, the world of 20 years from now already exists, in embryo, in today's advanced research establishments.

A theme in 1960's America that seems to pop up repeatedly is faith in a permanent moon base. Tomorrow we'll look at Hubert H. Humphrey's predicitions for the year 2000.

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