The Jetsons, a space-age 1960s cartoon, envisioned life in 2062 as full of simplicities, where robot butlers catered to our whims and transportation by means of flying cars and rocket packs was commonplace. It all must have seemed pretty cute to citizens of the 60s, but let’s see how many of Hanna-Barbera’s tech predictions are no longer the dreams of cartoon fiction.
She cooked, she cleaned and she stepped in for parenting duties from time to time, all with charmingly robotic sass. One would have expected robot maids to have been cleaning up our filth long before the turn of the millennium, but it wasn’t until 2002 that American company iRobot unveiled the Roomba, a disk-shaped, sensor-based vacuum cleaner that freely roams your house sucking up dirt. Sure, it won’t talk back to you, but iRobot still has another 49 years to get Roomba up to Rosie levels.
While the concept of tanning beds was introduced in America by Friedrich Wolff in 1979, The Jetsons introduced its leisurely aspect over a decade before the real deal was introduced, offering pasty-white folks across the continent the full Miami Beach treatment. The wealthy elite of Orbit City could enjoy a tan session from the comfort of their own beds, choosing from such options as Honolulu, Riviera and Miami.
George Jetson was often being interrupted at home by his boss, Mr. Spacely, ringing him suddenly on a giant video-phone system called the Visaphone. How quaint. Perhaps the makers of Skype and Facetime longed for the day when their bosses could yell at them at will. Far ahead of 2062, video calling is now commonplace – and mobile, too. Taken one step further, services like Rogers One Number offer it free between registered users of the service. Text messaging and voice calling are tied into it as well. For more on Rogers One Number, click here.
The daily annoyance faced by George Jetson by his talking alarm clock (“It’s 7:30, Mr. Jetson,” it would say before sending George to a cold shower) would morph its way to reality in the form of voice recognition software and intelligent personal assistant software such as the iPhone’s Siri. Your iPhone won’t kick you out of bed and put you on a conveyor belt to the shower if you don’t get up, but who knows what the iPhone 6 might have in store.
It doesn’t end with The Jetsons
Other notable tech influences and predictions from the past:
The iPad and Star Trek: The Next Generation
Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry sought a sleek touch-screen design for the 1987 sequel to the 1960s series. The PADD (Personal Access Display Device) was a direct influence on Apple’s follow-up to the iPhone. Captain Picard may even have been reading Herman Melville on his device, predicting e-readers in the same stroke. Trekkers take note: iPad users can download the Star Trek PADD app from iTunes, which replicates the LCARS interface found on the Enterprise, as well as its ubiquitous sound effects.
Ebert the Prophet
In a 1987 interview with Omni magazine, film critic Roger Ebert, who died in April, successfully predicted the world of on-demand film and television: “We will have high-definition, wide-screen television sets and a push-button dialling system to order the movie you want at the time you want it. You’ll not go to a video store but instead order a movie on demand and then pay for it.” Yeah, it’s called Rogers Anyplace TV.