The Ancient Origins of Automation

The robots are coming for our jobs, artificial intelligence is ascendant, and invisible programs are taking over our lives. “Automation” is the word that comes up in each of those contexts and plenty more. It’s certainly one of the looming concepts of Our Times—a business imperative, an economic driver, a utopian…

These Were the Jobs of the Future, According to Experts in 1988

Making predictions is hard, we all know that. But there’s one field where prediction can be even more difficult than prognostication about the houses we’ll be living in and the cars we’ll drive—the kinds of jobs we’ll have. Experts are always trying to figure out where society is heading and trying to determine what…

Amazon Promised Drone Delivery in Five Years... Five Years Ago

On December 1, 2013, Americans watched a segment on 60 Minutes about Amazon’s plans to deliver packages by drone in just “four or five years.” Well, it’s officially been five years. And Amazon’s failure to make drone delivery a reality is a great reminder that PR promises from big tech companies are often not worth…

The Police of the Future Were Going to Soar Over Traffic to Save Lives

In the 1950s and 60s, Americans were fascinated by the idea of flying cars and jetpacks that would let people soar above the traffic. But it wasn’t just the average commuter who was supposed to benefit from these space-age technologies. Emergency responders like police and ambulances were going to take to the skies to…

The House of the Future in 1945 Included a Rotisserie and Built-In Waffle Maker

“What’s tomorrow going to be like?” the opening of this 1945 newsreel asked. For many Americans who were watching, the answer was “a better life than my parents had.” World War II was winding down, the postwar boom was just around the corner, and planners were promising incredible things ahead—incredible things like…

Warner Bros. and Turner Are Killing One of the Internet's Last Good Things

As AT&T rushes to pare down its business in an apparent attempt to not seem like a giant monopolistic media company sucking at the teat of the American public by relying on subsidies and overpriced data plans to stay afloat, some hard choices have to be made. The latest is devastating for anyone who likes old films. …

How Thomas Edison Used a Fake Electric Chair Execution Film to Fight the Electricity War

You’ve probably heard about Thomas Edison’s infamous 1903 film where he electrocuted an elephant. It’s just as horrifying as you’d imagine. But fewer people know that this wasn’t actually Edison’s first electrocution film. Two years earlier, in 1901, he produced a film re-enacting a famous execution. Perversely, it…

Rare 1932 Movie Poster for The Mummy Expected to Fetch Over $1 Million at Sotheby's Auction

The 1932 version of The Mummy starring Boris Karloff is one of the greatest horror movies ever made, right up there with the 1930s versions of Dracula and Frankenstein. And now an extremely rare movie poster for The Mummy could become the most expensive in the world after it goes up for auction starting today and…

Facebook's Portal Is the Jetsons Videophone That We Thought Humanity Skipped

Facebook announced its new Portal hardware today, a limited-purpose device that allows users to video chat on Facebook almost exclusively. And there’s something strangely retro about the concept: This is the standalone videophone device that George Jetson had in the 1960s and that AT&T imagined in the 1990s—the device…

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