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 infrastructure all depend on satellites.
But before they ruled our world, experts were predicting how they might radically alter the way we communicate. And as with many predictions that we look at here at Paleofuture, they got a lot right, just not in the form that was initially imagined.
The February 17, 1962 issue of the Sunday comic strip Our New Age (in this case, run on a Saturday in the Chicago Daily News) envisioned the fantastic advancements that the introduction of satellites would allow. Everything from the decline of "old fashioned mail" to the rise of video-conferencing from home was predicted by Athelstan Spilhaus, dean of the University of Minnesota's Institute of Technology and author of the comic strip.
"Communication satellites will revolutionize life in the next few years by relaying more messages faster from anywhere — as cheaply as undersea cables," the comic strip proclaimed. And Spilhaus was absolutely right. Undersea cables are, of course, still a part of our modern communications infrastructure. But tossing a photo halfway around the world is a process that can now involve beaming data to the heavens.
The strip also promised that "old fashioned mail service" will only be for packages. Again, something that has indeed come to pass in many ways — and something that organizations like the United States Postal Service are struggling with.
As for children learning from home and only going to school for play? Not so much. The classroom hasn't disappeared quite yet, despite a century of promises about distance learning.