Throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s, that is exactly what commercial artist and futurist Arthur Radebaugh got to do. His illustrations were syndicated nationwide, and appeared alongside the comic strips of the Sunday newspapers every week.
Smithsonian magazine called him “one of the great forgotten techno-utopian artists of the mid-20th century.”
Some of his ideas were fantastically spot-on predictions (including the prevalence of microwave ovens and a “television recorder”), others seem clearly outdated, while a few are ideas we still might see one day — or early or limited versions of those might exist in some form.
Radebaugh knew that many of his futuristic ideas in the “Googie” space-age style seemed far-fetched, but that didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for humanity’s great creative potential. Most of all, America’s scientific advances since the start of World War II clearly gave him hope.
“Impossible, you say?” he wrote of one suggested anti-gravity invention. “So was atomic control twenty years ago.”
POOR MAN’S YACHT – CAR-BOAT
INVENTION: POP-OUT TV PROGRAMS
Tomorrow’s television will be three-dimensional! Hugo Gernsback, famed inventor, predicts that improved receivers will provide images that seem to be projected well in front of the picture tube, almost as if there were little flesh-and-blood people out there.
What’s more, the illusion of reality will be enhanced by the emission of real-life odors. In fact, a method for televising any smell such as roses, perfume, steaming coffee, etc. — has already been demonstrated by research workers.
The illustration shows one possible application of the “pop-out” technique. Ceiling television sets might provide continuous three-dimensional entertainment for hospital patients.
Needless to say, all such reception will be in full color, which — according to New York color designer Howard Ketcham — can provide “cheer and relaxation” that will benefit convalescents, just as the traditional drab gray might have the reverse effect of depressing the spirits.
A futuristic look at human healthcare: Doctors are looking ahead to the time when manmade substitutes will replace many sections of the human body; and in tomorrow’s world, hospitals may stock many synthetic human parts just as they have blood and bone banks today…
ONE-WORLD JOB MARKET
The internet definitely brought this one to life!
Traffic-choked downtown sections will be rejuvenated and transformed into airy, wide pedestrian malls when the designs of city planners are adopted in a none-too-distant future.
ALSO SEE: 50 old mall stores you probably haven’t seen for years (at least not looking like this)
SATELLITE SPACE STATION
THE JETSCALATOR – TRANSPORTATION DEVICE
MORE: The future: Electric driverless cars? (1956)
BLOODLESS SURGERY (with a proton beam)
CIRCLE AIRPORT RUNWAYS
CLOSER THAN WE THINK – WEATHER CONTROL
INTERCONTINENTAL ROCKET LINER
(This tech is certainly possible today, if not affordable for the vast majority of people.)
Tomorrow’s worldwide television will bring you bullfights from Spain, exploration from Africa, and vacation reports from Tahiti — and in giant size, wall-to-wall if you wish.
Picture-thin screens will be made of tiny “electroluminescent” crystals, a brand-new development in electronics. They will replace the phosphor screen and electron gun of today’s thick TV tube.
MORE: Jet Screamer’s ‘Eep Opp Ork Ah Ah’ on The Jetsons – video & lyrics (1962)
There’ll be no servant problem in your home of the future. Instead, employ a robot — to cook, set the table, clear it off, wash the dishes and put them away.
A firm of industrial designers, Sundberg Ferar Inc., has already projected an idea for such a “mechanical maid.”
A self-propelled serving cart would move linen, glasses, china and silver to the table. After dinner, it would wash them and store them away.
Meanwhile, Westinghouse is researching a device to take food automatically from storage and cook it on a preset schedule. All milady would have to do is preset her menu and table arrangements each morning.
FUTURISTIC: AUTOMATIC KITCHENS
Kitchens of tomorrow will practically run themselves. The housewife will simply press buttons in a console bank, and gadgets will do the rest. She may even be able to ride around on a swing boom, as depicted here, and inspect supplies and operations.
Kelvinator already has plans for an electronic range like the one shown.
Here, cooking is done by high-speed microwave in an oven whose mirror panel door becomes transparent when an inner light is switched on. Ultrasonics will wash the dishes.
Westinghouse, too, has an idea for automatic handling of meals from storage rack to oven. You will select the menu in advance, press the proper controls, and the food will move at the exact time from freezer or shelves to a precisely pre-heated range or oven.
And for the benefit of those with gourmet tastes, we are assured that aromas and flavors will be just as zesty as ever!
LIGHTHOUSE IN THE SKY
EVERY HOME A CLASSROOM
(Here’s another one that the internet has helped make possible!)
Classroom automation may foreshadow an end to schoolhouses. Lessons would be televised to students “going to school” at home. where their work would be done and transmitted to a control center for correction and grading.
Dr. Donald E. P. Smith of the University of Michigan believes teaching machines will appear in all classrooms before long. A typical one projects questions in one panel, then, after an answer is written in a second panel, the right solution appears in still a third.
Such machines are now intended for classrooms, but the application of similar principles to educational TV would make schoolhouses a thing of the past.
FUTURISTIC INVENTION: HEADPHONE TV WITH MENTAL RECEPTION
Today’s television receivers may one day be replaced by devices that will “tickle” the brain, breaking right through to man’s inner consciousness. At least that’s what electronics trailblazer Hugo Gernsback believes.
Brain tissue conducts electricity. What would be more logical then, asks Gernsback, than the development of a “super-ceptor” whose impulses would create images directly in the mind, like dreams, instead of lighting up a television screen?
And three UCLA scientists have suggested that with the introduction of such a receiver, everyone in the family would be able to tune in his individual program — with eyes open or closed — whichever he prefers!
GRAVITY IN REVERSE
Researchers in scientific laboratories are trying to develop devices to overcome the pull of gravity. Success in this field could revolutionize the world.
Look what it might do for the home. Factory-made houses equipped with antigravity machinery could be floated above the ground — to catch the breezes! Impossible, you say? So was atomic control twenty years ago.
MORE: Nikola Tesla’s revolutionary ideas included wireless electricity & free power for everyone
HOSPITALS IN THE SKY – FUTURISTIC HEALTHCARE
FUTURISTIC INVENTION: INSTANT COOKERS (imagined from 1961)
Look Ma — no kitchen! Be prepared for the day when cooking will be done right at the table, practically in an instant, using electronically-generated heat waves.
Microwave cooking is already being tested in big industrial cafeterias. A raw potato is baked in three minutes, and pre-cooked food warmed in less than fifteen seconds.
So, for the future, you’ll buy all kinds of pre-cooked foods at the grocery, maybe store them in compartments right inside the dining table, “bring them up for a look” when the family sits down, then select the menu on the spot and cook it in a trice.
The old saw about “slaving over a hot stove all day” will be as obsolete as the dodo bird.
ELECTRONIC HOME LIBRARY: READ THE CEILING
Some unusual inventions for home entertainment and education will be yours in the future, such as the “television recorder” that RCA’s David Sarnoff described recently.
With this device, when a worthwhile program comes over the air while you are away from home, or even while you’re watching it, you’ll be able to preserve both the picture and sound on tape for replaying at any time.
Westinghouse’s Gwilym Price expects such tapes to reproduce shows in three dimensions and color on screens as shallow as a picture.
Another push-button development will be projection of microfilm books on the ceiling or wall in large type. To increase their impact on students, an electronic voice may accompany the visual passages.
FUTURISTIC INVENTION: TRAVELING HOMES
A completely automatic solar-powered lawn mower is already in the advanced research stage. Moto-Mower engineers figure on controlling it with a roll of perforated tape, like a business machine computer, and powering it with stored-up sunrays.
When grass reaches cutting height, an electric eye will impel the mower to trundle out of its storage box, follow a precise cutting pattern, adjust to moisture and obstacles, dispose of grass clippings, return to storage, and finally, shut itself off.
The mower will be easily adjustable so that it can dispense fertilizer or plow snow.
IN THE FUTURE: A MOON HONEYMOON?
FUTURISTIC INVENTION: FOLLOW-THE-SUN HOUSE
Don’t be surprised if many of tomorrow’s homes are built on turntables. They would slowly pivot all day long to receive maximum benefit from health-giving sun rays and ensure heat in winter.
This warm and colorful year-round design is adapted from an Alcoa summer house, which has been studied and admired by architects. It would be built, together with a patio, over a service and garage area.
Ground and living level would connect through a glass-enclosed staircase. Two-way glare could bring the outside view to those on the inside, while protecting the latter from inquisitive passersby.
MORE: 20 stunning space-age retro futuristic home concepts from the 60s
“Every Home a Classroom” has more or less come to be reality in 2020.
ONE WORLD JOB MARKET – YES
REBUILDING PEOPLE – YES
REJUVENATED DOWNTOWNS – YES
SATELLITE SPACE STATION – YES
BLOODLESS SURGERY – YES LASER EYE SURGERY
DOWNTOWN HELIPORTS – YES
WALL TO WALL TELEVISION – YES
AUTOMATIC KITCHENS – YES KINDA
EVERY HOME A CLASSROOM – YES
HEADPHONE TV – JUST ABOUT ACCORDING TO MUSK
INSTANT MICROWAVE COOKERS – YES
ELECTRONIC HOME LIBRARY – YES
TRAVELING HOMES – YES
SOLAR POWERED LAWNMOWER – YES
TV BEAM BOUNCER – YES
FOLLOW THE SUN HOUSE – YES
It’s interesting how our past ideas of the future differ from reality. So many of these are mundane in 2022, even though we still haven’t mastered humanoid robots or space colonization. That would have disappointed people in the 1950s… yet they’d be blown away by smartphones and drones. One funny thing about futuristic depictions is that no one ever gets clothing styles right; everyone in the “future” is dressed as they would have been when the illustrations were created. When was the last time you saw a guy grilling while wearing a white dress shirt and bow tie? And why are most all the women wearing fancy dresses? Oh well — I guess it would have been too much for the futurists of 70 years ago to foresee jeans, t-shirts and yoga pants…