A Photograph Of The Future, Taken 100 Years Ago

While filing photographs at the Library of Congress, Barbara Orbach Natanson was momentarily startled by a 1920 picture that looked as if Portland, Oregon was being attacked from above. "How frightening would it have been to be on the streets," she asked herself, "when these airplanes swooped overhead?" » 8/27/14 10:55am Wednesday 10:55am

Amazing 1960s Predictions About Satellites, Email, and the Internet

It's hard for many of us living here in the early 21st century to imagine a world without satellites. Well, in fairness, we don't really think about satellites at all. Much like electricity or tap water, we only remember how vital they are when they stop working. Our GPS devices, smartphones, and modern military… » 8/25/14 4:50pm Monday 4:50pm

1987 Predictions From Bill Gates: "Siri, Show Me Da Vinci Stuff"

In 1987, Bill Gates became the world's youngest self-made billionaire, making the Forbes 400 Richest People in America list with a net worth of $1.25 billion, up from a measly $900 million the year before. Gates was just 32 years old and Microsoft Windows was still very much in its infancy, the operating system having… » 8/25/14 4:13pm Monday 4:13pm

Stop Pretending There's a Line Dividing Politics and Tech

"Silicon Valley is a place where seemingly impossible problems are solved every day," Ezra Klein writes in a new post for The Verge. "...while Washington is a place where solvable problems prove impossible to do anything about." Klein presents a huge chasm dividing the worlds of technology and politics. This idea is… » 8/20/14 4:50pm 8/20/14 4:50pm

How an 80s Book for Kids Predicted Today's Spy Satellites and Cyberwars

Back when I was a kid in the 1980s and 90s I assumed that one day governments would be able to spy on anyone from space. Where did I get this idea? From the odd sci-fi movie or three. As well as books like Future War and Weapons by Neil Ardley from 1981. The unnerving part? They weren't wrong. » 8/19/14 6:30pm 8/19/14 6:30pm

The Show That Warned Us Enemy of the State Was a Documentary

"PFFFFTTTTTT! WE ALREADY KNEW THAT!" was a common response from some people when last summer's Snowden leaks revealed that the NSA was monitoring American communications. And in some ways, they were right. We already knew a lot thanks to PBS documentaries. So what PBS documentary will we point to when we learn that… » 8/18/14 6:10pm 8/18/14 6:10pm

This Is What American Police of the Future Were Supposed to Look Like

The 1981 kids' book Future War and Weapons by Neil Ardley is filled with the bleaker side of futurism. It's chock full of colorful illustrations of robot armies, war in space, and fallout shelters. But we also get a brief look at the police of tomorrow — police that, while certainly armed, don't look quite like the… » 8/14/14 2:40pm 8/14/14 2:40pm

The first audiobooks were invented for blind Americans in the 1930s

Long before they were used for music, long playing records (LPs) were used almost exclusively for audiobooks. These audiobooks were distributed to blind Americans in the 1930s and 40s. And in fact, it was effectively illegal for sighted persons to listen to LP audiobooks from 1934 until 1948, due to licensing… » 8/13/14 2:45pm 8/13/14 2:45pm

How One 1920s Feminist Imagined Our Futuristic High-Tech World

Josephine Daskam Bacon was an author known for her adventure serials that featured female protagonists. But in 1929, she took a break from her regular fiction writing and slipped on her futurist goggles for an article in Century magazine titled "In Nineteen Seventy-Nine." Bacon imagined just how much progress women… » 8/12/14 5:15pm 8/12/14 5:15pm

These Trippy 1970s TV Ads Warned That The Government Was Spying On You

In 1974, director Godfrey Reggio produced a series of public service announcements for the New Mexico Civil Liberties Union that were two parts "art house" and one part "makes u think." The ads are weird, for sure. But they're an interesting peek into the techno-reactionary fears of a country grappling with Watergate,… » 8/11/14 1:00pm 8/11/14 1:00pm

The Supersonic Nazi Rocket Concept Designed to Bomb Any City in 1 Hour

When WWII ended, American engineers examined a trove of Nazi concepts for rocket-powered weapons and airplanes. One of the most terrifying was Eugen Sänger's antipodal bomber, a manned supersonic plane designed to reach any city on Earth in one hour. Thank heavens it never worked. » 8/09/14 3:10pm 8/09/14 3:10pm

Back In 1909, They Were Already Trying To Define Science Fiction

There are so many competing definitions of "science fiction" that we could be here all day arguing about which one is correct. But back in 1909, a writer named Maurice Renard wrote an essay explaining the nature of the "scientific marvelous," a genre that he traced to H.G. Wells, and before him Edgar Allan Poe. » 8/07/14 7:06pm 8/07/14 7:06pm

Clickhole or Die: The Fight Over 'Sponsored Content' Is 150 Years Old

Sponsored content, native advertising, advertorials. Maybe better to call it what it is: media content, paid for by advertisers, produced to look like news. Whether you think it's ethical or not, we need to first acknowledge one important fact. The fight over this kind of advertising is about 150 years old. » 8/07/14 12:50pm 8/07/14 12:50pm

Boston's First Police Cars Were Steam-Powered

It's easy to forget that a century ago, gasoline-powered cars didn't completely dominate the automobile market. In 1900, roughly 40 percent of all cars sold in the U.S. were steam-powered. And in fact, when the Boston police bought one of the country's first cop cars in 1903 it was running on steam. » 8/06/14 3:00pm 8/06/14 3:00pm

The 1920s Tabloid Reporter Who Predicted TV Could Kill Newspapers

"What for example could be staler than to-morrow morning's newspaper account of a prize-fight or political convention one has already received over the radio?" wrote one commentator in 1928. Radio was overtaking print as the news medium of the day and some people insisted that newspapers were going to disappear… » 8/04/14 3:30pm 8/04/14 3:30pm

Watching Guardians Of The Galaxy Is Like Getting Back Part Of Your Soul

Guardians of the Galaxy isn't just one of the year's best movies. It's also a really interesting experiment with form — it blends hilarious comedy, utterly sincere classic-rock corniness, and massive hold-onto-yourself cosmic adventure. The result might make you look at classic adventures a new way. NO SPOILERS… » 8/01/14 1:16pm 8/01/14 1:16pm