Five views of the future from the past

By Adam L. Penenberg , written on January 30, 2014

From The News Desk

Nothing dates a movie, book, or article quite like predictions of the future. The original "Star Trek," for instance, just had to have been shot in the mid to late 1960s. It rode on the coattails of NASA's all out blitz to get to the moon and drew on the Cold War for cultural relevance. The Federation was the US, the Klingons were Russians, the Romulans Chinese. Hot food came out of a replicator, or as we call them: vending machines. They had communicators. We have smartphones. And let's not forget those 1960s haircuts.

Here are five videos all produced in the past that sought to predict the future, with varying levels of success -- and some are laugh-out loud funny.

1. The Monsanto House of the Future (1957)

Light comes through polarized plastic ceiling panels at any intensity. A dishwasher uses ultrasonic waves while also storing the dishes. Plastic dishes, of course. Instead of a refrigerator and freezer, there are cold zones -- for regular refrigeration, frozen, and irradiated foods. Central air.

"Is everything made of plastic?" the narrator asks. "Almost."

Vinyl plastic floors that "clean in a jiffy." Plastic dishes, plastic cups, plastic countertops, plastic walls, plastic floors, plastic ceiling, plastic tabletops, plastic shelves and plastic cabinets -- "plastics in all their colorful functional and beautiful versatility."

2. 1966 prediction of the home computer

The wife shops on her computer and the husband pays the bill from his. (Apparently predictions of the future didn't extend to gender role stereotypes.) Surveillance cameras let parents watch their kids anywhere in the house or on the property. There's online banking and the husband receives a printed paper copy of his budgets and recipes -- because the future has paper, you see.

3. Clothing of the future (from the 1930s or 40s)

A dress that can be adapted for morning, afternoon or evening. It's the sleeves, of course, which are interchangeable. One dress of the future consists of a transparent net. "The net to probably catch the male!" They may have been looking to the future but their attitudes toward women were definitely of their era.

4. Life in the year 2000 (from 1938)

Actually 2001. It's a British spoof, and pretty humorous. Life, say our hosts, will be much more pleasant than today. The railways will be given to private companies and run much more efficiently. Women will wear jewelry in their exposed midriffs. A "millennium tupperware bowl" will be an architectural wonder in London.

5. Apple's classroom of the future from the 1990s

It combines Apple software circa mid 1990s with an application that looks a lot like Facetime. There's drag and drop so you can move video anywhere on your screen and videoconferencing. Although the hardware looks dated, as does the software, Apple got a lot of it right -- except for the stylus on a touchscreen. Multitouch screens, the sort found on your run-of-the-mill iPhones and iPads, were beyond Apple engineers' wildest dreams less than 20 years ago.