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Entries in san antonio light (18)

Sunday
Oct182009

Have You a Little Robot? (1929)

You like robots? Well, just hold your horses. They're not here yet. And until they are, you better ride our damn street cars.

That seems to be the gist of an ad the San Antonio Public Service Company took out in the February 17, 1929 San Antonio Light. There's an attitude of inevitability in the advertisement; the idea that the robot chauffeur is within immediate reach, that robot servants would arrive in the very near future. 

We see this come up time and again throughout the 1920s and 30s. The robots are coming. You best get ready. (But in the meantime, buy our product.)

HAVE YOU A LITTLE ROBOT IN YOUR HOME?

Now comes the Robot -- the mechanical man with many of humanity's good features and none of its bad. He never makes mistakes -- always dependable -- in fact an ideal pet to have around.

Imagine having your own Robot drive you to the office in your own car. He, being a Robot, wouldn't get excited in traffic, wouldn't have an accidents, and you'd be able to forget about parking troubles.

Sounds mighty fine. But so far Mr. Robot hasn't learned to drive a car. And when he does it will probably cost you plenty for him to operate your old bus. Street cars and buses still hold the lead on the most desirable city transportation. Until Mr. Robot becomes a chauffeur you will find it more satisfactory to ride with us.

Convenience Without Expense. Service Without Danger.

SAN ANTONIO PUBLIC SERVICE COMPANY

Previously on Paleo-Future: 

 

Monday
Sep282009

When Wars Are Fought With Robot Soldiers (1935)

The idea that robot soldiers would inevitably replace human troops pops up repeatedly in newspapers of the 1930s. The emergence of humanoid robots, however primitive, lent themselves to people thinking about the human toll of the first World War and how it might be avoided in future wars.

This article from the July 28, 1935 San Antonio Light (San Antonio, TX) features illustrations from artist Erik Nitsche depicting robots with machine guns for heads, robot scouts with movie camera faces, a twenty-five tube robot military band, and even a robot hospital for the repair of robot soldiers. An excerpt appears below.

Erik Nitsche, a distinguished European artist, has looked into the future of a century from now and has made a series of remarkable prophetic pictures of a war fought solely with robot soldiers. The majority of them were drawn exclusively for The American Weekly and appear on this page.

Instead of the human machine gunners, crouched in their emplacements, waiting for the mangling shell to end them, there is a steel encased mechanism. The most important organ to the machine gunner, without which his hands would be useless, are his eyes. Nitsche's robot machine gunner's head is the gun itself. His eyes are in the heads of those who by television and radio direct his fire. he crawls forward, his human masters miles away, striving to direct the deadly stream into the mechanical vitals of the enemy's robots.

Patrol work was desperately dangerous in the last war. But a flying robot, equipped with motion picture and sound recording machines, could dart and hover over the enemy with no danger to human life -- and bring back vastly more accurate observations. When a human soldier gets a bullet in his heart, or in his liver or has himself partly blown to pieces, that is the end of that soldier. Not so with the robot. A new heart can be put in him as easily, almost, as changing a tire. Doctors were notoriously insufficient in the World War, and they found their tasks unpleasantly dangerous in the future, Mr. Nitsche thinks war robot doctors will attend to the injuries of robot soldiers. There will also be hospitals where all the equipment will be mechanical, reeking no more of blood and antiseptics but of machine oil.

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Sunday
Sep202009

International Travel of the Future (1932)

This illustration of international travel in the future, complete with robotic red-cap porters, appeared in the December 4, 1932 San Antonio Light (San Antonio, TX). It seems that all you need to do is step into the tube of your choice, then be shot out via capsule to your final destination.

The design has a very Rube Goldberg feel to it. Why one must first go down a slide, before ascending stairs couldn't be confirmed by presstime. The caption that accompanied the illustration is below.

INSTANTANEOUS INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL -- The artist here suggests the passenger terminals of the future, which, he thinks, will look quite different from the present steamship pier or railroad station. It will be noticed that everybody is equipped with a little personal radio antenna, and the arrivals and departures are announced by a mechanical man, while the red-cap porter is replaced by a robot who handles the luggage.

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Saturday
Sep192009

Gernsback Imagines Life 50 Years Hence (1925)

Hugo Gernsback wrote a syndicated piece in 1925 that imagined the world of 1975. It appeared in the February 8th edition of the San Antonio Light (San Antonio, TX) and has an interesting mix of hits and misses. Highlights from the article are excerpted below. You can read the piece in its entirety here.

Gernsback recognized that the future had the potential to be even more fantastic than we could imagine:

The chances are that if someone runs across this fifty years from now, he will severely condemn the writer of this for his great lack of imagination, for, no matter how wild the predictions may seem now, they will look very tame fifty years hence. If someone had tried to explain radio to you fifty years ago, or the X-ray, or radium, he would have been put down as ripe for the insane asylum, and you may rest assured that we are no different today.

 

On television:

Movies by radio! Why not? You will be able to have a moving picture produced in some central plant and projected in your home, on your yacht, or on your camping trip, the picture being sent by radio, and received and projected upon your screen. All this is perfectly possible.

On teleportation:

By [1975], we shall be able to send all sorts of materials by radio. If you think that it is impossible to transmit a carload of coal thousands of miles, you need only go back less than fifty years, when it would have been thought equally impossible to have the street cars of Syracuse, N.Y., run by the power generated by Niagara Falls. Today no one thinks anything of this.

On personal transportation:

Each pedestrian will roll on electric skates, such as have been constructed even today. An insulated wire running from the skate to the head or shoulder of the skater will be sufficient to take the power from the radio power line, and we shall then all be propelled electrically at a pace at least four or five times as fast as we walk today.

On buildings of the future:

All of our buildings and houses are due for a great revolution. In the Wintertime all of our buildings will be warm, and in the Summertime they will be cool. The future buildings and house will be fashioned along the principle of a thermos bottle. Each wall will be double, and the space between the walls will be filled with cork or some other poor heat conductor.

On airplanes:

The tops of our tallest buildings will be flat and glass-covered. They will have airplane landing platforms on which all kinds of airplanes, or even the trans-Atlantic planes of the future will land.

On hanging gardens:

Our large office buildings, or, for that matter, private houses, will have real gardens with large trees on top of the roofs, as has already been tried experimentally with smaller plants in some of our large cities.

On electrified crops:

Not only that, but plant life will also be greatly stimulated as recent high frequency experiments on plants have shown. Our crops and plants will grow practically two to ten times as quickly and the crops will be more productive under this electrification. Under such stimulation it will be quite possible to raise crops at least twice or perhaps more often during the year; and the most interesting part about this is that it will cost the farmer absolutely nothing except for fertilizer. And this he requires anyway.

On moving sidewalks:

Below the elevated railway we have continuous moving platforms. There will be three such moving platforms alongside of each other. The first platform will move only a few miles per hour, the second at eight or ten miles per hour, and the third at twelve or fifteen miles per hour.

You step upon the slowest moving one from terra firma and move to the faster ones and take your seat. Then arriving at your station, you can either take the lift to the top platform or else you can get off upon the "elevated level" and take the fast train there. which stops only every thirty or forty blocks. Or, if you do not wish this, you can descent by the same elevator down to the local subway.

 

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Sunday
Jul262009

Robots for Romantic Old Maids (1928)

The July 1, 1928 San Antonio Light (San Antonio, TX) ran a syndicated story titled, "Romantic Old Maids Can Hear the Words of Love They Long For."

The excerpt below tells the tale of a futuristic unmarried woman who keeps a robot under her bed. This automated man, which was naturally all the rage in 1929, gives her all the love and attention no "mortal man" will give her. The woman, even in such a contrived environment, must feign astonishment that a "man" would be in her bedroom.

I found it interesting that an article from the 1920s would mention the existence of gigolos (who of course, only exist in Europe). The article explains that such gigolos, who "pay attention" to old and unattractive ladies of wealth, will now be put out of work by these gear-driven casanovas. And here you thought the idea of sexbots was new...

At the same rate of progress it should not require more than a decade or so before a person can go to a store and pick out from the show case most any kind of automatic man or woman he or she might fancy -- an ideal servant or workman who would ask no food or wages but a little current and an occasional drop of oil; or even a flattering admirer could be purchased who would whisper in a neglected wife's ear, all the nice things that a busy husband forgets to say.

In this happy future, no old maid need look under the bed for a man, in vain. He would always be there and such a nice man, a perfect imitation of her favorite matinee idol or film star, with blond or dark hair, moustache or clean shaven, anything her heart desired. These would be stock models, turned out in quantity production and quite reasonable in price. This year probably a "Lindy" model would have been a big seller. Or, if the customer is willing to pay a little more and have one made to order, the manufacturer might send artists and photographers to some notorious lounge-lizard and deliver a perfect counterfeit of him. She could order the late Rudolf Valentine's face and John Barrymore's voice or most any other combination.

The present crude automations can be made to start on most any combination of tones, therefore the man under the bed might be set to react at the words:

"Sir! What are you doing there?"

At that cue he would crawl out and on bended knees, pour out words from 1,000 feet of phonofilm, revealing his hopeless passion for the love-starved old maid, telling her how beautiful she is and all the other sweet things that somebody out to have said but no mortal had bothered to.

When she tired of hearing this over and over, a word of encouragement would be the end to slide into place in his manly chest, another reel and at the same time he could sit beside her on the couch or take her on his substantial knees, embracing her with a tireless mechanical arm. The introduction of this kind of automation would throw out of work a small army of "gigolos," young men who in Europe, pay attention to old and unattractive ladies of wealth, for a consideration.

You can read the entire article here.

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Wednesday
Jul012009

Roof Over New York (1949)

It's amazing how popular the idea of roofing in an entire city was in the 20th century. The concept of one day controlling the weather was likely exciting because it meant absolute domination over nature and one's environment. I suspect to conquer weather was the penultimate in shaping humankind's destiny, while the ultimate was likely immortality. (Someone's still working on that one, right?)

This illustration from the August 28, 1949 San Antonio Light (San Antonio, TX) depicts the future New York City skyline. The picture accompanies an article from Prof. A. M. Low, which we'll take a look at in the coming weeks.

CLIMATE "TO ORDER" -- One of the things to come, Professor A. M. Low points out, is likely to be the weather-controlled city. Using the famous New York skyline as a "model," the artist's conception, above, embodies some of the best scientific thinking of our time. "Roofs" like the one pictured may be constructed over cities and linked to skyscrapers to provide scientific control of weather. Open cross section of "roof" shows weather experts busy controlling temperature, etc.

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Monday
Dec152008

Everyman's Folding Auto (1939)


The November 26, 1939 San Antonio Light (San Antonio, TX) featured this prediction of the fold-up car of the future.

Even the young man of the scientific future may find trouble, one day on the road, with his sunpower automobile. He gets out, tips up the car with one hand and looks underneath. Finding what seems to be the trouble, he unscrews a few clamps, takes out the engine, and starts off jauntily to the repair shop, as though he were only carrying an alarm clock.

 

Strong muscles? Not at all, merely a lightweight engine.

Next day he comes back for the engineless car, folds it up like a collapsible baby carriage, loads it on the most convenient high speed bus or aero bus, takes it home and tucks it away in any handy closet until the engine has been repaired.

These are not Professor Harrison's predictions, but they are made possible by one of his, that of stronger metals.

What requires so much weight in automobile engines or bodies, in giant bridges, in the steel frames of buildings and a thousand other things is that much metal must he used to make the beams or castings strong. Weight Itself is useless. Need is only for strength.

"Great strides have been made recently," Professor Harrison writes, "in the physics of metals—the study of how atoms cling together to form crystals and these crystals hang together in metal rods and wires. All metals are permeated by microscopic cracks and flaws which greatly reduce their strength.

"If only Ihe crystals of which they are composed would hang to one another with the forces with which the individual atoms cling together! Then a cable of steel an inch thick would safely support four million pounds, instead of the mere 300,000 pounds which it now will held."

Such metals 13 times stronger than now can mean not only lighter engines and folding, fly-weight auto bodies, but also taller buildings, longer bridges, faster airplanes, larger ships--or deadlier machine guns and farther-ranging submarines.


Previously on Paleo-Future:
Dymaxion Car of the Future (1934)
Streamlined Cars of the Future
Zipper-Bag Airplane (1958)