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Entries in postal service (2)

Saturday
Apr232011

Fast Mail of To-morrow (1919)

Here at Paleofuture we often take a look at the most fantastical visions of the future: jetpacks, flying cars, meal pills, robot gigolos...

More rarely do we look at understated depictions of the future in history, simply because they tend to appear quite ordinary to modern eyes. This illustration by Harry Grant Dart -- a man who was no stranger to the cartoonish and the fantastical -- shows the U.S. airmail service in the not-too-distant future. The image appeared on the May 31, 1919 cover of Literary Digest and shows mail bags attached to parachutes, which are then dropped by airplane; all eyes of a small town fixated on this postal payload from the heavens.

While the first aerial mail service in the United State was tested in 1911, it wasn't until May 15, 1918 that the first mail route from New York to Washington D.C. was established. A few months later the U.S. Postal Service took over airmail duties from the U.S. Army, but regularly scheduled cross-country airmail didn't begin until 1924.

As one might expect, it took a long time to modernize airmail service, but Dart's image -- however quaint it appears today -- depicts one revolutionary step forward in making our world feel that much smaller.

 

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)