It’s the year 2018. And while we have some very cool tech that we take for granted, we’re still waiting on quite a few things that we were promised. But what did the people of yesteryear imagine 2018 would be like?
Professor Lelio Alberto Fabriani, the “Magician of Rome”, on June 27th, 1952. (Photo: AP)
People of 20th century had a lot of ideas about what the year 2018 would eventually have in store for humanity. And we’ve compiled some of those ideas below. Many are humorously wrong, since nobody really knows what the future holds. But a few predictions were spot-on.
There’s everything from predictions about automated voice dictation from 1918 to predictions about piloted trips to Mars that were envisioned in the 1990s. They were both supposed to happen this year. And sadly, the prediction from 1918 was more accurate than the one from the 1990s about just what 2018 had in store for humanity.
Human cloning will become commonplace and Metallica will go bald (1998)
Student Amy Tao made some predictions for 2018 in the September 4th, 1998 edition of the Amarillo Daily News in Texas, and she was already joking about how much time Americans spend on computers. Not to mention the future of music genres like grunge and pop.
From the Daily News:
Cloning will be a big thing. Despite moral activist protests, clones of animals and human beings walk the earth. Don’t feel like going to school? Send your clone! What if your dog dies suddenly? Just take out the clone of him! Later the clones take over and disaster strikes. What else would you expect when people mess with nature? Computers will become so advanced that they will replace human connection. People no longer go out on dates; they just spend 99 per cent of their lives on their computers. Wait, that’s already happened.
They’ll come up with some new technology, which enhances CDs, and the price for listening to music will go up, yet again. Sane people will go back to using tapes, because it will cost more than 20 bucks a CD. Punk and grunge will emerge from the dead, without resurrecting Kurt Cobain. Pop music is no longer what it used to be. And it will die. Members of Metallica will be balding, and they’ll retire when drummer Lars loses the rest of his hair. Or, they’ll get tons and tons of surgery like Aerosmith and look 30-something all their lives.
A Clinton-Lewinsky conspiracy theory rises again, and Kenneth Starr is pulled from his retirement home in Florida to investigate it. A cure for cancer is tested and succeeds, but it doesn’t make the headlines due to another Starr investigation.
Finally, in 20 years, I’ll be as far away from the Texas Panhandle as possible.
Amy Tao, if you’re out there, we’d love to talk with you. Did you ever leave the Texas panhandle?
Automated dictation will be commonplace by 2018 (1918)
Here in 2018, we talk to our machines more than ever before. We talk to Alexa, our Google Home, and Siri. And a newspaper article from 1918 predicted that the people of 2018 would enjoy a life of luxury with the “voice typewriter.”
From the August 9th, 1918 St. Johns Daily Star in Newfoundland:
A hundred years hence a business man will sit down in front of a machine, and say:
Dear Sir: Your favor of the 15th has been received. The goods ordered—-
And the machine will write!
Think of it. No stenographer, no typist—nothing to set the mechanism in operation but the spoken word.
This is no Jules Verne-H.G. Wells dream, but the conception of a brilliant electrical engineer, Mr. John B. Flowers, whose name out to be better known than it is. Financed by a great typewriter company, Mr. Flowers has been conducting a series of astonishing investigations, which if they are continued, will some day culminate in the voice typewriter.
Voice dictation is something we have here in the year 2018, though many of our apps leave something to be required. Ahem, I said some of our dictation apps leave something to be provider. Dammit Siri, I said some of our dictation apps leave something to be desired.
Farmers of 2018 will be more like scientists (1959)
What will the farmer of the year 2018 look like? According to one Texas newspaper from the 1950s, farmers will look a lot like scientists.
The April 17th, 1959 edition of the Lubbock Morning Avalanche newspaper in Texas painted a very typical 1950s vision of the future.
From the newspaper:
The farmer won’t be called a farmer any more. He will wear a white startched jacket and will be a scientist.
He will push buttons. “Let’s raise bananas this Winter, Sarah,” he will say to his wife, and he will push the banana button—and all of a sudden, bananas!
His fields will be covered by great plastic domes, and he will control the temperature and rainfall inside. He will also turn the sun on and off.
He will sit in a control tower and operate automatic planting, fertilising, weeding and harvesting machines. He will have one machine which will pull the vegetables out of his fields by suction, and will process, package and label them for the market on the way back to the barn. “I haven’t been down to the South 40 for eight years,” the farmer will say, “I really out to look it over personally one of these days.”
His wife will say, “Oh, Henry, why bother? Why don’t you just send down our walking electronic brain and have it give you a punch-card report?”
The farmer of today is indeed using a lot of technology to produce food for the world. But the degree to which the farmer is a “scientist” is in the eye of the beholder. In fact, the degree to which the average farmer is still a farmer can even be considered subjective.
The people of 2018 will watch movies of World War I (1918)
Today we take for granted the fact that future generations will be able to view countless videos of the wars that are raging in the year 2018. But that obviously wasn’t always the case. Motion picture technology was still relatively primitive during the First World War, but it was becoming clear that people 100 years into the future (that would be us) would be able to watch footage from what they called the Great War or the war to end all wars.
From the November 23th, 1918 edition of the Middletown Times Press in New York:
How great would be the educational value of motion pictures of the Civil War to the present and future generations? That is a difficult question to answer, but they would without doubt make that conflict much clearer in the minds of the people of today and tomorrow. Thanks to the Signal Corps of the United States Army the part America has played in the great war just closed will be immortalised in the “movies” so that people of one hundred years hence will not only be able to read about the way, but actually see it. The second instalment of “America’s Answer,” shown at the Stratton last night, and to be repeated tonight, is a “movie” epic. The miracles that have been acomplished by the Americans in France are almost beyond belief until you see them pictured on the screen with a faithfulness that leaves no room for doubt.
And while it’s certainly possible to watch films from World War I, there’s a cultural barrier that perhaps the people of 1918 didn’t count on. Put simply, the people of 2018 don’t have much interest in old movies, let alone World War I.
Part of this can be chalked up to a unique disinterest in the First World War on the part of people who don’t really get much of an education on it compared with the Second World War. And, of course, the other factor is the age of the films. Watching a movie from the 1910s is indeed like time travel, but the production values are nothing like the movies of today.
This all makes the case for motion pictures as a special and unique art form that should be examined as such, but it doesn’t make many people of 2018 want to actually watch movies from a century ago.
Piloted trip to Mars by 2018 (1996)
Recently, US President Donald Trump's regime announced that it had plans to go back to the moon and eventually even to Mars. But almost every modern president has floated this idea. Remember when George W. Bush said the same thing? How about when the same idea was floated by President Obama? We even heard similar murmurs during Bill Clinton's presidency.
In fact, you can see 2018 mentioned specifically as the year that we might have a crewed mission to Mars from the 1996 Space Studies Board Annual Report:
Dr. Holloway stressed the need for a concrete research plan, with timetables, that would allow NASA to be ready for a piloted mission to Mars in the year 2018. Both this presentation, and one given by NASA’s Deputy Director of Life Sciences Frank Sulzman, helped the task group sharpen the focus of its task. Dr. Walter Schimmerling, of NASA’s Life Sciences and Applications Division, gave a presentation on the design of NASA’s radiation research programme.
We’re still waiting on a trip to Mars. And despite promises from guys like Elon Musk, we’re probably going to be waiting for quite a while.
Underground coal fire started in 1884 would still burn in 2018 (1918)
Back in 1884, miners in New Straitsville, Ohio in North America, pushed burning coal cars into a coal mine during a labour dispute. The coal cars started an underground fire that is still burning to this day. And that’s exactly what the people of 1918 predicted.
The July 4th, 1918 edition of the Corydon Republican newspaper in Indiana republished a piece from Popular Mechanics about the fire. And the article predicted that a hundred years hence (that’s now) humanity would still see that fire rage.
From the Corydon Republican:
Probably the greatest fire in the world is burning in southeastern Ohio. It has been burning for more than 30 years and has been fed by more than 15,000,000 tons of the finest soft coal in the United States. The fire has spread over about 18 square miles of territory, and has actually consumed about 1,500 acres of a coal vein that in places is 15 ft. in thickness, averaging 9 1/2 ft. So far the fire has defied every effort to extinguish it and promises to be still burning a hundred years hence.
They just don’t make things to last like they used to, do they?