CBS Sunday Morning - April 28, 2013
The Jetsonian future -- the year 2062, to be exact -- seemed full of promise. Just ask Matt Novak, a self-described Jetsonologist.
Novak tells Cowan that he agrees "The Jetsons" is "just a cartoon, and I totally understand and recognize it. But as a parody show, I think it's important."
He analyzed all 24 episodes of the original series for Smithsonian Magazine, making the case that despite being a half-century old, "The Jetsons" still sets the bar for what we expect.
"The Jetsons represent this retro-future, but in a lot of ways, a lot of those elements still feels very futuristic to us," Novak said.
NPR All Things Considered - January 10, 2013
Audie Cornish talks to Matt Novak, writer of the Paleofuture blog for Smithsonian, about his recent posts about the TV show, The Jetsons, on its 50th anniversary and why it still matters today.
The Independent - October 24, 2012
From his home in Los Angeles, and via his blog, Paleofuture, Matt Novak digs up the past to find predictions for the future, chipping away to reveal visions that reflect as much about our time, hopes and fears as the eternal search for a jetpack.
"It's easy for some people to dismiss The Jetsons as just a TV show, and a lowly cartoon at that," he writes in the introduction to his ongoing series, 50 Years of The Jetsons. "But this little show has had a profound impact on the way that Americans think and talk about the future."
The Takeaway with John Hockenberry - September 28, 2012
Fifty years ago this past Sunday, the Jetson family made its debut on American television. Hanna-Barbera’s space age counterpart to The Flintstones, the show lasted only 24 episodes, and yet has remained culturally ubiquitous for the past five decades. It was revived in the mid-1980s for several seasons, and later adapted for a film. Called the “single most important piece of 20th century futurism” by critic and writer Matt Novak, the program was not only about futuristic technology, it also employed some revolutionary technology of its own: it was first show ever to be broadcast in color on ABC.
Forbes - April 30, 2012
Retro-futurist Matt Novak started his blog Paleofuture — tracing our past visions of the future — in January 2007 in a writing course at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The blog transformed from passion project to full bloom, when it was acquired by the Smithsonian last fall.
What began as a collector’s hobby turned him into a full-time archivist — he keeps his giant collection of retrofuture research and memorabilia in his Los Angeles-based apartment. Ranging from magazines to videophones to fallout shelter plans, part of Novak’s vast collection was on display this weekend in Hollywood.
In conjunction with BBC Future and Atlas Obscura, Novak featured an exhibit of past tech ephemera, ranging from every era — old Disney movies, nuclear attack handbooks, posters of our future trips to the moon.
Novak said of the collection, “It’s a great measure of our greatest hopes and our darkest fears.”
89.3 KPCC Los Angeles - February 25, 2012
Matt Novak, founder of the blog Paleofuture, writes about how people of the past envisioned the world of tomorrow ... but not just the way we'd live, but the way we'd die, catastrophically.
Paleofuture blog started out as a college project in 2007, but today has an esteemed home at the Smithsonian’s collection of blogs. Novak says today's predictions of the future are repeating those of the past.
"As a society, we tend to be more pessimistic when the economy is down," he says. "I think that's natural."
Wired Magazine - November, 2011
Matt Novak knows better than anyone what the world was supposed to look like. As the founder of the Paleofuture blog, he collects old postcards, newspapers, magazines, and other media that depict the future as it has been imagined in the past—as far back as the 1870s, in some cases. Some of these ye olde predictions have come true (electronic libraries). Others, not so much (still waiting on that live-in ape chauffeur). We asked Novak, whose blog is now hosted by the Smithsonian, about a few of his favorite finds.
ABC Radio (Australia) - July 15, 2010
Matt Novak is a paleofuturist (quite possibly one of a kind) and he describes himself as an 'accidental expert on past visions of the future'. His popular blog is like an online library of historic predictions.
Washington Post - May 4, 2010
It's 2010 -- where the heck are the flying cars already? Matt Novak has compiled past visions of what the future would be like (an area of interest called "retro-futurism") on his blog Paleofuture.com. In addition to flying cars and robots, futurologists often focused on jet packs, meal pills and space colonies. Newspaper archives have provided rich material for Novak, who's based in St. Paul, Minn. A 1955 article from the Gazette of Charleston, W.Va., features a doctor predicting that by 1999, people would live to be 150, the common cold would be eradicated and synthetic food would end famine and starvation. While erroneous predictions are the funniest (We'll be able to control the weather! From our domed cities!), sometimes people got it right. For instance, the 1967 film "1999 A.D." showed "fingertip shopping," which seems a whole lot like online shopping. Also, a 1988 video made by Apple includes a clunky harbinger of the iPad.
NPR All Things Considered - April 26, 2010
Matt Novak started the Paleo-Future blog in 2007. Since then, he has become an expert on past visions of the future, and has amassed an enormous library of media related to the study of retro-futurism. Michele Norris talks to Novak about futuristic technology, as envisioned from the past.
BBC Radio 5 - March 23, 2010
Matt Novak runs the blog Paleofuture. As a paleofuturologist, he unearths visions of the future from the past. Entertaining, eerie and sometimes beautiful, the commentary on what we had hoped or feared for our future decades looks strange in comparison with the future we already inhabit. I wonder how close to the mark current designers are as they look decades ahead of us today?
KUOW Seattle - The Conversation - February 25, 2010
"The future's so bright I gotta wear shades," says the 80s pop song. Really? Where are our jet packs? How does the future compare to what you thought it would be? Is the 21st century living up to your expectations? What's disappointed or surprised you? Matt Novak of the blog Paleo–Future joins us to reflect.
USA Today - January 5, 2010
What we're driving tomorrow probably will look much like what we're driving today. "It's going to have four wheels, and it's going to have headlights, and it's going to drive down the road," says Matt Novak, editor of the website Paleofuture.com, which looks at past predictions of the future.
Playboy - January/February 2010
The future is not new. By the dawn of the 20th century science was moving so fast many people were sure we were on the verge of tremendous change. The blogger Matt Novak collects entertainingly bad predictions at his website Paleo-Future. My favorite is a 1900 article by John Watkins that appeared in Ladies' Home Journal, offering readers a long list of predictions from leading thinkers about what life would be like within the next 100 years.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram - February 15, 2009
In popular culture, paleofuture refers to the study of what people in the past thought we’d be doing today — flying in cars, eating entire meals in a pill, submitting to self-aware robots.
One clearinghouse for information on the subject, including news clips, movies and other material, is Paleo-future.com. It’s a blog that was started two years ago by Matt Novak of St. Paul, Minn.
In a phone interview last week, Novak, 25, said he was inspired by a childhood visit to Walt Disney’s Epcot Center. "As a kid, I remember thinking these visions of the future were already outdated," he said.
Even so, he was drawn to the optimistic view of many forecasters. "There seemed to be a sincerity there that we may not have anymore about visions of the future," he said.
Visitors to Paleo-future.com may be surprised to learn that futurists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries accurately predicted ready-cooked meals, cellphones, and even e-mail and online shopping.
A 1900 Ladies Home Journal article correctly forecast that "hot or cold air will be turned on by spigots to regulate the temperature of a house."
But the same article missed the mark on transportation, projecting that by 2000: "There will be no street cars in our large cities. All hurry traffic will be below or high above ground when brought within city limits. It will be confined to broad subways or tunnels . . . or to high trestles with moving sidewalk stairways leading to the top. Cities therefore will be free from all noises."
It was a common mistake. In dozens of articles, the conventional wisdom through the ’50s was that driving in the future would be a happy experience. Highways would be wide open and safe.
How could so many soothsayers be so wrong?
Novak, a marketing guy by trade, figures that prognosticators didn’t understand the consequences of building a car-dependent, oil-addicted society. It wasn’t clear to them that traffic could get so bad and that the cost of construction could rise so quickly that we couldn’t build our way out.
Novak’s own view of the future, at least as it applies to transportation, isn’t so cheery.
"I don’t make predictions, after being absorbed in this world where so many predictions were wrong," he said. "But I dare predict that until I die I will be driving a car or a vehicle operated by fossil fuels."
I tend to think Novak’s wrong. My hunch is that desperation will breed innovation and that a better way to commute will soon emerge and make the 21st century more like that fun, zippy place our ancestors dreamed about.
But I could be wrong.
Either way, if this column gets posted on a paleofuture blog and you’re reading this in 2049, feel free to post a comment below.
MSN.com - 2009
The 1900 Ladies Home Journal article is just one of many past predictions for this millennium cataloged on the blog Paleo-Future: A Look Into the Future That Never Was. Matt Novak created the site in January as part of a project for a writing class in his senior year in college. He was inspired by a family trip to Disney World’s Epcot in the mid-1990s. “They had a ride called Horizons, which looked at past and current visions of the future, but since the ride was made in the ’80s, it was already laughable,” Novak says.
His site's most popular post features Hildebrands chocolate promotional postcards from the early 1900s, depicting various scenes “in the year 2000.” Strange unicycle and balloon contraptions would allow people to walk on water. Moving pavement, complete with benches, would replace city sidewalks. Personal flying machines resembling bat wings, and personal airships (mini-Hindenburgs) would fill the skies. Best of all, a giant steam engine would control the weather, allowing for beach vacations at the North Pole (polar bears, like every other wild animal, would already be extinct). Of course, we’d still be wearing the height of 1900s fashion.
Novak found a newspaper article from 1889 predicting that steam, not gasoline or even electricity, would power the world’s industry. "Every prediction is a partial reflection on its own time," Novak says.
In the ’30s, when the economy wasn’t doing well, people saw technology as a threat to replace humans, Novak says. This resulted in predictions of robot maids and baby vending machines. Pop in a quarter and out comes a baby boy or girl. Talk about a labor-saving device!
In the ’50s and ’60s, with the advent of powerful rocket technology and a huge economic boom, came the fanciful idea of moon colonies. Giant computers in the ’70s gave rise to the idea of even bigger devices.
Assuming the future will draw on current technology is a mistake that even visionary Microsoft founder Bill Gates made. His book, “The Road Ahead,” from the mid-1990s, included a CD-ROM with videos depicting a future lifestyle. “The guy in the video still had a huge audio recorder a foot long by a foot wide,” Novak says.
USA Today - August 18, 2008
Matt Novak, however, remains unconvinced. The host of Paleofuture.com, a blog that looks at past predictions of the future, says flying cars look even further away these days.
"We had this sort of optimism in the '50s and '60s, a feeling that things were inevitable because of technology. And flying cars were on the short list," Novak says. "I don't think we're going to have freeways in the sky any time soon."
Green Bay Press-Gazette - July 13, 2008
"It's been quite a journey," he said. "When I first started the site, I thought I had maybe a month's worth of material, but I dug deeper and who knew how many different versions of the future had happened during the 20th Century?"
Novak has taken a few things from digging around in the past to find out what today should have looked like to people half a century, or more, ago.
"If there's anything I've learned, it's that no one can predict the future with any degree of certainty," he said.
"And it's given me optimism. Because no one knows the future with any certainty, it's freeing and kind of feeling like, 'That's good; the future's not determined, and we can do what we want with it and try to make it a better place.'"
Sydney Morning Herald - July 4, 2008
Our automotive pioneers were also looking forward, working to propel the newborn car - the horseless carriage - to meet a vision. And, shape-wise, it looked bubbly.
"The globule-shaped modes of transportation come from a 1930s obsession with streamlining," says Matt Novak, the founder of past-future commentary site www.paleofuture.com. "Creating streamlined modes of transportation gave the perception of efficiency and the perception that you were a part of the future was important."
St. Paul Pioneer Press - May 5, 2008
Matt Novak has seen a vision of the future. A lot of visions.
That's because in the past year or so, the 24-year-old St. Paul resident has turned himself into a sort of accidental expert on the paleo-future: depictions of the future from the past.
He collects and comments on yesterday's predictions of tomorrow on his blog, www.paleofuture.com, which has become a sort of online museum of a promised world of jet packs, meals in a pill and sex with robots.
Novak said the project, "a look into the future that never was," started in January 2007 when he was taking a writing class at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. One of the assignments was to create a blog.
He'd always been interested in the fantastic, strange or goofy predictions of the future, dating back to a childhood visit to Disney World: "In the 1980s, EPCOT was a thing that already looked dated." There also was his second-grade diorama in 1992 of what the world would look like eight years in the future: "Cars on magnetic tracks, all sort of crazy things like that; 2000 was such a magic number, the world would be so different."
PC Magazine - 100 Favorite Blogs of 2007
Paleo-Future is a fantastic trip through days of future past, from Victorian air travel to Zemeckis-era Nikes. But it's a sobering reminder of the sideways march of technology. Flying cars, my butt.
Wall Street Journal - October 3, 2007
The best place to look at these videos is at PaleoFuture (paleo-future.blogspot.com), which allows an amazing look back at visions of the future, starting back in the 1880s. The exhibit is curated with great wit by 24-year-old Matt Novak of Minneapolis. Most of these retrofutures are full of optimistic technology, like what you'd see at a World's Fair or Disneyland's World of Tomorrow.
Computer-company concept videos tend to be set in the immediate future, a happy time of well-dressed people who spend their days either running small businesses or preparing sales reports. PaleoFuture has two videos from the early 1990s, one from Sun Microsystems and the other from AT&T, telling us about life in 2004.
These videos avoid the silliness of similar efforts from the 1960s, such as the 1967 movie from Philco-Ford showing moms in 1999 pushing a button to make dinner. Still, they manage to blur easy engineering problems with very hard ones, which results in their being off by miles in some of their predictions. In most of these videos, for example, the computer understands casual spoken English well enough to be able to act as an ever-alert concierge, dialing up business associates on the phone and yanking reports on demand from its memory, then cheerfully saying something back to their owner after finishing a task.
Mr. Novak says that since then, the computer industry seems to have gotten smarter about how dumb computers can be and what they're really good for. "Computers of the future were to be artificial humans," he says. "At some point, we realized that we didn't care to talk with machines. We wanted to communicate with humans more efficiently."
Wilson Quarterly - Summer, 2007
Cars still don't fly, the moon remains uninhabited, and at home there's no robot doing the laundry. What happened to the future? To find it, bloggers and sci-fi buffs alike are flocking to websites that explore the paleofuture - "the future that never was." Matt Novak, the man behind paleo-future.blogspot.com, says that in today's cynical age, people crave the sincere and hopeful dreams of yesteryear.