Human beings, always on the hunt to improve our lives, have always been interested in What's Next. History is strewn with images of these predictions of the future. Sometimes we get it right, like Mark Twain's prediction of the internet. Yet often we get it wrong, in the case of the much lamented lack of flying cars.
The image above is from Paleofuture, a blog dedicated to documenting past visions of the future. You can browse the blog by decade, from the 1870s to the 1990s. Here are just a few examples. Check out the site for more.
This illustration from Harper's Weekly from 1881 showing the future of New York. I love that all the buildings are roughly the same height, and all feature Queen Anne style architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright was only 14 years old at the time, and most of the modern architects he influenced were not even born yet.
From the 1920s, that ever elusive flying car. You know what I'd like more than a flying car, though? Teleportation, or the Holodeck, or pretty much anything from Star Trek. Except Romulans. Screw them.
Speaking of Star Trek, my favorite era for the retro future is the 1960s. We were finally really in space and that heavily influenced advertising and design.
I have to say, though, that living in Wisconsin makes me really wish that this bad boy had come to fruition:
Who needs a plow when you can just kill it with fire?
I love watching videos from the 50s and 60s, usually produced by appliance companies, showcasing the kitchens and homes of tomorrow. These would sometimes run on Nick at Nite or the Disney Channel when I was little, and even in the 80s, the houses and kitchens seemed incredibly futuristic.
Do a search on YouTube and you'll find plenty like this:
Another favorite is this film from the 1930s, showcasing designers' predictions of fashion in the year 2000. While there's a heavy science fiction and Greek influence on the clothes, they failed to predict butterfly clips, belly shirts, ultra low rise pants, and glitter eyeshadow. Bummer.