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The year 2000 as imagined in 1910
May 28, 2008 5:04 AM   Subscribe

The year 2000, as imagined in 1910. (See also other retrofuture mefi posts)
posted by davar (44 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Even they were predicting flying cars.
posted by delmoi at 5:09 AM on May 28, 2008


Remarkably prescient, all things considered.
posted by temporicide at 5:09 AM on May 28, 2008


It's like online art exhibits don't want you to see stuff.

Still, great pictures. Some weren't even trying (Train on stilts? Servant delivering recording? Bald butler??) but the robot-construction and videoradiotelegraph are pretty close, considering. I love how so many things remain unchanged in the images. Like how the stone working machine is just a robot mason that holds a real hammer. Or how the learning machine requires hand cranking.

One wonders if this is a failure of imagination, a desire to only illustrate one idea at a time or a concession to the contemporary viewer to have something familiar to latch onto.
posted by DU at 5:16 AM on May 28, 2008


Hey, there's a second page too. Damn this navigation! And more puzzling "predictions". Behold, the "horse"!

Oh wait, I think I get this one actually. In 2000, horses will be an oddity that no one ever sees. Funny.
posted by DU at 5:19 AM on May 28, 2008


Other than the fucking flying cars, conceptually at least much of what they predicted was accurate. Voice messaging, teleconferencing, flying ships, electric trains, manufactured food, electronic media in school, voice recognition, tanks, news via sound, horse as curiosity rather than necessity, flying fire fighters, air-sea rescue, air traffic controlers, nuclear power, all these things are very much reality today and many have been around for so long we take them for granted. Of course they didn't get the logistics or fashions correct, but I was surprized by how conceptually correct they were.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:26 AM on May 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


Je veux que mon vol automobile!
posted by SteveInMaine at 5:34 AM on May 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Good guesses. :) I like the one of two guys watching YouTube on a data projector. That one was very accurate.

DU One wonders if this is a failure of imagination, a desire to only illustrate one idea at a time or a concession to the contemporary viewer to have something familiar to latch onto.

Either way, it's interesting to wonder how we ourselves do the same. Reading SF that's only forty or so years old, the cultural assumptions and attitudes are jarringly different from our own. Even Neuromancer is showing its age, after only 20 years.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:38 AM on May 28, 2008


Can't predict fasion, though, can you?
posted by Doohickie at 5:56 AM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


How could they be so far off? The real book-into-brain feeder device uses an electric motor, not a hand crank. Sheesh.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 5:57 AM on May 28, 2008


I wish this one was more accurate... though the way things are going, it might yet become popular.
posted by anthill at 5:57 AM on May 28, 2008


I especially like the pants-o-tron and the book to thought converter. It's like they were foreseeing the late 90s tech bubble with its pointless technology for technology's sake. Also, the idea of converting books directly to thought by cramming them in a hopper is plausible, but the idea that there might be some mechanism to make the hand crank unnecessary? Balderdash! Despite the fact that electric motors had already existed for like 40 years by 1910.
posted by DecemberBoy at 6:00 AM on May 28, 2008


I would not find a book to thought converter to be pointless technology. It would save me loads of time and space.
posted by DU at 6:04 AM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I like how the teacher, despite having his job being degraded to nothing more than placing books in a grinder, still has a look of superiority and intellectualism.
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 6:07 AM on May 28, 2008 [5 favorites]


Can't predict fasion, though, can you?

True. Who would've guessed they'd stop spelling it with an H?

But seriously, I think this is probably very close, in fact, to what the year 2000 B.C. was like.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:08 AM on May 28, 2008


I guess if you think in more abstract terms, the book to thought converter takes a single text and makes it available to many people at once via electricity. If you ignore the direct brain injection aspect, that could be the Internet. Although to be really prescient, the teacher would have to be cramming early 20th century porno mags and whatever the French equivalent of the Sears catalog was in the hopper.
posted by DecemberBoy at 6:08 AM on May 28, 2008


Can't predict fasion, though, can you?

I think that pretty much sums up the future right there.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:10 AM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


The year 2000, as imagined in 1910 by someone with a very limited imagination
posted by mattoxic at 6:11 AM on May 28, 2008


Can't predict fasion, though, can you?

Workable, economical fasion will always be twenty years away.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:11 AM on May 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't think it's clear that the learning machine is converting directly to thought. It could be a prediction of audiobooks. Although that would require the separate prediction of enormous megaphone speakers turning into headphones.

Also, something no one here in 2008 has even pointed out is that there isn't really a need for the students to gather together to have their edumacation beamed in. There's an assumption we make in our SF. We still congregate at physical locations for work and play. (Arguments from "but we always will" sound like, whether or not they are like, arguments from "but we always will" wear vests and corsets and have to handcrank our electroreading-o-matics.)
posted by DU at 6:14 AM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Actually, holy shit! If you look really closely at the book being crammed in the hopper, the title appears to read "Deux filles un coupe"!
posted by DecemberBoy at 6:20 AM on May 28, 2008 [4 favorites]


It took a all of seven years to go from someone in France to imagining this as the weapon of the future 90 years away to someone in France actually building this as the weapon of the present.

So I'm thinking DU is probably right about the failure of imagination.
posted by dseaton at 6:22 AM on May 28, 2008


The barbershop one is kind of disturbing. The robobarber seems to have slipped up on the customer in the background.

Crappy interface on that site.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:28 AM on May 28, 2008


Can't predict fasion, though, can you?

That's what's always fascinated me about scifi films, the era it was made in is so easily seen by hairstyles and clothing.

This is my favorite, though. An evening gathered around the cancer machine.
posted by piratebowling at 6:40 AM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


If I were to make drawings of how life should look like in 2100, I would expect those living a hundred years from now not to debate on how well or badly I predicted the future, but on wether they succeded or failed to follow up on my vision.
posted by Timeless at 6:50 AM on May 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


There is a somewhat better interface here.
I wonder what clothes people will wear in 2100.
posted by davar at 6:50 AM on May 28, 2008


I wonder what clothes people will wear in 2100.

I wonder what music they'll listen to. Will it be as completely different as Venetian Snares or Shitmat or even more commercial fare like Kanye West would sound to a 1900 audience, or is there not that much room left to innovate? Or will corporate commercialism be so pervasive by then that the versificator from 1984 will become reality, and they'll be listening to a product synthesized without human interaction to be as profitable as possible? Or will peak oil have caused a Mad Max dystopia by then, and the only music will be played by wandering minstrels with acoustic instruments?
posted by DecemberBoy at 7:09 AM on May 28, 2008


Accident waiting to happen. All you need is someone stepping into these things with cleats brushing the battery posts, and 'boom'.
Man in chair is in trouble if the power goes out. Serious trouble.
A hundred years in the future and the best they can do is put the train on struts?
That's not a microphone he's holding. The guy at the table is carefully working the Grandoise Bass Guitaré aux Wah-Wah Pedalé. Nowww it all makes sense.
Funny how anthropomorphized all the parts had to be in the old days. I mean we really need one mechanism holding a hammer and another holding a chisel?
posted by mr. creosote at 7:10 AM on May 28, 2008


Didn't Jane Jetson have one of these?
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 7:19 AM on May 28, 2008


You have to remember that these are whimsical, not serious technological forecasts. They're meant to be a bit ridiculous.

This kind of jokey but upbeat stuff about the future used to be common until about twenty years ago, but we don't seem to have it any more. I wonder whether it's because we're too pessimistic about the future or because the future seems too hard to predict or describe (even an optimist might it tricky to produce a drawing of the Singularity happening in a Paris street)?
posted by Phanx at 7:35 AM on May 28, 2008


A hundred years in the future and the best they can do is put the train on struts?

You do realize that in 1910 an electric lightbulb was still far too expensive to have been used in the home for exclusive use. Electricity, where available, was still provided by localized DC power plants and long range transmission was virtually impossible because of the heavy resistance from the thick cables and the need for massive conductors. Automobiles were a rarity. Diesel's engines had only been commercially available for two years because he hadn't worked the bugs out.

Yet, this prediction shows a long range electric train. The fact that it is on stilts or looks like something from Dr. Seuss is not the important part. That it is electric is a fantastic idea to a 1910 Frenchman.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:35 AM on May 28, 2008


I like the fact that the basic Frenchness or life has been (correctly) assumed to be unchanged - one could not get into a hover-car without spending time chatting with the concierge for example. Looking chic is also considered to be a constant.
posted by rongorongo at 7:43 AM on May 28, 2008


I thought the train card was one of the more interesting ones. There's several things to notice there.

Sure, the struts are a bit bizarre (or to be more charitable, 'whimsical'). But if you ignore those, what you have there is basically an electric bullet train.

In fact, depending on how you interpret the Asian-looking fellows in the foreground, I think we're either supposed to be looking at a prediction of increasing diversity in the future, or (more likely) the train is supposedly trans-continental.

In terms of predictions, I think that blows away most of the other stuff on the cards. A lot of the other ones boil down to "automate some stuff that people do" or "take a typical daily activity and throw some brass levers on it", but the train is a pretty surprising leap from 1900s technology.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:52 AM on May 28, 2008


In fact, depending on how you interpret the Asian-looking fellows in the foreground, I think we're either supposed to be looking at a prediction of increasing diversity in the future, or (more likely) the train is supposedly trans-continental.

Title of the card: Le train électrique Paris Pékin (translation - electric Paris to Beijing train)
posted by Pollomacho at 8:22 AM on May 28, 2008


Le Coup de l' Etrier means "One for the Road," in case you were wondering (literally 'stirrup cup').
posted by languagehat at 8:23 AM on May 28, 2008


They predicted YouTube, but forgot to draw in the "LOL" and "die fagz."

In fact, depending on how you interpret the Asian-looking fellows in the foreground, I think we're either supposed to be looking at a prediction of increasing diversity in the future, or (more likely) the train is supposedly trans-continental.


It's a "Paris-Beijing electric train."
posted by nasreddin at 8:26 AM on May 28, 2008


I wonder whether it's because we're too pessimistic about the future or because the future seems too hard to predict or describe

Maybe because predicting the future has somewhat become boring I'm afraid. We just have to look at our lives today to see why:

Le train électrique Paris Pékin
Today: You can get from Paris to Bejing using highspeed trains and the TransSebarian.
Still no trains with balconies though.

Chantier de construction électrique
Today: Architect sitting behind a computer. Cheap labour still doing the hard work.

Auto-Patins à Roues
Today: Kid sitting behind a computer playing games with other kids sitting behind their computers.

Missive phonographique
Today: Man sitting behind a computer listening to mp3's he downloaded from the net.

Le Barbier nouveau Jeu
Today: Man undergoing cosmetic surgery. Possibly using lasers.

Madame à sa Toilette
Today: Woman undergoing cosmetic surgery. Possibly using lasers.

Un Dîner chimique
Today: Guests popping pills and snorting cocaine at a party. Possibly even viagra bought over the internet.

Eclaireurs cyclistes
Today: Cops sitting behind a computer watching surveillance videos. OR
Soldiers sitting behind a computer watching videos from unmanned drones and dropped bombs.

À l'École
Today: Kids sitting behind a computer copy pasting their projects from the internet.

Correspondance Cinéma - Phono - Télégraphique
Today: Online daters sitting behind their computers webcamming.

Parlez au Concierge
Today: The concierge is manning a helpdesk somewhere in India behind a computer screen.

Automobiles de Guerre
Today: Some war in some African country that can't afford computer controlled unmanned drones.

Audition du Journal
Today: Some guy sitting behind his computer searching for news on the internet.

Une Curiosité
Today: Some guy sitting behind his computer and browsing through some metafilter posts on how people saw life in the year 2000.

Chauffage au Radium
Today: Global warming.

Un tailleur dernier Genre
Today: A shopper sitting behind his computer buying clothes on cafepress.

Aéronat au long cours
Today: Congested air trafic.

Une Fête des Fleurs
L'avenue de l'Opéra
L'Agent Aviateur
Today: Still no flying cars, but congested roads instead.

Sentinelle avancée en Hélicoptère
Today: Some hacker sitting behind his computer spying on other countries using google earth.

In other words, predicting 90% of life in 2100, could possible be done with a single image: some man sitting behind a computer doing some thing.
posted by Timeless at 8:29 AM on May 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


I am totally in support of going back eight years, and finding out where we lost our brass helmeted police and their shielded cannon bikes. I figure they should be fairly easy to find, they'll be the ones with the swords.
posted by quin at 8:54 AM on May 28, 2008


some man sitting behind a computer doing some thing

All commerce in the future will consist of internet porn.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:54 AM on May 28, 2008


Un Dîner chimique
Today: Guests popping pills and snorting cocaine at a party. Possibly even viagra bought over the internet.


I think it's more like:
Today: The only affordable food is made of undifferentiated plant and meat matter and flavored with glow-in-the-dark chemical goop manufactured somewhere in Jersey.
posted by nasreddin at 9:55 AM on May 28, 2008


Here in the technical vastness of the future, we can guess that surely the past was very different.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 11:16 AM on May 28, 2008


They correctly guessed the current "steam punk" trend.
posted by (bb|[^b]{2}) at 2:42 PM on May 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


life in 2100, could possible be done with a single image: some man sitting behind a computer doing some thing
A CRT or a flat-screen? Your thinking is stuck in the present--he'll be wearing glasses that project a high definition screen in front of him with either thought control or a virtual keyboard in his gloves.

They've been promising high-def screen glasses for at least 20 years. Maybe they'll finally get it right in another 90 years or so.
posted by eye of newt at 9:25 PM on May 28, 2008


Funny; most of those drawings are about what I imagine 1910 was like.
posted by Target Practice at 4:24 AM on May 29, 2008


Coincidently, I was just hired by a local band here in Phoenix to do all their album artwork and it's all supposed to have a retro-futuristic view to it. Sort of like this, or like Bioshock... Ayn Randianish or whatever. Does anyone know any good resources for art like that I could find on the web?
posted by Bageena at 10:29 AM on May 30, 2008


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