5 Futuristic Technologies Invented in the Wrong Century

#2. The Sum of All Human Knowledge Originally Existed on 3 x 5 Index Cards


The Sci-Fi Trope:

The complete collection of all human knowledge, easily accessible at your fingertips. We have the Internet now, and not only all of human knowledge, but like 80 percent of all human wangs documented for easy access. But this has long been a science fiction staple -- from the Memory Alpha facility in the original Star Trek TV series to the Brain Spawn's Infosphere from Futurama.

Few people realize that the precursor to the Singularity is the Knowledgegasm.

But Previously, in the Real World ...

Way back in 1895, Belgian lawyer Paul Otlet and Nobel Peace Prize winner Henri LaFontaine had an idea: collect every bit of the world's knowledge, put it on 3 x 5 index cards (12 friggin' million of them, to be exact) and devise a system to make all that information easily accessible by anyone in the world.

So they convinced the Belgian government to support their efforts, hired a staff of librarians and set up shop. They called their creation the Mundaneum, presumably because they were well aware of how hard future steampunk nerds would dork their trousers over the name, and that was it: They invented the world's first search engine. Inquiries came in from all over the world via mail or telegraph -- more than 1,500 a year by some counts -- on basically any topic you could think of. If somebody wanted to know the Swahili word for boobies or which species of badger gave the least fucks, they sent in a request to the Mundaneum, which consulted its database and compiled an answer. It was sort of like Google, if Google collected your information via an intricate network of severe-looking women in petticoats.

Via Atlasobscura.com
Come index with us ... forever and ever and ever ...

Which ... it ... it doesn't, right? (We don't know how Google works. Magic seems most likely. Maybe some form of basketball genie?)

But Otlet didn't want to stop there. His ultimate vision was of a global network of "electric microscopes" that would allow people worldwide to search and browse through millions of interlinked documents, images and audio and video files. He even continued on to describe social networking, proposing to let users "participate, applaud, give ovations, [or] sing in the chorus." The guy stopped just short of calling out Facebook by name and warning people to keep their children away from Chatroulette, essentially.

Via Atlasobscura.com
"And this is where we keep the Grover Cleveland fan fiction."

Unfortunately, the Mundaneum encountered a series of financial troubles, multiple downsizes and a pesky infestation of Nazis, and soon was no more. Friggin' Nazis, man! It's like they hated the future, the short-sighted bastards. Well, except for the fact that ...

#1. You Could "Hail" People in Pre-WWII Germany


The Sci-Fi Trope:

In the future, people never text or email or talk on the phone. If you're going to speak to someone who's not in the room with you, they pop up on a screen so you can stare right back at them and inquire as to the state of their tits. You can see this trope in Star Trek or Demolition Man or pretty much every other sci-fi movie ever. Nothing is shorthand for "the future" like flying cars and video phones.

The world really needs to learn some priorities.

But Previously, in the Real World ...

The world's first public videophone service was developed by Dr. Georg Schubert and opened by the German (uh oh) Post Office (phew, we thought we were going to say "Nazis" there). It linked Berlin and Leipzig all the way back in early 1936 and used the same coaxial cables that the Nazis used to distribute their propaganda all across Germany.

Well, crap.

Via Fernsehmuseum.info
"Heiling frequencies open, Hauptmann."

So ... good job, Nazis, we guess? Shit, we swore we were going to get through this week without praising the Third Reich again. Ah well, we'll put another quarter in the "human rights violation" jar.

The Gegenseh-telephone system used mechanical televisions to produce a real-time image of the head and shoulders of the operator. The feed supposedly possessed a 180-line resolution at 25 frames per second -- not too shabby, even when compared to early webcam technology. Over the next three years, the system was expanded to both Nuremberg and Munich. But Germany's public videophone system was eventually closed without much fanfare in 1940 (probably because of all those pesky bombs and genocides messing with the buffering), and so lonely perverts everywhere had to wait another half a century for the camgirls to emerge from their long chrysalis and flap their majestic boobies in mankind's collective face.

Via Vsee.com
Which is good, considering that's a woman in that shot.

So let's all play a tiny violin for the jilted Nazi sex fiends, shall we?

For more conventions that are old as dirt, check out 11 Modern Technologies That Are Way Older Than You Think and 6 Depraved Sexual Fetishes That Are Older Than You Think.

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