This is how they imagined the technology of the future in the seventies

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This is how they imagined the technology of the future in the seventies


Imagine the future. We all do it, but it is an illusion. We think we predict what will happen in 50 or 100 years, but all we are doing is projecting the present we know. So the futures They are so different depending on the decade in which they were imagined. This was the technology of the future in the seventies.

Our ability to predict what will happen it is limited by the technology of the time, and our vision of the world. 50 years ago the Internet did not exist except in academic settings, so almost no science fiction movie or novel of the time shows us citizens accessing information from a pocket device. Similarly, computers still occupy a wall, and tablets have frames of several centimeters …

The political situation of the moment also marks how we imagine that future. In the 1970s the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was still at its peak, threatening an atomic war that would destroy the world. In those years the great Oil Crisis also took place, which caused a great recession. And the first ecological movements began to warn about the dangers of pollution and exploitation of the planet. Writers and writers of the time believed that the world could be destroyed at any time. So post-apocalyptic movies like Mad Max (1979).

Now they seem to us the most normal thing in the world, but 30 or 40 years ago, the spectators who went to the cinema and saw for the first time a mobile phone, virtual reality glasses or a 3D printer, were amazed. These are the cinema inventions that left us speechless.

Americans also lived with the threat of a Soviet invasion that would end their democracy and impose the dictatorship of communism. This was reflected in works that described a future dominated by oppressive governments, as La Fuga de Logan the George Lucas THX 1138.

Faced with these dominant influences in real life, other authors were able to freely let their imaginations run wild, and describe to us a completely new and untethered tomorrow.

These visions were based on technologies that were used to amaze, or to give credibility and coherence to the scripts and the narrative. Much of this technology has become a reality. Another had neither head nor feet, or was too naive. Let’s see some examples.

This is how technology was seen in the 1970s:

  • Visions of the future that were correct
  • Computer viruses
  • Online shopping, Zoom and stylus
  • Mobile phone, wireless playback and “flat” TV
  • Virtual reality
  • Arthur G. Clarke, a visionary genius
  • The impossible Ferrari
  • Too advanced humanoids
  • The House of the Century
  • Sanyo’s human washing machine

Visions of the future that were correct

It was still decades before they became reality, but writers, scriptwriters or technology manufacturers detailed inventions that would later become reality.

Computer viruses

John Brunner was a visionary writer who anticipated concepts like the European Union or the rivalry between the United States and China decades before they became reality.

In 1975 he wrote a novel called The shock wave rider set in the “future” year 2010. It described a society in which citizens could access a computer network through your mobile phone. Criminals used programs to interfere with the network with inconsistent data and make it useless. I was describing a computer virus, without calling it itself.

Sometimes due to chance, and others due to simple inspiration or stubbornness, many technological inventions have ended up being used for things very different from their original purpose.

It is an amazingly accurate explanation in a year when home computing, mobile phones, and much less the Internet, did not yet exist, except experimentally in university and military circles.

Online shopping, Zoom and stylus

This footage of unknown origin from the repository Kinolibrary it is especially interesting. In just 1 minute, nail some of the advances that we use today, almost 50 years later:

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There are some elements that are strange to us, typical of the time. Computers are still huge, and they don’t use mouse or touch screen, everything is controlled by keyboard). But otherwise the description is very accurate.

We can see the concept of online shoppingHow a woman views the product catalog on the screen, compares them, and finally pays with a credit card associated with her bank, which she enters into a reader.

Then a man connects “via cable“with his coworkers, and he establishes a professional video call from home. Finally, a girl uses a stylus on a kind of trackpad to draw on the screen. The basic ideas are the same that we use now.

Mobile phone, wireless playback and “flat” TV

This other cut from a television program from the 70s, belonging to the archive Huntley Film Archives, shows us some successful concepts, such as cell phone, although it only works inside the house. Too wireless media playersYes, based on vinyl and cassette tapes:

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The funniest example is the flat screen television. Of course it is if it is compared to the tube TVs of the time, but nothing to do with televisions of just a centimeter thick that we use now …

Virtual reality

In cinema and literature we have seen many concepts of virtual reality, but in most cases these are fantasy visions (for now) where those virtual worlds are identical to reality, as in Star Trek The Next Generation , for example.

One of the most accurate visions of virtual reality was offered by Stephen King’s story La Cortador de Lawn, written in 1975. It was taken to the cinema in 1992 with the movie of the same title, The Lawn Mower.

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The Lawn Mower It tells the story of a scientist who convinces his neighborhood lawn mower to undergo a virtual reality experiment to improve his intelligence, using certain drugs while immersing himself in virtual worlds.

Although Virtual Reality cannot increase intelligence, the film correctly reflects the design of the glasses and the virtual worlds based on computer graphics, and not in the real world, like other movies do.

Arthur G. Clarke, a visionary genius

The science fiction writer Arthur G. Clarke, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey It is considered one of the most important futurists of the 20th century. Clarke described artificial satellites precisely 10 years before it was invented. The geostationary orbit of the satellites is called the Clarke orbit in his honor.

In this 1974 video we can see how he explains to a child that “one day the computers will fit on a desk“and describes a future where we can talk to everyone and get all the information we need of these computers.

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The presenter asks him if one day we will be a society addicted to these computers, and the famous writer replies that, “in a way, yes. But they will also enrich our lives and allow us to work and live anywhere.”

Clarke made many other predictions of futuristic technology, completely accurate, from the Internet to virtual assistants or artificial intelligence..

In this 1976 interview, he predicts concepts as concrete as the Google search engine, or the smartwatch:

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Clarke claims that video calls will replace phone calls, and connected devices will allow us “exchange visual information, graphics information, books, data, and much more“.

It also describes with great precision Internet search engines like Google: “I imagine a machine that searches a centralized library and finds the information we need, from news to flight information, sports scores, etc.“.

The best-known films of some great directors were released in the 70s and we have selected 11 mythical works that you can find on Netflix, HBO and Prime Video right now.

Crazy ideas

In the 1970s many books and movies had a similar thread. Influenced by the cold war and the threat of communism, showed a dystopian future where large corporations, computers or totalitarian governments had ended hunger or wars, but in exchange citizens had renounced their freedom.

Some disturbing echoes of these ideas can be seen today. But what makes them implausible, reflected in movies like Persecuido (The Running Man), Death Race 2000 or Rollerball, is that ultraviolent sports are organized to keep the population distracted:

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Although if we change these sports on the Internet and our total dependence on the Network …

He also screwed up

We have seen how Arthur C. Clarke predicted many of the technologies we use now. But also it went over braking in many others.

Clarke stated, for example, that in the year 2000 you will only travel for leisure, and not for work. I also believed that time zones would disappear. And that Humanity would tread on Mars in 2010.

The impossible Ferrari

At the 1970 Geneva Motor Show, Ferrari amazed everyone with his Ferrari Modulo Concept, a concept of a futuristic vehicle that stood out for its sliding roof and its very low center of gravity. He was only 93 centimeters tall.

A very avant-garde design, but impractical. The millionaire who bought it, James Glickenhaus, often complained about the difficulty of driving it.

Too advanced humanoids

One of the main failures of futurists of all times, have to do with robots. The imagined androids are always much more advanced than the real robots.

In 1973, the movie Westworld (Souls of Metal), imagined some 80 years where there were theme parks with human-looking robots, which finally rebelled against their oppressors.

Even now we don’t have such advanced robots.

The plot of the film was used as the basis for the popular series Westworld the HBO.

The House of the Century

The Ant Farm architectural collective became famous in the 1970s for proposing the construction of futuristic houses with cheap materials like plastic, or inflatable materials. One of his most famous constructions is the House of the Century.

Despite its fascinating design it was impractical, and its location was not adequate: the area has been flooded several times, almost completely destroying the structure.

Sanyo’s human washing machine

At the 1970 Osaka World Exposition Sanyo presented what he claimed was “the future of personal cleaning“Literally, a washing machine for humans:

It was a kind of capsule in which you entered and carried out a complete wash of the body (except the head), with soap and water. An ultraviolet session eliminated any remaining bacteria.

As expected, it was a sales failure. It required a huge space and you had to climb two meters to get into the capsule. And the time of use was not much different from that of a conventional bathroom.

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