What 1967 Thought 2001 Would Look Like

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Walter Cronkite, 1967, sitting in the living room of the Home of the 21st Century: "We could watch a football game, or a movie, shown in full color on our big 3D color screen. The sound would come from these globe-like speakers." His vision is reasonably correct, though the football game I watched yesterday wasn't in 3D, nor do my speakers look like globes. But conceptually it's spot-on -- right down to the ability for me to select what program I want to watch from a console. Granted, the console is an assemblage of remote controls and apps rather than a bunch of unlabeled dials, but still.

In 1967, CBS aired a program called The 21st Century, in which Walter Cronkite explored a vision of the future as seen through a late-60s lens. The March 12, 1967 episode featured the home, and the episode is written up in glorious detail by Matt Novak over at Paleofuture (a Smithsonian joint). The entire series is a fascinating bit of retrofuturism. Here's a snippet from Novak's writeup of that "home" episode:

The living room of the future is a place of push-button luxury and a mid-century modern aesthetic. The sunken living room may feature inflatable furniture and disposable paper kids’ chairs, but Cronkite assures us that there’s no reason the family of the future couldn’t have a rocking chair — to remind us that “both the present and the future are merely extensions of the past.”

Once inside we might find ourselves in a glass enclosure where the lint and dirt we’ve accumulated during our trip is removed electrostatically. Now we step into the living room. What will the home of the 21st century look like inside? Well, I’m sitting in the living room of a mock-up of the home of the future, conceived by Philco-Ford and designed by Paul McCobb. This is where the family of the 21st century would entertain guests. This room has just about everything one would want: a big (some might say too big) full color 3D television screen, a stereo sound system that could fill the room with music, and comfortable furniture for relaxed conversation.

If that living room looks familiar it may be because it’s the same house from the Internet-famous short film “1999 A.D.” produced in 1967 (often mistakenly dated as 1969, which would make the moon landing stuff less impressive) and starring a young Wink Martindale.

Here's the living room clip:

And a view of the home office, looking a little like my own (except with more knobs):

For much more, check out Novak's full article for analysis, clips, transcripts, and stills. It's great writing, and the video is fascinating partly for what it gets right and wrong...but also for its oddly soothing retro tone. You can also watch the whole episode via the A/V Geeks.

See also: Inside Monsanto's House of the Future, 1957, How People of the '70s Pictured Space Colonies of the Future, and Here's Your Jetpack.

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February 4, 2013 - 2:35pm
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