The High Tech Hotel of 1921 Had an Alarm Clock In Every Room

Today, hotels offer high-tech amenities that just a generation ago would be astounding — RFID key cards, customizable ambiance at the push of a button, and coming soon, humanoid robot concierges. So what started the high-tech hotel craze? It can all be traced back to the 1920s, when Americans started to demand a… » 3/04/15 4:20pm Wednesday 4:20pm

Reagan's Star Wars Missile Program Had Its Own Video Game

Remember President Ronald Reagan's plan for space weapons in the 1980s? Today, it's little more than a punchline, but it used to be serious business. How serious? Video game serious. Yes, there really was an SDI video game, and thanks to the Internet Archive you can even play it. » 2/27/15 2:40pm 2/27/15 2:40pm

Director Billy Wilder: Don't Worry About Those Nerds In Silicon Valley

Billy Wilder directed some of the greatest films of midcentury, including Double Indemnity, Some Like it Hot, and my personal favorite Wilder film, The Apartment. But Wilder was pretty skeptical of emerging tech, as we can see from this 1986 acceptance speech at the American Film Institute. » 2/24/15 5:00pm 2/24/15 5:00pm

A History of Internet Spying, Part 2

How long have intelligence agencies been keeping tabs on the internet, and what role did these agencies play in creating the internet we use today? For the most part, these kinds of questions have been relegated to comments sections on random blogs and the occasional tweet from researchers. We're hoping to remedy… » 2/20/15 12:19pm 2/20/15 12:19pm

The Medical Miracle Headlines of the Future (from 1951)

On January 2, 1951, the Rex Morgan, M.D. comic strip featured a New Year's greeting insisting to readers that time is measured by progress instead of simply by years. And it's not a bad thought! But looking at the "headlines of the future" from 1951, one can't help but be a little bummed out. » 2/19/15 3:40pm 2/19/15 3:40pm

These Headphones From 1927 Look So Much Worse Than Earbuds

Throughout the 20th century, radio nerds were trying to figure out how to build the perfect headphones. Over-the-ear varieties could get hot and sweaty. In-ear varieties would fall out. And then there were these clamp-ons from 1927, which looked like the least comfortable of the bunch — despite what the manufacturers… » 2/17/15 12:00pm 2/17/15 12:00pm

The Computer Simulation That Almost Started World War III

Remember the 1983 movie WarGames? The film is about a computer "game" with the potential to start thermonuclear war. But strangely this scenario is more truth than fiction. Because in 1979 programmers at NORAD almost started World War III when they accidentally ran a computer simulation of a Soviet attack. » 2/16/15 6:25pm 2/16/15 6:25pm

Here's What Skype Was Like In 1947

Thanks to tech like Skype, the ability to both see and hear someone across thousands of miles is a mundane exercise for most of us here in the early 21st century. But back in 1947, signing a contract over videophone was like looking into the future. Even if that future turned out a bit different than we were expecting. » 2/13/15 6:20pm 2/13/15 6:20pm

A History of Internet Spying, Part I

In last year's documentary Citizenfour, Edward Snowden said, "I remember what the internet was like before it was being watched." Snowden is just 31 years old, so there's simply no way this is true. Intelligence agencies have been keeping tabs on the internet since before Snowden was even born. They were instrumental… » 2/13/15 12:57pm 2/13/15 12:57pm

This Enormous Car-Boat Probably Needed Oceans of Oil to Run

Life for Americans after World War II was supposed to be filled with open roads and open waters. The roads, more often than not, were for getting to work. And the water? That was pure leisure time. This "water-mobile" of 1947 was imagined to provide the best of both, with an enormous (and, one imagines, gas-guzzling)… » 2/09/15 3:40pm 2/09/15 3:40pm