These images revealed what people thought science and tech might look like down the line. They may not have been completely accurate, but we can say that it looked like they were onto something.
The Farming of the Future
Farming has taken big leaps since the nineteen-thirties, which is when this low-res ad comes from. We're still using tractors and harvesters to bring in the food, and we still have to ride in them like normal methods of transportation.
This ad seems to think that we would be coptering through the air, watching as our fleets of automated harvesters gather up the corn, beans, or soy below us. All we'd have to do is sit and watch the work get done! However, farm automation hasn't exactly gotten as far as we might have hoped, or as far as this ad was trying to tell us.
The Kindle of the Great Depression
Books and printing have been around for hundreds of years, but only just recently have we come up with the ability to take our books electronically on the go with devices like Kindle or iPads. Yet this classic piece of advertisement tells us of a future where we've been reading electronically for decades, with the help of this immense contraption.
Using miniature films and an enlarging screen, everybody can read all the little books they want. There are buttons that turn the pages and help bring the book into focus, though this item isn't exactly as portable as the e-reader you probably have in your house.
Sea City 2000
Back in the day, it was thought that we would quickly run out of space for people around the turn of the millennium. That of course hasn't happened, but we still got to see the wonders of the greatest minds in the field of architecture.
This immense floating city had plenty of space for everyone, but it hasn't come to be just yet. Modeled after the legendary city of Atlantis, which is said to be sitting at the bottom of the ocean. This huge structure had it all – living spaces, entertainment, sanitation, workspaces, and much more. Think of all the possibilities!
1935: The Year of Food Tubes
Tired of cooking? No problem. Just call up one of these shops and have them tube over a hot, fresh meal. From beans on toast to a fully-cooked roast, there's nothing like opening up the tube and getting some delicious food. Housewives had a three-hundred-page menu to page through and pick the meal of their choice, available within a ten-block radius from the central kitchen.
This was a thing in Berlin for a small amount of time – things changed pretty quickly there in the 1930s. Nowadays we have Postmates and other food delivery services, which functions the same way, even if it is a little bit more blasé.
Tinder has Nothing on This Tech
Want to find the love of your life? It seems hard, but this piece of cool tech makes it much easier. Whether you're looking for the square-jawed businessman of your dreams or the rosy-cheeked flapper you've had your eye on, this breakthrough in scientific mating will make it easier than ever.
How does it work? Heck if we know! There are lots of wires, diodes, tubes, and meters – and then there's all the electronic stuff, as well. Maybe it measures how attracted you are to the other person, but it doesn't really seem necessary to measure that.
Keeping Cool Everywhere
Back in the sixties, air conditioning wasn't everywhere. In fact, it was almost nowhere, except in big business buildings, movie theaters, and the like. Going on a train, taking a car ride, or just a walk? Then you're at the mercy of the heat. But with the portable air conditioner (circa 1963), it's never been easier to keep cool. This handy, hand-held device blows cool air thanks to battery power.
How is it different from a small fan? Not all that different. In fact, not different at all, except that it looks heavier and is probably more expensive. Still, if it keeps you cool, then go for it.
They're Not Going to Happen, People
We've been wanting self-driving cars for decades. Once the idea of computers came about, having a vehicle that doesn't need to be controlled has been a pipe dream for lots. We're still trying to figure out the right way to do it, but this ad from what looks like the fifties is looking ahead to when the driver can turn away from the road and take part in a family game.
But even nowadays it's clear self-driving cars aren't going to be around too soon – they exist, but they've caused plenty of problems, including dangerous crashes, and still need plenty of work to make it big.
Warmth Even in the Coldest Climes
In the sixties, one thing, in particular, was predicted to do it all – the almighty atom. Specifically, the splitting thereof, since atomic power was becoming bigger and better every day. This ad seems to think that nuclear power would be strong enough to make warm-weather enclosures.
And it could be! You're all just too scared to try it out! This picture presents the perfect scene for people who live in the midwest, at least. The pretty snow is still there, but you don't have to live with it practically year-round. Imagine being able to relax in the pool and watch the snow come down.
In a Minute Delivery
Nowadays a lot of us have the ability to order something from Amazon and get it the same day, even if it's groceries and perishables like milk or eggs. In the 1940s, it was still pretty common for people to get daily deliveries of things like milk and eggs, but this ad shows an even better future – a glass-walled vehicle that includes everything you might need for your upcoming day.
What else could this wondrous vehicle hold? Bread? Cakes? Pies? Maybe reading material, like books or magazines? What about clothes? New pants, fresh ties, and the latest hats? This sounds pretty great!
Still Waiting for This One
There's nothing like getting away from it all and baking a pie in the kitchen. In this day and age of microwaved foods, making some food on your own can be fun. Of course, in the sixties, that was the only way to do it, which is why this Super Chef was predicted starting in the late fifties.
With just the press of a button, a plate of delicious, nutritious food can come right out – no slaving over a hot stove required! It's everything you need for a great meal, and we're hoping one day something like this can be real – we're all getting tired of frozen pizza and burritos.
A Prediction That Came True!
This 1946 Seagrams ad is ready to blow your mind. How many of you have stopped in at a sports bar to catch a game, have some drinks, or meet a pal after work? This ad shows us that they might never go away since even in the forties people wanted a way to enjoy camaraderie, drinks, and sports.
While some things have changed – when have you ever seen a sports bar employee wearing a tux? – there are plenty of similarities. In fact, other than changing decorating styles, a shift in TV tech, and changes in favorite foods, not much is different!
Bring Your Radio Everywhere
In the past, before television became commonplace in every home (which started around the fifties), radio was the entertainment of the masses. From songs and news to radio plays, people would often gather around the huge radio and listen all evening long. But what if you wanted to listen to your favorite tunes or programs when you were out of the house?
Enter the Radio Hat, which we see here in fetching style. The tech would catch up eventually thanks to smaller radios and headphones, which means we don't have to – or get to – wear one of these huge contraptions, but they still realized radio could go everywhere.
Take to the Clouds
At the turn of the century, people loved one thing – hot air balloons. Whether it was huge zeppelins that could take you across seas, to smaller ones that took you across the city, the balloon was the conveyance of the future.
This ad, which is almost a hundred and twenty years old, paints a picture of the future as envisioned by Collier's Weekly, which has air-trams running through the air, chased by vehicles suspended by balloons. The zeppelin quickly fell to the airplane as far as the best way to travel through the air, and construction and technology costs became exorbitant to make such a futuristic vision reality, especially with the Great Depression.
Pile On and Take Flight
Trolleys were ways for lots of people to get where they needed in the cities before buses became normal. When planes started to hit the skies, people thought about small planes that could take you on a short trip. These air trolleys never got off the ground, and from the picture we see in the ad, it's pretty obvious these would be a disaster.
The loss of life would probably be great, and it's a pretty good thing that ground-based conveyances stayed in vogue. With personal automobiles becoming much cheaper to own and keep, the idea of a plane trolley fell back to earth.
Get to Work, Fido
According to this 1926 article in the Galveston Daily News “Man’s steadily increasing need for more space will eventually force untamed beasts to pay their way in the scheme of things, or join the species already extinct.” Yikes! It's true that our population has been steadily increasing. and with that, sadly a lot of wildlife has perished.
While this ad paints a little bit of an absurdist picture of monkeys and bears becoming domesticated and "working" for humans in order to prove themselves as useful, we can't say that it's too far off. Remember "Tiger King?"
The Earliest E-Cig
No, this isn't a decades-old vape pipe. It's actually a combination of a radio and a good old fashioned tobacco pipe, for some reason. Perhaps the radio produces the right amount of heat to keep your tobacco nice and warm and give you a good puff.
These products definitely didn't make it big in the market, since it was probably a lot easier to just enjoy a regular pipe while listening to the radio at home. Still, it's important to always look ahead, and with this item, while the creators were trying to make the next big thing, they missed the mark somewhat.
Getting from one place to another is another one of those things that inventors have always been trying to improve. Think of how much the world changes with the help of things like the bicycle, the car, and the airplane. This ad shows off a new idea – single-person segways that have sealed bubbles around them, for traveling in any kind of weather.
Today we have segways and electric scooters, so this idea wasn't so far off. Maybe we'll end up attaching a protective roof. Though these things look a little too slow to keep up with cars on the road, and too fast for taking them to paths – injuries could occur.
The Oldest Ad Yet
This piece of artwork is from the eighteen-hundreds, but it's hard to tell exactly when. Yet, it shows us a future we still wouldn't mind – taking a stroll on the lake with personal flotation balloons or pushing the pedals on your transportation water wheel.
There's even a horse, just walking across the water! That probably wouldn't work the way they're hoping. But, while there are plenty of ways to enjoy the water, balloons that keep you above them just isn't the best way. Still, as far as long-ago predictions, this one isn't too crazy. It's like we told you earlier – balloons were the craze of the future.
All Your News in One Place
It doesn't matter how you like to learn about the world. Be it a calming voice coming from the radio or a big piece of newsprint that lets you flip through at your leisure, this radio slash printer does it all. It's like early fax that can only print from the news.
Newspaper delivery was commonplace, even more than these days, since it was one of the few ways to find out about the world. The radio was the other main way in the thirties, and while this item might be an all-in-one idea for getting your news, it either never came to be or failed at the starting line.
“Dad, Can We Abduct Some Cows on the Way Home?”
If there's one thing about the fifties that really drove tech and development in a certain direction, it was space, spacecraft, and even aliens. This March edition of Mechanix Illustrated from the fifties is a brilliant creation that, let's be really honest here, would still be fun today.
A combination of a flying saucer and a personal aircraft come together to make a vehicle that is the perfect way for fifties businessmen to travel from the patent office to the home to the department store and back. Turning any backyard into an airport, on the other hand...
A Hundred Years of Learning
This look into the future of schools comes from a tobacco insert. While teaching has definitely changed since the turn of the century, it hasn't panned out the way this illustration shows. Portraying the year two thousand, it has the teacher shoving books into some sort of apparatus – almost like a wood chipper. Half a dozen students sit at their tables and listen with personal headphones.
At least, we hope they're listening. A remaining student churns the grinder. Teacher's pet. It's hard to pick out the goofiest part of this far-flung prognostication, but our money is on the yellow pantaloons and knee-high socks of the focused student in the first row.
Scientists: Get to Work
Hughes Industries: Rocketing into the future! All the way back in 1939, rocket power was the conveyance of the future. From planes that went around the world in a snap of the fingers to vehicles that brought us to the stars, to personal rocket packs that still look cool, rocket power was going to thrust us into the future whether we wanted it or not.
While we have water-powered jetpacks for a bit of fun, rocket boosters such as we see here are still impractical. They're expensive (not even counting fuel costs), dangerous in the wrong, untrained hands, and the rockets themselves would probably fry us from the waist down. We're still waiting for these.
Bold Predictions From 1949
Back in the day, computers were huge. They filled rooms and had the ability to do only the simplest calculations. There was no internet surfing, no graphic-intense video games, and no music.
You could use them to crunch numbers, and barely even that. Popular Mechanics thought about how computers would change in the future and came up with these details: only a thousand vacuum tubes, only weighing one and a half tons. Of course, nowadays, we all have computers in our pockets, or in our hands, that are a hundred or a thousand times as powerful as the legendary ENIAC was, and for a fraction of the cost.
Fun Carnival Ride, Bad Hospital Treatment
“What on Earth is happening here?” you might be asking. It's simple – a radical new treatment that is designed to cure all of life's ills. Broken leg? Throw them on the centrifuge. Headache? Give them a spin. Cancer? Not for long!
Of course, this might not be the best treatment for someone complaining of an upset stomach, but even they might not mind taking a spin. Of course, this is a patently horrible treatment for anything, except maybe boredom, which is why you've never seen this “miracle cure” in action. 1935 was not exactly a time of much medical ingenuity.
Sixties Chic That's More Than Unique
An early Motorola Ad from the sixties gives us a pretty cool scene of an interior living room, filled with huge glass windows, hanging lights, a gigantic rock feature in the center of the room, and an old, tiny TV. The windows show a similar view as the inside, and the comfort here looks unparalleled.
Of course, this design is perfectly possible, if not exactly the style these days, which tends toward minimalism. Still, put this kind of architecture to the test and you'll find yourself enjoying yourself. A bigger TV might be nice, and the colors might need to get updated, but still, it looks cool.
Tired of the Subway? Travel by Bubble!
Yes, it's true, transportation is one of those things that are always on the mind of inventors and designers, even nowadays. Some of them have been huge leaps forward, and others have not exactly fulfilled our every desire.
For instance, this strange method of bubble conveyance, which was supposed to run along huge, flat rails. You can see the tiny people inside, which makes the rail itself almost as big as a modern eight-lane interstate highway. We assume that the bubble keeps the interior upright thanks to weights or some other devices, or otherwise the people inside would leave rather poor reviews.
Bubbles Are Great Everywhere
This Asian illustration (it appears to be Japanese) shows us an idyllic future of families taking a day trip to the moon in their personal rocket ships, and tootling around the moonscape with their big ball vehicles.
Even Fido has come out for the trip, though there isn't much to smell up here. Of course, traveling to the moon proved to be a much more difficult task than a lot of people thought it would be – shocker – so this future never came to pass. It's quite a pretty view, but it will be some time before seeing it is common knowledge.
Fully-Automated Barber Shops
Barbershops today might not be the popular places they were at the beginning of the twentieth century. This illustration is another look into what people a hundred years ago thought the world today would be like.
A single operator works with multiple customers at once, using scissors, combs, and more to neaten up these gentlemen. In a strange twist, the big draw of barbershops nowadays is hearkening back to the days of yore. While there are stylists that will get you in and out in no time, a barbershop is a place to relax for a cut and a shave.
More Rotors Than You Can Count
Welcome to 1935. The Great Depression finally looks to be ending, there are rumblings of war from overseas, and “The Flying Whirligig” is the transportation of the future. Pile on to this fancy vehicular method of aero-transportation, and listen to the many rotors chop the air as it whirls you to your destination.
This early helicopter prototype never got off the ground, but scientists and designers were still zeroing in on the methods and technology that would, eventually, lead to the helicopter, which is still one of the most useful ways to get around these days, for a number of reasons.
Honestly, Pretty Close
From 1979, this prediction is one of the most recent, which may explain how it got the closest to the mark – relatively close, at the very least. It has a few people watching screens, listening to headphones, and looking out their windows to spy on their neighbors – that doesn't happen too much, but it still manages to be pretty accurate.
There are, of course, plenty of odd choices, such as the tight onesies, the many dials, and buttons on the window dashboard.
Go Up the Stairs and Step Into the Future
This highly-stylized vision hearkens back to 1969 when times were good and American technology was booming. From sleek, fast-as-lightning cars to walls made of nothing but shatter-proof glass, these handsome guys and pretty gals look like they're having the time of their lives just spending time at home. And that's the dream, isn't it?
This was another eye on the future depiction of what might have been, and though we didn't go too far in this direction, it still seems pretty possible, though those cars will raise an eyebrow at any period.
The World of the Future
This image shows us something far in the future, even for us. Taken from ideas like " Ringworld" or " Rendezvous with Rama ," in this image humans have created a space-faring machine with so much space it boggles the mind.
Used to travel great distances, these huge structures are still almost entirely theoretical since it still takes the greatest minds in the world just to get a shuttle into the upper atmosphere. These kinds of structures are seen often in hard science-fiction novels such as those above, and they're but one of many options for spreading humans among the stars.
Flying Saucers Verses Buses
Congestion has always been an issue, so when the idea of a flying saucer to reduce traffic came to the minds of this magazine illustrator, they leaped on it, creating a huge vehicle that will fill the sky with happy riders and keep the roads clearer for all the cars. We're starting to sound like a broken record by now, but obviously, this never came to pass.
Whether it was because the tech wasn't there, or it was there and it was just so expensive as to be unreasonable, or it was in its own way possible but it just never took off the ground, so to speak.
Japanese Space Armor
The Japanese have been at the forefront of coming up with new tech for some time, but not all of them are winners. Case in point, this “astro-combat” suit, with a radio, armored shield, helmet, a...jetpack? And a bullet-based weapon, which may prove difficult to use in space.
However, seeing as how this illustration came from the 1930s, the Japanese had a lot more to focus on, including going from the space race to the stone age by the end of World War II. Nippon was interested in conquering everything, but some things were always going to be out of reach.
Still Seems Useful These Days
Police are in a rough line of work and always have been, but in May of 1924, the first image of the Radio Police Automation industry appeared, leading to huge changes in policing.
Well, not really, but this automaton was a look into the future of science-fiction vis a vis RoboCop , and it includes a radio loudspeaker to ask crowds to disperse from the comfort of your police station, and tear gas outlets to disperse crowds whether they want to or not. Caterpillar treads, stabilizing gyroscopes, eye lights, and both batteries and a gasoline engine give it plenty of options. Sadly, this has still not come to pass.
A Double Dose of D'oh
Really, it's a charming image, but there are plenty of issues with it. First off, those balconies just don't have any support. It's not safe, you see. Unless construction materials became much stronger very quickly. This kind of look is cool, but it never happened.
Even if this ultimately didn't quite pan out, you might be interested to know that this design originally came from North Korea.
Apple Would Get There Eventually
Steve Jobs always had his head in the clouds, but you have to admit that he was able to come up with plenty of upgrades to the computer world that we're still profiting from.
Apple even came up with an idea for a tablet – such as the iPad – all the way back in the eighties, though it took plenty of time to bring it about. The image we see comes with a keyboard since a touch-screen wasn't foreseen yet, and a printer, which was a must-have since the internet was still at least a decade off, and email a year or so past that.
The Wristwatch, and Computer, of the Future
In 1981, the wristwatch was one of the items you just can't leave without. For the businessman on the go, it was important to know what time it was. Computers were also becoming more and more affordable – and powerful – and so it wasn't too far-fetched to think that watches and computers would one day come together.
They have by now, with smartwatches, but they can't do too many things on their own – and they most certainly can't place things onto tiny, tiny floppy disks. Though, because of email, there isn't much reason to do so.
This is Kind of What's Happening Now, Isn't It?
Nowadays lots of students are stuck inside their homes, learning on the computer and doing their best to actually get some instructions from their professors. Decades ago – this image could be from any time between the twenties and the forties – it was thought this would become commonplace much earlier, though without the help of the internet.
Instead, it was a radio transmitter and television screen that would allow students to take in their classes. Do you think it would amuse the original illustrator to know that, yes, this is actually what is happening now?
Flipping the Script
An aircraft character is one of the most powerful wartime assets in the world – a huge floating fortress that can launch raids from almost anywhere in the world. This image, for some reason, does the opposite – it creates a land-based vehicle that's filled with water and is able to attack anything with water-planes as it rumbles along on treads.
Of course, long before this came into reality, flight tech became powerful enough to reach almost anywhere on Earth, without having to have a roaming base, even in huge swaths of land such as desert. Why wouldn't they just do a normal carrier on treads?
More Watch Tech That Would Come to Pass
It's funny how many of these watch ideas have come true in one way or another, though mostly thanks to the power of smartphones. This image shows a German prototype of a watch-phone, which not only helps you keep track of your German efficiency, and also lets you talk to friends no matter where you are.
Of course, they didn't really pick up steam until the help of the internet and cell phones came together. Of course, nothing will ever advance tech unless people make the first steps, and though those first steps are slow and stumbling, eventually they will run.
They're Pretty Much Roller Skates
The French artist Villard appears for the third time on this list, creating illustrations of the distant year of 2000 from his time in 1910. He did his best to picture the future from a variety of angles, and though some aren't to be, this image shows us a couple of youngins's wearing what are unmistakably roller skates.
Though they don't look the way they do now, the idea is still pretty obvious, and we aren't surprised someone came up with them even so far ahead. Looks like they might need to come up with some safety equipment, though.
Another Old Photo That Still Looks Useful
While makeup has become easier to apply, and a more down-to-earth look has become common to most gals, it's still a chunk out of the day and can take a long time for big events like parties or weddings.
This Villard illustration is the gender-swapped version of the barbershop from earlier, and it has the lady in question surrounded by machines that are helping her get ready for the day. From hair to makeup to helping her scrub up nice, this big contraption is sure to speed things along and get her ready for her day – something that would be nice even now.
The Fabulous Future of War
War never changes, they say, but we can see some things shift even if the underlying nature of violence and aggression remain the same. These fancy Villard motorcyclists – motorcycles even then were still being developed – are headed over the next hill toward the battle.
They could also be some sort of gendarme, and they've been tipped off to a robbery in progress, but don't worry, that thief won't be able to escape when these motorized men are on the case. They might be a little bit fancier than police these days, but they still look ready to rumble.
Flying Toward the Future in Maximum Style
If this kind of conveyance is still around these days, then I want to ride it. Compared to planes, hot air balloon trips are pretty slow, but it gives you plenty of opportunities to enjoy the trip. Did Villard accurately predict the zeppelin, even a decade or two before they started filling the skies?
He even did them with an extra-cool look, a pair of dirigibles suspending a huge boat-like cab between them. It looks like there's plenty of space for people to enjoy the fresh air, and you won't even have to watch out for icebergs.
The Ultimate in Climate Control
This German illustration shows us the perfect way to deal with the weather – ignore it entirely. Just build a huge, city-spanning roof that is strong enough to withstand wind, rain, snow, and even storms, and everybody inside will be able to go about their business warm, dry, and happy.
We wonder if there are ways to let in natural sunlight, which is certainly something that the people living in this city will start to miss if not. It looks like the roof has windows, but even glass windows don't let in that all-important Vitamin D, good for healthy bones, skin, and immune systems.
Down Where it's Wetter
We've seen balloons that fly over water, transportation that lets you walk right on top of the water, and now a boat that travels underwater. By the year two thousand, submarines had been around for more than half a century, but we haven't yet come through with glass-walled subs that will take us from one side of the ocean to the other.
There are, of course, some devices that will let you see under the water for a hefty fee, but they are rare, and certainly not used as simple transportation – they're often hired just to show us that which we usually miss.
Germans Must Hate Weather
Here's yet another way that the future was foreseen when it comes to weather – the machine we see here was apparently one that should create good weather. How? You got us. It's certainly fancy, though. It has quite a big wheel to turn, and big vents or smokestacks that will...certainly do something.
In the illustration, it looks like it's fighting back the rain and storms by belching out sunlight, somehow, and the small people standing near it seem to have no fear of the oncoming rain. Unfortunately, while we've tried time and again, controlling the weather just isn't something we're able to do yet.