What 1969 Thought the Office of the Future Looked Like

Wesley / Stringer / Getty Images
Wesley / Stringer / Getty Images

On April 16, 1969, the BBC show Tomorrow's World showed James Burke's vision for the office of the future. In the short film, Burke's office is computerized, "quiet, cool, very efficient." There's no telephone, but there is a "BJ-39" computer on wheels, ready to provide messages, distractions, and a form of FOMO. Also, Burke is the only man in the building, surrounded by women. Hmm.

Overall, it's a surprisingly prescient vision. Burke's office contains automated single-serving coffee, video messaging, computerized cameras, voice-to-text transcription, and a distracting executive desk toy. But more than the technology, Burke nails the anxiety of the lonely workplace. He demonstrates that the biggest obstacle to solo work is not technology, but a distracted inner monologue wondering what to work on next, what's going on outside, and what might be lying around to fiddle with. His attitude is spot-on for the modern urge to refresh social media and news, particularly for remote workers.

Tune in, and try to spot yourself in this. Be aware that the Burke segment only lasts until about 3:30 in the video below; the rest is an unrelated segment on Ray Davis Jr.'s neutrino research (he would eventually win a Nobel Prize for it!) and very early LED manufacturing.

If you enjoyed that, you'll love Burke's TV series Connections.

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The Truth Behind Italy's Abandoned 'Ghost Mansion'

YouTube/Atlas Obscura
YouTube/Atlas Obscura

The forests east of Lake Como, Italy, are home to a foreboding ruin. Some call it the Casa Delle Streghe (House of Witches), or the Red House, after the patches of rust-colored paint that still coat parts of the exterior. Its most common nickname, however, is the Ghost Mansion.

Since its construction in the 1850s, the mansion—officially known as the Villa De Vecchi—has reportedly been the site of a string of tragedies, including the murder of the family of the Italian count who built it, as well as the count's suicide. It's also said that everyone's favorite occultist, Aleister Crowley, visited in the 1920s, leading to a succession of satanic rituals and orgies. By the 1960s, the mansion was abandoned, and since then both nature and vandals have helped the house fall into dangerous decay. The only permanent residents are said to be a small army of ghosts, who especially love to play the mansion's piano at night—even though it's long since been smashed to bits.

The intrepid explorers of Atlas Obscura recently visited the mansion and interviewed Giuseppe Negri, whose grandfather and great-grandfather were gardeners there. See what he thinks of the legends, and the reality behind the mansion, in the video below.