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Entries in transportation (122)

Saturday
Aug062011

"Sense and the City" at the London Transport Museum

A new exhibit recently opened at the London Transport Museum which will likely be of interest to readers of this humble blog. Called "Sense and the City," the exhibition looks at the cultural and technological evolution of transportation in London, with a special emphasis on past visions of the future. Unfortunately, I have no plans to visit London in the near future, but if anyone has seen this exhibit in person please let us know how it is.

The exhibition opens with a striking futurist vision by artist Syd Mead (Bladerunner, Aliens, Tron) and a memorable selection of images showing past-future visions including those by architects Le Corbusier and Archigram as well as the failed and the frivolous such as a spiral escalator, winged buses and taxi airships. The centre of the space features two real vehicles – the controversial Sinclair C5 and the Ryno - a self-balancing, one wheel, electric scooter.

The displays look at the development of technology and its integration into the - social, economic and political fabric of the city. The gradual convergence of devices which has led to smart phones, tablets and laptops and wireless networked devices is illustrated on a wall of retro technology including 1980s brick-sized mobile phones, Commodore computers and the earliest wireless devices.

 

You can read more about the exhibit on the London Transport Museum website or at Londonist. The image below is featured in the exhibit and was illustrated by Frank Tinsley around 1950.

Sunday
Jun052011

The Roads Not Taken

Readers of the Wall Street Journal may have noticed a familiar byline in the May 23rd edition of the newspaper. For their special report on the future of transportation I looked at retrofuturistic visions of how we'd get from Point A to Point B. It was a fun spread to put together and I'm only now finding the time to blog about it -- appropriately enough, from 30,000 feet in the air.

For those of you who don't know, my day job is in non-traditional marketing. We've hit our busy season, so my apologies for the lack of new posts. I rarely write about my job on this blog, but I'm currently headed to Bonnaroo, where I'm developing and managing a tent for Ford. I only mention this because the theme is "1950's sci-fi drive-in theater" so if you happen to be a Paleofuture reader and heading to Bonnaroo I can pretty much guarantee you'll love it.

Saturday
May072011

Urban Airport of the Future (1926)

The fine people at Popular Mechanics recently published a book that deserves a prominent place on every retrofuturist's bookshelf. The Wonderful Future That Never Was by Gregory Benford looks at technological predictions that appeared in the pages of Popular Mechanics from 1903 until 1969. The prediction below was an attempt to address what was seen as an inevitable problem; how to land personal aircraft in busy cities. The solution here was to erect a gigantic landing port supported atop four skyscrapers.

Since the airplane has become a factor in commerce, the question of suitable landings within city areas has grown in importance. One plan calls for an immense stage to be erected on top of four skyscraper towers, to span 1,400 square feet. The entire platform can handle 80,000 passengers and 30,000 tons of freight yearly.

 

Wednesday
Apr132011

Pet Horse of the Future (1905)

The dawn of the Automobile Age made a lot of people wonder what would come of the horse. In the year 1900 author John Elfreth Watkins even predicted the complete eradication of all animals, aside from the few that we might keep in zoos. Some thought a new era of machines would quickly make animal labor inferior and therefore animals would have to justify their existence, continuously proving their worth so that humans wouldn't just wipe them out as our own population swelled.

This cartoon by Albert Levering appeared in a 1905 issue of Life magazine and imagines the lap-dog sized horse of a thousand years hence. It seems the artist may have been on to something, as one way animals seem to prove their worth is through being overwhelmingly adorable. Squee, etc.

This cartoon can also be found in the book Predictions.


Tuesday
Feb222011

Flying Carpet Car (1958)

Andrew A. Kucher [right] with Anastas I. Mikoyan [left] (Life Magazine, 1959)

In 1958 you'd find no greater advocate for the hovercar than Ford vice president Andrew A. Kucher. Kucher was on a media blitz in the late 50s and early 60s, being quoted in the New York Times, Wall Street JournalMechanix IllustratedChicago Daily Tribune, Popular Mechanics, Automotive Fleet and below in Arthur Radebaugh's syndicated Sunday comic, Closer Than We Think.

Kucher is credited with having conceived the idea of the hovertrain in the 1930s, a precursor to today's Maglev trains which use magnets rather than compressed air to achieve a similar effect. Newspapers from April, 1958 describe a three foot long hovercar model that was shown to reporters in Detroit. Riding on a cushion of air, Kucher described how this "Glideair" car could one day achieve 200-500 miles per hour since it didn't have tires which burn up and lose traction or control. An Associated Press piece even quotes Kucher as saying that such technology would be in use in the "foreseeable future."

For the love of Hugo! If God had intended that we fly he would've attached propellors to our feet! Amirite? Amirite?!!?!?!

Look, pa, no wheels! Use of a thin layer of compressed air may allow autos to hover and move just above ground level.

A pipe dream? Not at all. The concept (already proved) comes from scientist Andrew Kucher, vice-president of engineering at one of our major motor companies. His people are studying how to maintain stability. Special highway engineering is one way. Another is skillful design, evidenced already in experimental ideas from the staff of motor stylist George W. Walker.

Today's earthbound cars won't turn into low flying carpets right away. But it may happen sooner than we think!

 

As always, thanks to Tom Z. for the color scan of this panel from April 6, 1958.

 

Previously on Paleofuture:

 

Tuesday
Feb012011

Traffic Problems Will Disappear by Year 2000 (1955)

From the 1958 Disneyland TV episode Magic Highway, USA

The September 22, 1955 Lewiston Daily Sun (Lewiston, ME) ran a wonderful piece titled, "Hope For the Motorist: Traffic Problems Will Disappear by Year 2000." Such unbridled optimism for the yet to be developed Interstate Highway System is downright cute. Well, cute in that condescending "bless your heart" kind of way. But cute, nonetheless.

Remember that in 1955 the Interstate Highway System was still just a twinkle in President Eisenhower's eye. The Federal Aid Highway Act, which allocated $25 billion ($195 billion in today's dollars) for the development of the Interstate Highway System, wasn't signed into law until 1956.

As a huge Disney nerd I can't help but think about short films and TV episodes from the late 50s which were clearly produced to sell the idea of the Interstate Highway System to the American public. The film The Story of Anyburg USA from 1957 and the Disneyland TV episode Magic Highway, USA from 1958 are two such glorious examples. 

Predictions from the Lewiston Daily Sun piece appear below. 

  • Automobile traffic will increase fantastically, but because of fine expressways, there will be little congestion.
  • On these expressways cities will be by-passed or the road will be so built that it will hardly be necessary to slow down.
  • There will be no traffic lights on these major roads.
  • Large lakes will be bridged. Mountain ranges will be tunneled.
  • Opposing traffic will be separated. One-way streets and highways will be the rule.
  • Sleet? Snow? It will melt as it hits the highway.
  • Headlights? Won't need them on major roads. They will be illuminated bright as day.
  • Disabled cars -- a major source of tieups today -- will be whisked away by helicopter.
  • Cities will use three-level highways. Underground parking will be common. New office buildings will have parking facilities on each floor.

 

On a side note, I had a good chuckle reading about the helicopter solution to disabled cars, since comedian Eugene Mirman recently tweeted about Gallagher and his absolutely insane solution for road congestion.

Previously on Paleofuture: 

 

Thursday
Jan202011

Ford's Magic Skyway (1964)

Of all the major attractions at the 1964 World's Fair it seems Ford's Magic Skyway receives the least amount of chatter, ink and pixels in 2011. It wasn't moved to Disneyland like Carousel of Progress or It's A Small World, and it wasn't a sexy sequel like Futurama II. But it looked like quite the ride nonetheless.

Narrated by Walt Disney, fairgoers hopped into Fords on a journey from the age of the dinosaurs to the invention of the wheel to a "highway in the sky carrying you across the boundless night and out into time and space." The audio-animatronic dinosaurs and cavemen of Magic Skyway would be familiar to anyone visiting a Disney park today, as Epcot's Spaceship Earth, Universe of Energy and World of Motion (R.I.P.) all look like they drew quite a bit of inspiration from this attraction.

At the end of the ride Walt's familiar voice proclaimed, "perhaps someday we'll be riding rocketships like those flashing overhead to anywhere in space. Perhaps someday we will drive jet-powered vehicles over weather-controlled highways in the sky like those spiralling tubes around you." Perhaps indeed.

For more on Ford's Magic Skyway check out the video below

The concept art above appears in Designing Disney: Imagineering and the Art of the Show by John Hench.

 

Previously on Paleo-Future: