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September 19, 2004 9:08 AM   Subscribe

A home computer in the year 2004
As envisioned in 1954, via Presurfer
posted by moonbird (67 comments total)

 
hehe... it's always amusing to see what people used to think would be the future.

Heck when I was a kid growing up in the 70s I thought there would be flying cars by now!
posted by clevershark at 9:13 AM on September 19, 2004


that doesn't look too dissimilar from my home computer now, except for the steering wheel.
posted by mcsweetie at 9:22 AM on September 19, 2004


Yeah. what is going on with that steering wheel?
posted by delmoi at 9:24 AM on September 19, 2004


I like how the TV is on the wall, to one side, like an afterthought. The main display is the teletype and the wall of dials and meters. I wonder what they thought this was going to be used for? (and, like everyone else, WTF—a steering wheel?!?!)
posted by wobh at 9:27 AM on September 19, 2004


The steering wheel was for the NASCAR sim, of course.
posted by rdone at 9:28 AM on September 19, 2004


My home computer doesn't have a steering wheel, but my car has a computer.
posted by found missing at 9:30 AM on September 19, 2004


I can recall a discussion we had at HotWired (if anybody remembers that) when a certain very high-ranking whoever said (this was in 1996 or so) that text on the Web was pretty much over or would be soon, with bandwidth improvements & Java-esque developments & whatnot all that dreary ASCII was soon to be replaced with immersive "experiences." I argued and said why on Earth would Net-users want to to just turn this wonderful new thing into more TV and besides text will never go away because it's the most low-bandwidth/high-communication medium we've got and would stay so. P.S., I'm still at Wired and that person no longer is. (Granted, he's now a millionaire and I'm not.)
posted by digaman at 9:41 AM on September 19, 2004


what is going on with that steering wheel?


isn't that an ur-joystick?
posted by matteo at 9:41 AM on September 19, 2004


Photoshop.
posted by Guish at 9:41 AM on September 19, 2004


I like the caption: "With teletype interface and the Fortran language, the computer will be easy to use..." Obviously Bill Gates and the braintrust of user interface designers at Microsoft read this article and took its advice to heart...
posted by JollyWanker at 9:51 AM on September 19, 2004


Is that the portable or desktop model they're showing?

I like the steering wheel although, at first glance, I thought it looked like one of those bank vault opening wheels (yeah, yeah, I'm sure they have a regular name but its Sunday morning, sue me).
posted by fenriq at 9:51 AM on September 19, 2004


what is going on with that steering wheel?

If this photo's real, I think this is an example of someone just making shit up, and stuck random bits where they looked "futuristic" like the leftover pieces of a LEGO set.

I've always found it interesting that every prediction of future technology has been grossly overstated (flying cars, space colonization, cure for cancer, laser guns, etc.) with the sole exception of computers, of which they had always been underestimated.

1950's sci-fi shows always tell of giant robots and massive spaceships, but I guess a tricorder was the closet thing that ever came to a laptop computer. Hell, the only sci-fi writer I can think of who actually predicted a massive computer network of constantly-updating information accessible across the universe by personal computers was Douglas Adams, and he did it as a joke.

It's an example of how natural changes in society affect predictions of how they affect ideals of the future. Anyone else still dealing with how much future stuff on Star Trek was pastel colored?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:53 AM on September 19, 2004


What is going on with that steering wheel?

How better to navigate the shoals of Warez Isle for the hidden Photoshop booty?

arrr!
posted by cedar at 9:55 AM on September 19, 2004


Photoshop

Seconded.
posted by the cuban at 9:56 AM on September 19, 2004


Boy do I feel silly.
posted by wobh at 9:58 AM on September 19, 2004


The line printer terminal is a dead giveaway. Not only anachronistic (I don't think these were around in 1954), but it's 'shopped in too large. And the way the paper hangs down is a physical impossibility.

That Admiral console TV hovering in the upper right is pretty sad, too.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:09 AM on September 19, 2004


I showed it to some friends of mine, and they think both the caption and photo are fake. One said "it kind of has an Onion our-dumb-century ring to it." Look at the teletype - it's too big compared to the man, and the paper feed in the front doesn't line up.
posted by zsazsa at 10:09 AM on September 19, 2004


> The line printer terminal is a dead giveaway.

Yep. I used on of those terminals for years. It's an LA36
DECWriter II, circa 1974. It's a solid piece of history, to be sure, just much later history.
posted by SteelyDuran at 10:18 AM on September 19, 2004


Hell, the only sci-fi writer I can think of who actually predicted a massive computer network of constantly-updating information accessible across the universe by personal computers was Douglas Adams, and he did it as a joke.

william gibson...
posted by Aleph Yin at 10:22 AM on September 19, 2004


What is going on with that steering wheel?

I think that's a steam release valve. This is obviously a coal-fired computer.
posted by psmealey at 10:24 AM on September 19, 2004


My first access to the Internet was through a teletype. Oh, those were the days. alt.sex was actually low-traffic and on-topic, for one...
posted by five fresh fish at 10:29 AM on September 19, 2004


The teletype isn't even particularly well photoshopped - the piece of fanfold paper below the keyboard is presumably supposed to be hanging out of the back, yet it comes in front of the stand...

I'd guess that most of the image is control hardware for some kind of physical plant - a power station or the like. It may well be part of a museum exhibit, and the TV screen is there to show a documentary on how it works.
posted by Singular at 10:31 AM on September 19, 2004



posted by quonsar at 10:40 AM on September 19, 2004


Q, isn't that the machine the military used for memos?

You gotta get that circulated, this could be another coup for the blogosphere! Finally, proof positive.
posted by cedar at 10:51 AM on September 19, 2004


Clearly a Photoshop job, but what actually tipped me off was the curiously modern awkward phrasing in the caption: "have created this model to show how a 'home computer' could look like" and "the scientists readily admit that the computer will require not yet invented technology to actually work" just don't sound like things a '50s writer would say. It's still a really cute picture, though.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:53 AM on September 19, 2004


What tipped me was the reference to 2004. Any 50s futurist would have said 2000.


I think my laptop needs a steering wheel now, though.
posted by CunningLinguist at 11:02 AM on September 19, 2004


"Yeah. what is going on with that steering wheel?"

Arrr, it's drivin' me nuts!
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:03 AM on September 19, 2004


"...will be easy to use and only..."


Only WHAT???
posted by jaronson at 11:07 AM on September 19, 2004


Also, if you look closely at the paper coming out of the teletype, the text on it has kerning and superscript, which weren't even invented until 1997.
posted by argybarg at 11:13 AM on September 19, 2004


Well, when I was in the sixth grade (circa 1971), I remember our teacher showing us a film of how life would be in the year 2000. Every home would have a computer, and the computer they showed was a massive floor-to-ceiling contraption with reels of tape spinning (no steering wheel, though). As we made Christmas wreaths of used IBM punch cards, I wondered to myself why would anyone want or need one of these computer things in their house?
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:23 AM on September 19, 2004



"Yeah. what is going on with that steering wheel?"

Arrr, it's drivin' me nuts!



ahahaha exactly.
posted by rxrfrx at 11:37 AM on September 19, 2004


Can I call for a Congressional investigation yet?
posted by grrarrgh00 at 11:41 AM on September 19, 2004


What is going on with that steering wheel?

I think that's a steam release valve. This is obviously a coal-fired computer.


My thoughts exactly, psmealey.
posted by sharpener at 11:43 AM on September 19, 2004


MetaFilter: what is going on with that steering wheel?
posted by mmcg at 12:02 PM on September 19, 2004


I was picturing Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein frantically spinning the steering wheel while lightning flashes and dials whirl - a google search seen from 50 years ago.
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:02 PM on September 19, 2004


Arr. I'm in agrrrement that this be photoshop. Theat man be a wee bit too tiny for the setup, with knobs as big as his hands.

And it be a wee bit impractical for the paper in ye olde teletype machine to be bendin-sideways 8 inches within the workings of tha machine.

I call fer the scallywag who dun this ta walk tha MeFi plank.

God hay mercy for ye.
posted by kfury at 12:15 PM on September 19, 2004


I almost hate to do this....almost. It's actually the maneuvering room of a US Navy nuclear submarine, circa 1960's. The original is a photo from the Smithsonian, and this pic is a result (I'm pretty sure) of a Fark PS contest a couple weeks ago. The wheel is the steam throttle valve for the propulsion turbines.
Bonus points awarded to psmealy and Singular for their guesses.
(by the way, first comment ever...wish it was more substantial)
(on preview, arrr!)
posted by jawbreaker at 12:17 PM on September 19, 2004


As with any hoax, the culprit always leaves a very, very subtle clue. It hit me pretty clearly because I finished reading it not too long ago, but look at the name of the Corporation for a big hint.
posted by Mach3avelli at 12:29 PM on September 19, 2004


It is definitely a photoshop from a recent FARK contest, as jawbreaker says.
posted by Krrrlson at 12:30 PM on September 19, 2004


Am I the only one looking past the steering wheel to notice that Eisenhower and Truman had a love child?
posted by aaronetc at 1:18 PM on September 19, 2004


I couldn't find the picture on RAND's website for some reason, but I did pick up a little light reading for later today...
posted by Guy Smiley at 1:33 PM on September 19, 2004


with knobs as big as his hands

Aren't they always?
posted by twine42 at 1:34 PM on September 19, 2004


Photoshop, thirded. You can tell by the grammar and meandering tone of the caption, and the guy and the TV hanging on the wall are both clearly photshopped in.
posted by abcde at 1:39 PM on September 19, 2004


Of course, everyone beat me way to it :P
posted by abcde at 1:43 PM on September 19, 2004


Spoiler: Don't bother reading it Guy Smiley - the ending is a big disappointment - 469.
posted by meech at 1:52 PM on September 19, 2004


mr_crash_davis: brilliance, sir. pure brilliance.
posted by ruddhist at 2:11 PM on September 19, 2004


In case anyone wants more evidence...
posted by Singular at 2:23 PM on September 19, 2004


I spent a good part of the last 2 years sitting in front of the panel on the far right. It amazes me that the Navy declassified even the appearance of the panels, much less has a full exhibit in the Smithsonian. More on topic, it amazes me still that the technology hasn't changed that much from the 60's to today (to be fair, the new boats are supposed to have some really cool stuff). It's rather converse to the Photoshop parody that we are actually still using 60's technology in 2004.
posted by jawbreaker at 2:58 PM on September 19, 2004


Wait a moment. I know what that is. It's a Reactor Control Pannel, an Electrical Control Benchboard, and a Steam Plant Control Pannel (throttleman) for a submarine. I know because I've worked on one of those. That stearing wheel is the throttle control valves.

Oh, Jawbreaker got this too.

Wow, that was a blast from my near past.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 3:05 PM on September 19, 2004


Wait, Jawbreaker, you were (are?) a nuc electrician?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 3:25 PM on September 19, 2004


Yup, sure am (was?). I was a Staff Pickup in NY for the last 3 years, now in NYC going to school (commissioning program). I'm still technically an EM I guess....yourself?
posted by jawbreaker at 3:29 PM on September 19, 2004


Guish, don't you mean: "The image was enhanced using Adobe® Photoshop® software"?

/unnecessarily pedantic
posted by funkbrain at 3:33 PM on September 19, 2004


Mach3avelli : What's the subtle clue? The Rand corporation has been around since 1946.
posted by bingo at 4:13 PM on September 19, 2004


Yeah, I didn't get that either.
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:40 PM on September 19, 2004


Not photoshopped, and darned clever: the electriclerk.
posted by adamrice at 5:22 PM on September 19, 2004


Pertinent: for those who haven't seen it, the ElectriClerk, a Brazil-style retrofitted Mac SE.
posted by raygirvan at 5:26 PM on September 19, 2004


The fark thread in question.
posted by O9scar at 5:46 PM on September 19, 2004


Well, Mr. Jawbreaker, I was a EM staff pickup in SC for two years, now in Annapolis going to the Naval Academy. I am not technically an EM anymore. . .

Well, enough shoptalk, Mr. Jawbreaker, email me if you want further this.

Anyway, I swear that was the oddest thing to see at metafilter.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 5:50 PM on September 19, 2004


What's the thing right behind the man's head? It looks like hair on a stick, encased in glass. Even in the fark thread I can't tell what it is.

I think mach3avelli was making a reference to Atlas Shrugged, possibly not knowing that Rand is an actual corporation.
posted by iconomy at 6:05 PM on September 19, 2004


looks like the presurfer and i were duped. great work, mefites.
posted by moonbird at 7:04 PM on September 19, 2004


Oddly enough, though, I do recall a Popular Science article from the '60s talking about how In The Future, everybody will have a "home computer". Well, not so much an actual computer, as a teletype with a dialup connection to some distant mainframe, to run checkbook balancing and recipe storage programs written in BASIC. This was a while ago, though, I have no link to prove it.

Hell, the only sci-fi writer I can think of who actually predicted a massive computer network of constantly-updating information accessible across the universe by personal computers was Douglas Adams, and he did it as a joke.

william gibson...


John Brunner?
posted by arto at 8:06 PM on September 19, 2004


I just cleaned out my mother-in-law's garage and bore home a "Speak & Spell" : "The remarkable talking learning aid with electronic voice and brain" - ""It pronounces the word, you key the spelling! IT announces when you're right and wrong!"...."Now with plug in word modules to expand as yuor child's vocabulary grows."

Never used. Yuor freind fur liff !
posted by troutfishing at 8:48 PM on September 19, 2004


I got a little suspicious when I looked at all those analog dials on the console of what is supposed to be a digital computer. I didn't even blink at the dot-matrix printer in front of a 1950s-looking bunch of hardware, though; the coffee hasn't hit my system yet. If they'd Photoshopped in a Teletype terminal, that would've been more believable.


As late as 1979, I used a Teletype to write BASIC programs on a time-sharing computer. The connection ran over an acoustic-coupler modem (requiring you to physically plug in the telephone handset on a couple of cups) at about 300 baud.
posted by alumshubby at 5:19 AM on September 20, 2004


The lighting on the teletype is all wrong. It looks like it's hovering in an extra dimensional space.
posted by crunchland at 5:27 AM on September 20, 2004


"created this model to illustrate how a 'home computer' would look like in the year 2004"

They might not have had Fortran (under development in 1954 at IBM, but not finished until 1957), but I'm pretty sure they had decent grammar and editors back in 1954. :P
posted by hoborg at 8:33 AM on September 20, 2004


I just cleaned out my mother-in-law's garage and bore home a "Speak & Spell"

Friend of mine had one of those. Some of its attempts at pronunciation were just terrible. "Spell.. carrotman!" When it wanted "caravan." "Spell... boobsher!" That was "butcher," which amused us to no end.
posted by kindall at 9:31 AM on September 20, 2004


In case no one has mentioned it too you yet, Speak and Spells are ebay gold.




Er.... I mean, I'll give you $5 for your speak and spell, you know to "take it off your hands."
posted by drezdn at 10:23 AM on September 20, 2004


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