Category Archives: Technology

A Film From 1967 Predicted Our Technology Fairly Well

The video below was made by the Philco-Ford corporation in 1967. Philco was a battery company that, after about 40 years in business filed for bankruptcy and was bought by Ford in 1961. By then, it had branched out into computer systems so it made this film probably to drum up business for them. It’s a very interesting view of the future from the ’60s, especially since we know how it turned out, and even 20 years after.

Let’s go through each of the 32 predictions in the video and see how it stacked up to 1999, and also how we’re doing in 2017. To save you the suspense, counting things that at least somewhat came true, the score for 1999 was 50% (16 came true-ish), and 75% for 2017 (24 came true-ish). An F for its goal year, but a C+ for the current year, which is not bad at all for 50 years ago.

And interestingly, most of the mis-predictions weren’t so much because the technology still isn’t here by now (like flying cars, for example), but because the market just hasn’t wanted them, like modular housing. Given another couple of decades, we might be looking at just a couple more coming true due to technological advances.

1. Modular housing with hexagonal pods that can be attached together

1999: Mostly false

2017: Mostly false

Manufactured housing is certainly a common thing, but it’s not very popular. People buy it more out of necessity than desire. And it doesn’t usually quite work as described, with additions being easy. Usually anyway — some people do live in modular houses, and it’s becoming more widespread.

2. The age of 44 is “not so old”

1999: True

2017: True

In the 1960s, a 44 year old woman was way past middle age. Nowadays, 44 is usually very much considered not that old.

3. The father works for an effort to colonize Mars

1999: False

2017: True

There are currently a handful of serious efforts to colonize Mars, most notably SpaceX’s and NASA’s. That wasn’t the case in 1999.

4. He’s working on GMO foods

1999: Mostly true

2017: Mostly true

In the video, he’s working on a peach with a rind like a tangerine, and indeed genetically modified foods first sold in the mid-1990s. Nothing as crazy as that, and it’s gotten a lot of pushback, but GMO foods are certainly here and eaten by millions.

5. He’s got a “workbench with an electronic screen” that lets him see images for work

1999: True

2017: True

This was a big misstep the video took — not realizing that computer consoles would become multipurpose. In the video, the house is full of special purpose consoles and screens, like this one. But in reality of course, the dad could look at his work images on any computer screen, not just that specialized “workbench”.

6. They have a central home computer which is “secretary, librarian, banker, teacher, medical technician, bridge partner, and all-around servant” and “all pertinent information about this family: its records, its tastes and reference material, is stored in its memory banks, available instantly to every member of the family”

1999: Somewhat true

2017: Mostly true

Another big misstep here: failing the predict the Internet. In the video, the house computer stores and processes everything. The functionality is available now, especially thanks to smartphones, but the infrastructure is almost entirely offsite: the library, the bank, the courses, medical data, even a lot of games are all stored on a computer on the Internet. So all of it is instantly available to the family, but it’s not stored locally in the house, and it’s not all stored on the same computer — instead it’s disparate systems all over the globe.

The family computer in the video does communicate with other computers, as we see later, so the disconnect isn’t the Internet itself — instead it was probably that they didn’t foresee the data transmission speeds that we now have. At the transmission speeds of the 1960s, it would have to have been local to be instant.

7. The kid goes to school two mornings a week, but he’s home schooled by computer programs “which allow him to progress as rapidly as his awakened mind can absorb the audio-visual lessons”

1999: False

2017: False

Again, not a technological hurdle — all of this is very much doable today, and somewhat so even in 1999. But people don’t want their kids in the house with no friends all day. School, as it turned out, is as much a social institution as it is a learning one.

Also, it’s strange that he would only be going to school twice a week — they must’ve really slimmed down the curriculum.

8. He gets tired of learning and watched cartoons on another computer screen

1999: Somewhat true

2017: True

A kid would most likely not watch cartoons on a computer in 1999, but he could’ve pulled up a VHS tape on a TV in the living room. But now he can watch cartoons on any phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop.

9. The guys appear on a video screen from other rooms in the house asking mom for lunch

1999: False

2017: Mostly false

This was just not possible in 1999, but it’s very possible now. Few people have a computer monitor in the kitchen, but the mom could have a laptop open with Skype or FaceTime running. And of course, she’d have her phone. But this still doesn’t happen. Why? Because of another technology the video didn’t foresee: texting. The kid and dad would most likely text the mom in the kitchen rather than video conference with her.

10. The kid uses a blow dryer built-in to the vanity to dry his face

1999: False

2017: False

Another thing that’s very much possible, that no one wants. The hand dryers in public restrooms are slow and terrible enough that no one would want to bring that experience in their homes. Not to mention that it’s a lot more expensive to run, on top of being much, much slower than a hand towel.

11. The mom pulls up a pre-set lunch menu on the computer, looks at alternatives, makes a modification, then gets nutritional advice from the computer and prepares the meals with some button pushing in about a minute because “most food will be stored frozen in individual portions. The computer will keep a running inventory on all food stuffs, and suggest daily menus based on the nutritional needs of the family. When a meal has been selected, the various portions are fed automatically into the microwave oven, for a few seconds of thawing or warming.”

1999: Mostly false

2017: Somewhat true

This one’s interesting because the technological and social pieces are currently falling into place for this vision, and it may well be true in another 10 years:

  • Frozen food: yes, ubiquitous. Not the go-to thing for most people, but everyone has frozen meals in their freezer.
  • Computerized inventory of food stuffs: no, but it’s getting there. Smart fridges haven’t taken off yet, but that’s probably because no one’s figured out a good user interface yet. One of the things they do, however, is keep track of the food in it. If that data went someplace in the cloud, that service could absolutely suggest daily menus. The technology is there, and it’s compelling, but no one’s built something successful in the market yet.
  • Nutritional recommendations: yes. The amount of phone apps and websites that do this is astounding. But, it’s all based on manual input so far, which is a lot more annoying than the automated workflow in the video.
  • Fast cooking: they were right on the money with the microwave oven. In the 1960s, it was only available in commercial kitchens, but by the 1980s, it was everywhere, just as the video predicted.

12. “The house of 1999 will be virtually maintenance-free. A central atmospheric system will maintain constant year-round temperatures and control humidity, bacteria, pollen and dust.”

1999: Mostly true

2017: Mostly true

That’s a pretty accurate description of a central HVAC unit. Temperature being the main focus there, humidity control being a by-product, and bacteria, pollen, and dust being controlled with various levels of intake filters.

13. “Clothing of the non-disposable variety will be stored in cleaning closets, where a chemical vapor atmosphere, and an ultrasonic vibrator will remove dirt particles.”

1999: Somewhat true

2017: Somewhat true

They got the spirit right here, but not the specifics. Instead of using that vibrating smoke closet, we’ve achieved automated clothing cleaning with the washer/dryer combo. And while we don’t have disposable clothing per se, clothing is certainly cheap enough that it could be, and sometimes is, disposable.

14. “Fingertip shopping will be one of the many homemaker’s conveniences.”

1999: Mostly true

2017: True

Over the past 20 years, online shopping has become a staple of virtually every household, and especially recently when 2 day shipping has exploded in popularity.

15. There’s a “household monitor screen which maintains a watch on critical areas in the house, swimming pool, or yard.”

1999: False

2017: True

Many households have one or more inexpensive surveillance cameras installed.

16. “What the wife selects on her console, will be paid for by the husband on his counterpart console. All bills and transactions will be carried out electronically. A central bank computer will debit the family’s account the amount of purchases and credit the department store, for example, informing the family’s home computer at the same time.”

1999: Mostly false

2017: True

Online banking has really taken off in the past decade, to the point where you can do it all from your phone. Paying bills, credit cards, looking at budgets, etc is all done on the computer by most people.

17. “Father, at the touch of a button, receives an instantaneous printed copy of his budget, the amount of taxes he owes, the payments left on the car, and so forth. All documents and household records are available on the video screen for immediate reference.”

1999: True

2017: True

The household printer’s been around since the 1980s.

18. “Also at his disposal is an electronic correspondence machine, or a home post office, which allows for instant written communication between individuals anywhere in the world.”

1999: True

2017: True

I’m not sure why their home post office needed a pen as opposed to a keyboard, but this obviously came true by the early 1990s with e-mail, instant messaging and later, SMS. Again though, they predicted a special purpose machine, as opposed to this being just another function of a computer screen.

19. “To maintain these and hundreds of complex electronic circuits, a monitor checks all circuits every few seconds, and inserts a backup circuit if and when trouble develops, and alerts the communal service agency for replacement.”

1999: False

2017: False

This might sound like one of the strangest predictions to us, but that’s because the video again failed to predict a very important invention: the packet-switched network. Prior to it, circuits had to be physically connected to each other, so that current could go only where it was needed, because current was the information. So as it turned out, this maintenace nightmare was designed away by having everything be connected all the time, and making only the data go where it needs to.

20. “The home energy center, with it’s fuel cell, furnishes power, provides absolutely pure water, burns waste, and heats or cools the rooms.”

1999: False

2017: Mostly false

This might be true in another few decades, but the only piece of it available now is solar power with batteries that power the house and the HVAC systems. However, that’s not tied into water purification and sewage systems yet.

21. Photochromic windows

1999: False

2017: Mostly false

It’s not in wide use yet, but “smart glass” that can control the amount of light passing through it is available and becoming more and more popular.

22. Ocean farming

1999: False

2017: False

This is the one prediction that just doesn’t make sense. Why would anyone willingly grow food in the ocean? Hydroponic gardens, sure… but this is just a whole other level of crazy.

23. An electronic musical keyboard

1999: True

2017: True

Electronic synthesizers were already becoming a reality in the 1960s, and like the microwave, they became widely available in the 1980s.

24. Father “enters this home health center. He lies for, perhaps 15 seconds, on a kind of medical couch. His weight, temperature, pulse, respiration, blood pressure, and electrocardiogram are routinely recorded. At the same time, his body is scanned for any isolated temperature pockets that signal oncoming disease or localized infection. At the end of the examination period, the computer calculates the amount of exercise necessary to balance Mike’s food intake and maintain proper muscle tone.”

1999: False

2017: Somewhat true

This is another one that mostly exists in spirit. With wrist wearables like the FitBit and Apple Watch, along with smart scales and health apps, we have an ecosystem of gadgets that approximates much of this home health center. Blood pressure and ECGs aren’t yet common, but could be soon, and there’s no full body scanning gadget yet though.

25. “The computer now relays any important physical changes to a central community medical center, where Mike’s personal physician will be alerted for further diagnosis.”

1999: False

2017: Mostly false

We’re at a point where this is possible, but in practice not yet widely adopted. However, in theory, your Apple Watch and smart scale could certainly upload the data to your doctor.

26. Father video chats with a friend that lives far away, somewhere cold

1999: Mostly false

2017: True

Video chat in the late 1990s was terrible, but now it’s amazing and commonplace.

27. Father and his friend talk about easily jet-setting to California or Mexico for a round of golf

1999: Somewhat true

2017: Somewhat true

Air travel has gotten a lot cheaper and more convenient, with a lot more destinations, so that you can get basically anywhere in the world in 24 hours, and the most it’ll cost is the price of three iPhones. But, it’s generally expensive to go last minute, and inconvenient enough that you wouldn’t get on a plane for a round of golf.

28. Father checks the weather on his computer

1999: True

2017: True

This was, as predicted, one of the earliest services to be offered online.

29. Mother has a lot of free time, because there’s not much to do around the house, so she does pottery

1999: Somewhat true

2017: Somewhat true

We do have a lot more leisure time now than we did in the ’60s. However, few people use that time to improve themselves. Mostly, it’s spent watching TV or taking on new activities, such as helicopter parenting.

30. The kid plays chess on a real chess board that’s linked to the computer, which relays the moves to his dad, who’s somewhere else

1999: Mostly true

2017: Mostly true

The real chessboard is possible, but not something most people would care to invest in. The video failed to predict the electronic inputs we have, since there was no mouse or touch interface back then, so they likely couldn’t think of a nice way to play chess on a virtual board.

31. At a party, the dad plays, on a giant screen, a video he recorded the other night

1999: Mostly true

2017: True

This is a lot easier to do now with iPhones and AirPlay, and basically identical to the video, but even in the ’90s, one could plug their camcorder into a projection TV and show something they recorded to a group.

32. He agrees to make a 3-D copy for his friend

1999: Mostly false

2017: Mostly true

The 3-D fad is dying, but if it had kept going strong, this would be completely true. Cheap 3-D cameras are the missing piece here, and making a copy of the video would be trivial now. In 1999, home 3-D technology wasn’t a thing, and making a copy of a video tape wasn’t easy, but it was doable.

In the end, the video does a pretty good job of predicting the lifestyle of the early 21st century, but it misses key details because it didn’t predict much of the infrastructure that ended up making that lifestyle possible: general purpose computers, the fast, packet-switched Internet, smartphones, texting, and graphical computer inputs.

See also:

From YouTube, via Neatorama

Amazing Color Night Vision!

This was shot with an SPI X27 camera.

See also:

Induction Stoves Are Literally The Coolest Kitchen Tech You’ve Never Heard Of

With normal cooking, your pot or pan sits on a source of heat (gas, electric coil, etc) and then gets hot itself and heats the food inside it. This is known as thermal conduction: heat is transferred from the source to the pot touching it. Induction cooking, on the other hand, uses a — get ready for this — electromagnet to heat the pot up without ever touching it. Seriously. Electromagnetic induction is actually used in all kinds of other things: generators, transformers, motors, and wireless chargers, to name a few.

The best thing, aside from it being wireless? The cooking surface stays cool! It will heat up a little from the hot pot sitting on it, but the whole idea is that an electromagnet zaps your pot, and only your pot, to whatever temperature you want. It is literally the coolest stovetop ever. You can put a book on the stove and put the pot on the book, and the pot will heat up, but the book won’t.

But wait, there’s more! It’s also faster, more precise, and more energy efficient than normal cooking. Ah-mazing. Pick your jaw up. Here’s a video of it in action:

Crazy futuristic technology, right? Nope: it was invented a hundred years ago. One hundred. Companies like Westinghouse and Sears sold these in the 1970s and ’80s, but somecrazyhow, they never took off. Maybe humanity can only handle one awesome new cooking thing at a time, and the microwave won.

In any case, these are available for sale right now, at this moment. You can find them on Amazon starting at like 60$ for the small, portable ones. It boggles the mind. The one catch — you knew there’d be one — is that you have to use cast iron pots, or other cookware that responds to magnets. But that’s ok, because cast iron is in right now anyway. Right now, in the future that snuck up on us with augmented reality and wireless cooking.

See also:

From YouTube, via reddit and Laughing Squid

The Microsoft HoloLens Is Like An Augmented Reality Holodeck

HoloLens Builder

The floor, couch, table and walls are real. The Minecraft stuff is not.


HoloLens in the kitchen

The TV is a hologram, too

This January, Microsoft announced the most exciting thing they’ve created since the Kinect: a combination of the Oculus Rift and Google Glass called HoloLens. Except that unlike Glass, you’re not meant to wear it in public and open yourself up to ridicule and beatings; and unlike Rift, you’re not cut off from the world and placed in a (possibly disorienting) purely virtual one.

HoloLens is a set of goggles with a built-in computer which places holograms directly in your environment. So through visual trickery, you could look at your empty desk and actually see a 3-D hologram of a block of marble on it, then sculpt it into the Venus de Milo. Or you could play a game where the characters jump on your couch. Or see a screen on a blank wall. Take a look at the concept videos:

The thing is very much a prototype now, with the promise that it will be available “in the Windows 10 timeframe”. Developers and partners are supposed to get access to it this spring, but it’s not likely to be on the open market until 2016.

Wired tried it out and really liked it — they had nothing but good things to say. Engadget was a bit more real and said that in its current state, it sucks for two reasons: the prototype is heavy, hot and uncomfortable in general and the software is demo-quality only, not fully-fledged consumer-grade functionality. They did acknowledge that it has some great possibility, if Microsoft does it right. So if and when it gets there, it should make for a very, very cool gadget to get instead of the a differently-sized iPad or a smartwatch.

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From Microsoft, via Laughing Squid

About That Shiny, Thin New Phone

Let's further defile it with its own figurine pet, which we will tie to it

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From Dog House Diaries, via Neatorama

“Apple Watch would be a good name for Gwyneth Paltrow’s nanny”

The title, courtesy of @OhNoSheTwitnt, a.k.a, Ann Coultergeist. The below, from @KeirSimmons.

My new #AppleWatch ... So proud. #Apple #AppleLive

 

And then, there are the Android users, who still think specs are what drive consumer purchases:

Dear iPhone 6 users: Welcome to 2012!

 

 

Finally, everyone thinks the iWatch is stupid:

We wanted to honor Steve Jobs' vision for the future, but then we said , 'Screw it, let's honor Casio's vision for the nineteen-eighties instead'

See also:

Via Happy Place, FAIL BlogFAIL Blog, Laughing Squid and Laughing Squid

‘Felicity’ Mentioned iPads In 1999

That’s right, 10+ years before the iPad was announced, it had a brief moment (with Spanish subtitles) in the third episode of season two of Felicity. The episode’s script is credited to Andrea Newman, who went on to be a co-executive producer of Cold Case and Chicago Fire, and apparently can divine the future. The show was created by J.J. Abrams, who went on to direct a couple of Star Trek and Star Wars movies.

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From YouTube

DVD Production Wastes A Ton Of Energy

From a government study, summarized by Motherboard:

If all DVDs purchased in 2011 were streamed instead, the energy savings would have been enough to meet the electricity demands of roughly 200,000 households. It would have cut roughly 2 billion kilograms of carbon emissions.

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From Environmental Research Letters, via Motherboard

Timelapse Of The Construction Of Freedom Tower

The building replacing the Twin Towers is officially called One World Trade Center, but is colloquially known as Freedom Tower. It is now in the final stages of completion, and EarthCam released a time-lapse video showing its construction over the past seven and a half years. (The cornerstone was laid in 2004, but construction didn’t actually begin until April of 2006.)

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The Bald-Faced Lie Everyone Tells: ‘I Agree To The Terms And Conditions’

The Register has an interesting article about the sheer absurdity of having to click “I Agree” to some legal document every time you install a piece of software, or sign up for a website. No one actually reads the document, and even if they did, they wouldn’t understand half of it — not unless they were lawyers, anyhow. Furthermore, it’s a giant drain on society: looking at the Adobe Flash license alone, and assuming it takes someone ten minutes to read it, the world has wasted over 50,000 working lifetimes of man-hours in just the past year. Clearly, this does not happen.

Adobe Flash license agreement checkbox

And yet, the farce continues. It’s reminiscent of other legal documents that most people just blindly initial in a few places and sign at the bottom: apartment leases, car rental agreements and credit card applications. The rationale being that some legal documents are boiler-plate: we know what a standard lease says and by signing it without reading it, all we’re saying is “we’ll play by the standard rules”. But while most leases are standard and the expectations widely known, the same doesn’t hold true for software. There’s no standard End-User License Agreement, or Terms and Conditions, and they could say anything.

For example, the Flash license doesn’t allow maintaining a copy of it, even in backups; since most backups are automatic, you’re violating the license without even knowing it. “That’s ok, Adobe isn’t gonna come after me for accidentally backing Flash up.” And that’s true — at least not until they have a reason to. But when they do, watch out: the whole point of the license agreement is to give the software maker leverage. If they for some reason do want to sue you, they can dig up so many infractions of their 3500-word license that you’ll have no choice but to capitulate. Because given enough rules, everyone will be guilty of breaking some of them, just due to sheer statistics.

From The Register