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Entries in oakland tribune (8)

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.

Tuesday
Apr052011

Marriage 100 Years From Now (1933)

In the year 1933 physician Ira S. Wile made some wild predictions about what marriage would look like 100 years in the future. And although it's not yet 2033, we can still be thankful that his predictions for our world just 22 years from now were wildly off the mark.

Dr. Wile imagined a bureau of records under government control that would begin monitoring people the day they were born. He predicted that everything about a person would be recorded; from someone's physical and mental defects at birth to the subjective progress and imperfections of that person throughout their life. Then, when someone wished to be married, they would be assessed by bureaucrats and found a suitable mate based upon case cards that have been cross-indexed against members of the opposite sex. These assessments would be made based on class and desirable physical and mental traits. I don't know about you guys, but after reading the words "case cards" and "cross-indexed" I'm gonna have to take a long, cold shower. Reproduction by committee gets me so hot...

Just three years earlier the 1930 movie Just Imagine looked at this very same issue. Set in the high-tech dystopian world of 1980, the musical sci-fi film (yes, I said musical science fiction) follows the forbidden love of two people that the government's marriage tribunal won't allow to marry. At least in Wile's future it sounds like people can conceive their children the fun old-fashioned messy way rather than just popping two bits into a vending machine.

The entire article, published in the June 25, 1933 Oakland Tribune, appears below.

1933 June 25 Oakland Tribune

While it might be somehow easier -- though still repugnant -- to understand State controlled sexual reproduction and marriage in a pre-WWII era, we must remember that human eugenics didn't die with Nazism, as you can see in this clip from 1967.

 

Sunday
Oct042009

Motor Car of the Future (1918)

The March 10, 1918 Oakland Tribune (Oakland, CA) ran this illustration of the motor car of the future. If so inclined, one can read the entire article here. But let's face it, you're just here for the pretty pictures.

The new car will be all glass-enclosed and controlled entirely by a set of push buttons. It will have no clutch, gears or transmission, will sit low, have small clearance and punctureless tires.

Previously on Paleo-Future:

Sunday
Feb222009

Man or Machine? (1933)


Whenever doing research on past robots of the future I usually have to wade through a lot of exaggeration, distortion, and lies. The hundreds of articles that I've read from the 1920s through the present often describe robots doing things that would be incredibly difficult, even for the robots of 2009. It is much easier when I stumble upon a news story like this one, from the May 26, 1933 Oakland Tribune (Oakland, CA).

That's a dude with glass goggles on his eyes. No question. Still, a fun vision of the future. You can read a few article about this California fakebot here.

Previously on Paleo-Future:
The Mechanical Man of the Future (1928)
Our Dread of Robots (1932)
"I Can Whip Any Mechanical Robot" by Jack Dempsey (1930s)
Robots vs. Musicians (1931)
The Robot is a Terrible Creature (1922)
Gigantic Robots to Fight Our Battles (Fresno Bee, 1934)
Mammy vs. Robot (Charleston Gazette, 1937)
Restaurant Robots (1931)
Donald Duck's "Modern Inventions" (1937)
All's Fair at the Fair (1938)

Monday
Jun092008

Final Date of the Earth: August 18, 1999 (1973)

I don't know whether Criswell believed his own predictions or not. I only know that he was wrong. A lot.

An excerpt from the January 11, 1973 Oakland Tribune (Oakland, CA) containing Criswell's prediction for our last day on Earth appears below.

His rubicund countenance aglow with camaraderie, Criswell said the predictions in [his book] were prompted by a ghostly visitation of Nostradamus, the 16th century prophet who reputedly had correctly predicted the founding of America and World Wars I and II, not to mention flights to the moon and - hold your hats - the final date of this earth, August 18, 1999.


I'd really like to think that "psychics" believe their own nonsense. The emotional and psychological abuse they perpetrate is otherwise inexcusable.

 

Sorry about the soapbox rant today. Sometimes the paleo-future can get kind of heavy. Consider my anti-psychic-powers posts to be public service announcements interrupting our regularly-scheduled shenanigans. Jet packs, meal pills and rowbuts will return tomorrow.

See also:
The Prophetic Year 2000 (1968)
The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon
Nucelar War to Start September 12, 2006
Nuclear War Revisited (2006)
Apocalypse Soon (1980)

Friday
May092008

Television of Tomorrow (1974)


Bob MacKenzie wrote a relatively balanced and thoughtful piece about the future of television in the February 3, 1974 Oakland Tribune titled, "A 'Tomorrow' Look At World Of TV." Even articles about television were shaped by the energy fears of the 1970s.

"It now seems possible that we won't keep getting richer," MacKenzie writes. "The energy to run those room-size television screens and 3-D telecasts may have to be used for something more mundane.... like heating the joint or getting the old man to work and back."

Later in the article, MacKenzie explains what made movie theaters unique in an era before HBO and VHS tapes, "At present the movie theaters are offering patrons what they can't get on their home screens - bloody violence, nudity, sex, naughty words. But even those never-failing attractions will be available on television in the future...."

The piece in its entirety appears below.

Malcolm Muggeridge, the ancient, acidic book critic writing in Esquire, likes to refer to "future historians . . . if there are any."

 

We must now consider the case of future television watchers, if there are any.

What will they watch, and on what?

Every era rewrites the future; visionaries of the 1960s told us about all the fantastic electronic gear that would doubtless bring the world into the living rooms of future Americans - not only in sounds and pictures, but in odors too; specials about pollution would come complete with stink. The images would likely be three-dimensional and life size. Some of the more fervent prognosticators even looked forward to feelevision.

Video screens, it was said with what seemed optimism at the time, would cover entire walls in our homes. Channels would be unlimited; the viewer would be able to tune in on a Russian news program or a course in Latvian cooking at the touch of a button, or rather, a wave of the hand over a sensory node.

Banking and shopping would be done at home through two-way television communications. Voting would be done directly through the video system. Local town meetings would be conducted through television, with the participants all sitting home.

Three-dimensional television, technically feasible through ionization of alpha particles in the air that fills the living room, would bring life-size actors walking around in the room. Viewers would be able to enter into the drama, play roles, with computerized dialogue responding to the home player's improvised lines.

It all sounded wonderful. Or did it?

All those dreams of endless fun and self-improvement through the magic of super-television depended in part of the reigning ideology of the time which was: everything is always going to keep getting bigger and better.

Suddenly the doctrine of eternal abundance as a basic American right is seen as not so certain any more. We are running out of things. And the inevitability of progress can't be taken quite so readily for granted.

It now seems possible that we won't keep getting richer. The energy to run those room-size television screens and 3-D telecasts may have to be used for something more mundane.... like heating the joint or getting the old man to work and back.

The supersize television screens postulated a complete changeover in television technology; in other words, the scrapping of every piece of television equipment now in use - every home set, every camera and videotape machine. For, to increase the size of the screen considerably, we would have to increase the numbers of lines of transmission. That means new machines.

This could happen in 100 years. Almost anything could. But it probably won't happen for a long while, so finish paying off that color set.

Does the energy crunch and all its attendant melancholy side-effects mean that television technology isn't going anywhere?

Not at all. In the near future we'll be receiving new messages new waves on new equipment - not in life-size tri-dimensional smellovision, but in conventional television with improvements.

Like miniaturization, for instance. This branch of the electronic sciences has boomed in the past few decades. The tiny transistors which replaced the cumbersome vacuum tubes have themselves been replaced by even tinier, miraculously encoded bits of metal called MOS chips. One chip the size of a nailhead replaces hundreds of transistors. Not only are they littler, they're cheaper.

What does this mean for you and me? How about a perfectly flat television set that can be hung on the wall like a picture? Perfectly feasible in the near future. And the wrist television set, a la Dick Tracy, is now a practicable machine. Within a decade or so, you may be carrying a tiny walkie-talkie-like device in your shirt pocket. We may all be in instant audial and visual touch with one another.

Once the technology of miniature television receivers is worked out, they will be inexpensive to construct. And they will use less energy than present set, the pocket TV set will be as handy as a pocket calculator - and probably less expensive, since everyone will have one.

Every technological advance has its darker side, of course. If everyone is immediately reachable by two-way television, your boss will always be able to find you - not to mention your wife and your friendly local loan company.

Cassette TV is really on the way, too. A home library of cassettes will be a normal middle-class acquisition long before the Tribune Tower weathers its second centennial. But don't expect home cassettes to arrive immediately, or to be inexpensive when they do arrive. It will be a long time before cassettes reach the mass-distribution economics of the music recording industry. even when it does, a taped television program will cost at least twice what you will pay for an LP music tape.

Since, as mentioned before, it's just possible we won't all be richer then, how will the average family buy TV cassettes of the movies, instruction courses, plays, etc, that will be offered?

Probably by renting cassettes, or borrowing them from public libraries. Cassette TV, when it arrives, will bring the convenience of books and magazines: the viewer will watch a program of his choice, at a time of his choosing.

Full-scale home cassette television should arrive within 10 years, provided we do not develop air shortage in the meantime, and provided the Japanese continue to improve in what used to be called American knowhow.

What about television programs? How will they change?

100 years in the future is very far ahead to peer; if there are still television programs then, they will be about things of interest to a people who will be as unlike us as we are unlike the steerage passengers in the Mayflower. Perhaps their programs will be instructional "How to Eat Plastic," or "I Breathed in Los Angeles and Lived."

Who knows? We will leave these matters to future television columnists, if any. But we can look into the immediate future and make some educated guesses about programs in 10 and 20 years, based on the ways programs are changing now.

The most immediately obvious evolution in television is toward bigger and better movies for television. In a very few years, features produced for TV have moved from skimpily budgeted trash (Z-pictures, one critic called them) to a healthy form that often supplies good entertainment and occasionally brings memorable drama.

TV-movies still supply plenty of trash (perhaps trash is a needed commodity; the world has never been without it), and budgets are still small. But changes are coming, and very soon.

Small budgets and high aspirations have managed fine television movies like "Brian's Song"; but in the future producers may not be so confined in the money department. Ways are being found to produce full-scale motion pictures for television.

"The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman" might be considered the first of anew generation of television movies. Produced with scope and size, this fine picture was budgeted at $900,000 - still a low expense for a theatrical movie, but double or triple the cost of most TV-movies. A network contract for four showings, plus planned revenue for European theatrical bookings, will pay for the film and bring a profit.

Another venture, on NBC, is called International World Premiere. By this plan, new movies for television will be seen on NBC the same night they open in theaters in other countries - so the producers, with revenues from both TV and theaters, can hire major stars and deliver full-scale production.

Eventually, as other ways of financing television films are found, movies for television will become the equal of theatrical movies - in quality if not in sensationalism.

At present the movie theaters are offering patrons what they can't get on their home screens - bloody violence, nudity, sex, naughty words.

But even those never-failing attractions will be available on television in the future - if not in the regularly scheduled programs, then in cassette television. And, needless to say, Cassettes will bring the era of readily-available TV pornography. Whether that constitutes an advance for the civilized world the reader must decide for himself.

And as long as people persist in being human, television drama will concern the same subjects that drama has always treated: the timeless issues of love and faith and valor and ambition and loss, the yearnings of the heart and itchings of the glands.

People will always be interested in these things. And television, or whatever replaces it in the incalculable, unpredictable future, will still be staging the stories about the good guys versus the bad guys.

With any luck, the good guys will still be winning.


See also:
Home Entertainment of the Future (1981)
Living Room of the Future (1979)
Movie Trends of the 21st Century (1982)
How Experts Think We'll Live in 2000 A.D. (1950)
Movie Theater of the Future (1930)
Learning in 1999 A.D. (1967)
Tomorrow's TV-Phone (1956)
Closer Than We Think: Headphone TV (1960)

 

Sunday
Jun172007

Edison Battery Solves Old Problems (1909)

Think gasoline engines are on their way out? We've been thinking that for about a hundred years now. This story ran in the June 27, 1909 Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California).

The commercial value of the gasoline motor will then disappear. Vehicles charged with the new battery will be about as noiseless as it will be practicable to make any rapidly moving thing.