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The Year 2000 As Predicted In 1900: Did They Anticipate Wireless Phones And TV?

It's always interesting to see what people in the past thought "the future" would be like. Predictions usually say more about the people in the age they were made than they do about the future. But sometimes, a few of these predictions really hit home.
It's always interesting to see what people in the past thought "the future" would be like. Predictions usually say more about the people in the age they were made than they do about the future. But sometimes, a few of these predictions really hit home.I came across this article from The Ladies Home Journal of December 1900 titled, "Predictions Of The Year 2000" on Andrew Sullivan's blog.

While most of these predictions seem totally out of date, more than a few are not that off the mark. Take this one, for example:


Prediction #18: Telephones Around the World. Wireless telephone and telegraph circuits will span the world. A husband in the middle of the Atlantic will be able to converse with his wife sitting in her boudoir in Chicago. We will be able to telephone to China quite as readily as we now talk from New York to Brooklyn. By an automatic signal they will connect with any circuit in their locality without the intervention of a "hello girl".

Not only does this article predict circuit-switch telecommunications, it even portrays wireless phone systems. That's pretty impressive.

And the author even predicted global television, sort of:


Prediction #10: Man will See Around the World. Persons and things of all kinds will be brought within focus of cameras connected electrically with screens at opposite ends of circuits, thousands of miles at a span. American audiences in their theatres will view upon huge curtains before them the coronations of kings in Europe or the progress of battles in the Orient. The instrument bringing these distant scenes to the very doors of people will be connected with a giant telephone apparatus transmitting each incidental sound in its appropriate place. Thus the guns of a distant battle will be heard to boom when seen to blaze, and thus the lips of a remote actor or singer will be heard to utter words or music when seen to move.

OK, and more than a few of the predictions are just a little off:


Food will be served hot or cold to private houses in pneumatic tubes or automobile wagons. The meal being over, the dishes used will be packed and returned to the cooking establishments where they will be washed. Such wholesale cookery will be done in electric laboratories rather than in kitchens. These laboratories will be equipped with electric stoves, and all sorts of electric devices, such as coffee-grinders, egg-beaters, stirrers, shakers, parers, meat-choppers, meat-saws, potato-mashers, lemon-squeezers, dish-washers, dish-dryers and the like. All such utensils will be washed in chemicals fatal to disease microbes. Having one's own cook and purchasing one's own food will be an extravagance.

Some of this is correct -- the stuff about electric stoves and kitchen appliances is close. But the author envisioned a centralized food preparation and home-delivery market that obviously never materialized. Sure, having a cook is an extravagance, but the last time I checked, most people still buy groceries and cook their own meals. And what's up with all the pneumatic tubes?