#2. Wi-Fi and Today's Internet Envisioned in 1982
We already pointed out how fantastic the World Wide Web seemed in 1987. You can only imagine what it was like in 1982. Really, if you aren't old enough to remember the early '80s, it's almost impossible to describe what an absolute stone age it was compared to today when it comes to consumer electronics. Most homes still had big wooden TVs with antennae on top that got four channels. The video game systems were even made to look like they had wood trim:
"This will go great with the station wagon!"
This was an era when personal computers were only used by a tiny percentage of hackers and hobbyists. They looked like this:
Back in those days, 64KB of RAM was worth at least a handy in the Denny's bathroom.
... and literally did not have enough horsepower to display that photo.
But Alan Kay, the chief scientist at Atari, got to wondering what computing might be like in the future. He contacted Glen Keane (who designed most of your favorite Disney characters) to illustrate his ideas.
First up, Kay came up with the idea of an "intelligent encyclopedia," a device that could bring up any information you needed right in the palm of your hand. OK, it makes sense that a guy living in an era when encyclopedias were huge sets of books that took up an entire shelf would imagine a future where all that could be shrunk down somehow. But he hardly stopped there ...
Here's Where It Gets Weird:
"Mister, did John Hammond ever learn to not play God?"
What you're looking at is a group of kids on a field trip to a museum. Some seem to be holding what look like laptop computers, while other exhibits have touch screen computer devices below them. The idea here was that the children were using an intelligent encyclopedia to access information about dinosaurs, Wikipedia-style.
But you may also notice something else: None of those computers have wires. Back when making two computers talk to each other over cables was cutting edge technology only available to professionals, this visionary predicted that we would be using wireless Internet everywhere. Then Kay took that idea and ran with it, to a bunch of scenes that look eerily like your everyday life. Here's some kids playing a wireless multiplayer game:
It's simulating a Mars landing, but the kid in the yellow shirt is pleasuring himself to hentai porn.
Here's a dad streaming the Beatles' Ed Sullivan performance with the touch of a button:
Yes, it predicted that old people would use the technology in lame ways.
And here's a rich guy in first class checking his stock prices in mid-flight, though it doesn't seem to portray him having to pay $15 for it:
"Stewardess? Can you have someone from coach come up and press this button for me?"
And look at this -- here's a bunch of people at a sports bar, the guys on the right following along with the football game with a computer that gives them real-time stats and other info:
"How did we even enjoy sports before we knew what the players looked like naked?"
NFL fans may recognize that as the program NBC launched just two years ago for their Sunday night NFL games.
The only obvious omission in the illustrations is a bearded guy with a MacBook, tapping away at his novel at Starbucks.
#1. Ladies' Home Journal and the 100-Year Predictions
Ladies' Home Journal has been around for over 100 years. In that time, they have run thousands of articles and secured their place as one of the leading women's magazines of the 20th century. In the year 1900, a man named John Elfreth Watkins Jr. published a piece in the journal about what the human race could expect to happen in the next 100 years. He quizzed experts in every field and ended up with a couple dozen outlandish predictions for the next century.
He's still alive today, but goes by his stage name, "Alex Trebek."
It seems even he knew how bizarre some of the ideas were, so to save face, he prefaced the article with "These prophecies will seem strange, almost impossible." But what did he care? It wasn't as if he was going to live to see any of it.
And sure, he had a lot of the standard sci-fi predictions -- he figured out that one day photos would be in color, and that homes would be climate-controlled with "hot and cold air from spigots" that you could use without a chimney. But then he started getting strangely specific ...
"... and thine carrier pigeons shall fly with prodigious haste, but be limited to 140 letters to save weight."
Here's Where It Gets Weird:
So, keep in mind that this was an era when people were still getting around on horseback, and the fastest you could travel on land was in a train powered by coal that had to stop every few miles because there was a damsel tied to the tracks. So this guy, pulling the fact right out of his ass, said that in 100 years, America would have a train that could go 150 miles an hour.
"And my errand boy, Keith Richards, will be a beloved musical icon and part-time mummy."
Almost 100 years to the day, Amtrak held its inaugural run of the high-speed Acela Express. It was the fastest train in the USA and had a top speed of exactly 150 miles an hour.
"... and those damsels will just explode when you hit them."
He also foretold that Americans would be taller than the average in 1900 (which was about 67 inches) by "one to two inches." By 2000, the average had grown by 2 inches.
Then he said that if there were a war in China, you would be able to read about it an hour later (this was when the standard time for news to travel from China to the U.S. was about a week, and papers took a hell of a lot longer than an hour to typeset and print). He went on to surmise that man would see and speak around the world with wireless cameras, telephones and radios, and that photos would be "telegraphed" instantly from any distance.
He also predicted that at least 80 percent of those photos would be of dudes' junk.
Well, all right, they had some form of instant communication back then, so maybe he was just taking it into a logical future. But then he predicted that certain letters would be eliminated from written English, because eventually an impatient society would come up with a more efficient way of typing that simply mimicked the sound of speech. You know, like if instead of typing "You're too fat," it would become "ur 2 fat lol."
So while we didn't do everything he predicted (we didn't eliminate mosquitoes or learn to grow strawberries the size of your head), we are working on the LOLspeak. Good job, society.
"That's enough trailblazing for one generation."
For more folks that might need a good burnin' at the stake, check out 7 Completely Unrealistic Movie Plots (That Came True) and 8 Badass Sci-Fi Predictions That Came True In Lame-Ass Ways.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out Why The Flintstones Takes Place in a Post-Apocalyptic Future
And stop by LinkSTORM because on Fridays, it's OK to just go ahead and slack off.
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