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Looking back at futuristic predictions from the past

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Looking back at futuristic predictions from the past

Sometimes, science fiction becomes reality.

We live in a world filled with technology that would have been considered science fiction mere decades ago. It’s likely that every adult you know has a smartphone – the devices are taken for granted as commonplace now, but go back even 50 years and tell somebody that every person in the developed world would be carrying around the sum of all human knowledge in their pocket at all times and see how they react. We’re all looking toward the future of technology now, where developments like full AI and self-driving cars seem just past the horizon. But humans have been writing sci-fi and dreaming of future technology for centuries – and a lot of times, our dreams have become a reality.

It’s fascinating to go back and look at what our ancestors thought the future would look like. Sometimes, they were spot-on; others, not so much. Let’s take a look at some predictions from the past that turned out to be true:

Wireless Earbuds

Look around on any subway train, airplane, or crowded street in America, and you’re bound to see dozens of AirPods plugging into the ears of people around you. This was once a concept that only existed in sci-fi – according to ExpressVPN, Ray Bradbury’s 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451 featured “seashells,” which were essentially wireless earbuds. Keeping that much data flowing to and from a device such as a phone and the earbuds, as well as between the two buds themselves, seemed like an impossible task in the mid-20th century. Here in 2024, they are practically a commodity.

Video Chat

Pretty much ever since the telephone was invented in the late 19th century, people have been dreaming of a video version where you could not only hear the person you’re talking to but see them. Since even television wouldn’t become commonplace for another 50 to 60 years seemed like a far way off. But that didn’t stop people from thinking about how it would work and look. Here is a painting from the 1930s showing off the then-imaginary technology:

Looking back at futuristic predictions from the past

The style of the device is obviously informed by the telephones of the time, especially the separate earpieces and microphones. Kudos for recognizing headphones would be a thing, though – thankfully, we are now able to take FaceTime calls with wireless AirPods.

Virtual Reality

Strap on a headset and be transported somewhere else – who wouldn’t want virtual reality to exist? It’s an idea that has fascinated the video game industry for decades, but as evidenced by Facebook’s head-first dive into what they call the Metaverse. Apple’s new Apple Vision Pro, major technological players are now seeing computers strapped to your face as an area of productivity in addition to play. In 1989, NASA dreamed of a future where this would be the case:

Looking back at futuristic predictions from the past

Virtual reality has made giant strides in just the past decade or so – in addition to the Meta Quest and Apple Vision Pro, Sony’s PlayStation VR 2 has been a hit companion to the PlayStation 5.

It’s always fun to go back and see what people thought the future might look like. The retrofuturism of the 1950s and 1960s thought the world would be a lot more mechanical than it actually is – but to be fair, the complete saturation of impossibly tiny microprocessors and systems-on-a-chip that permeate our day-to-day lives would have been hard to imagine back then. What will we be living alongside in the next 75 years? Sound off below.

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