This month marks the 50th anniversary of the TV show The Jetsons. What was awesome about The Jetsons is that it showed us a marvelous 21st century future of flying cars, robot slaves, two-hour work weeks, semi-articulate dogs and push-button … everything.
It was all bullshit, of course; practically none of it came true. Sure, buttons are everywhere, and dogs are closer than ever to speaking in adorably dog-accented English, but domestic robot technology is still limited to minor vacuuming and assisted masturbation duties. Two-hour work weeks only exist for members of Congress. And don’t even bring up the flying car.
Damn right, Randal. TV does lie to us. But that’s not all. Books lie too. I’ve read entire books full of lies, and I’m not just talking about David Barton’s book on Thomas Jefferson here. I’m talking about books like 1975: And the Changes to Come by Arnold B. Barach, which was published in 1962, the same year The Jetsons debuted. It was one of those vaguely edu-taining books about how incredibly awesome The Future was supposed to be – in this case, the far-off future world of 37 years ago – by making tantalizing prognostications about cool technological innovations that were certain to come. Only one thing about this book is really certain, however: 1962 was a huuuuuge year for bullshit.
Here are a few of my favorite failed dreams of awesome-itude from 1975: And the Changes to Come:
Bacon in a Toaster. In a goddamn TOASTER! No more searing flesh burns from spattering pan grease or from flipping the strips over with your tongue. The bacon would come pre-fried, hermetically sealed in a futuristic aluminum space-pouch to keep away future bacteria and roving bacon-hunting Totoros. All you do is slide the pouch in your friendly 1975 toaster, set it to “Baconate,” and – a few minutes and searing flesh burns later – Instant Bacon Goodness. In a futuristic aluminum space-pouch, because, you know, the Future.
The Hi-Fi Sphere. In the same way that bacon tastes better when re-heated in an aluminum pouch, sound sounds better when it’s coming from a round aluminum thing. Long-playing Hi Fidelity records are round. Rolling Stones are round, Barry White is round. Your ears are round. Your head is round, and your face-talking hole is round. So should your high-fidelity, sound-barking, audio-making equipment set be: Round. EXTRA BONUS: Round(ish) speakers on an extendo-matic telescoping antenna-looking thingy, for maximum head-injury potential. When not in use, the giant round sound thing closes to form a perfectly symmetrical aluminum sphere, blending in naturally with all your other giant ball-shaped décor.
Giant Television … Something. We all knew the future of big-screen TV was going to be dozens of cluttered dials and twisty control things all crammed in together at convenient standing eye-level for maximum getting-up-out-of-your-chairability, and here our technological miracle stands – about six feet from your chair. The ultimate in deluxe televisions comes over-the-air, wired-antenna ready, able to receive grainy state-of-the-art analog signals from dozens of miles away, or maybe from around the world if something something. Set-top dials can be set to different time zones just in case you have that urgent OCD need to tell time that way, or maybe they’re kitchen timers for the bacon toaster. Plus a world map so you can keep track of where orbiting astronauts are. In the Future.
The Turkey Gun. With all the astronauting we will have had been doing in 1975, naturally we’ll have had needed revolutionary new food-to-face-hole delivery devices to take advantage of the huge pain-in-the-ass convenience of Zero Gravity. Based on absolutely no evidence or experience, the top futurologists of 1962 determined that earthly utensils, dishes and even solid food itself would be absolutely useless, if not deadly – and possibly Communist – in 1975 outer space. The answer? Based on the same physics principles that modern, 21st century pastry bags employ, this marvelous “Expelling device screws onto punctured can and is operated by squeezing to force food through the nipple.” Say that again: “Force food through the nipple.” Science!
I could go on, of course; there’s plenty more. In 1962 people were both anxious and hopeful about the future in that special way that only a culture on the cusp of both conquering space and self-annihilation could appreciate, and I suppose predictions like these held a special fascination for them. By now, of course, we’ve long since figured out that ball-shaped sound is for chumps and that we could hire other people to toast our pre-fried bacon for us, so perhaps we don’t look at the future in quite the same way – or maybe we do. I don’t know, I’m not fucking Carl Sagan here.
Photos from the book 1975: And the Changes to Come, by Arnold B. Barach; Harper, 1962
See more information about all things bacon in my next post.