Speed-dialing! Electronic exchanges! Call forwarding! Okay, it's no gold iPhone, but back in 1965 (when Apple CEO Timmy Cook was just four years old), this was the future of phones!
As someone whose job it is to study past visions of the future every single day, it's easy for me to pull out the flying cars and the hoverboards and shout, "Look what we don't have yet! This is what we were promised! Isn't it lovely and maddening and ridiculous! Why isn't it here yet!?!?!"
But sometimes it's healthy to be reminded that much of technological change (I'd easily argue all of technological change) is incremental. We can look at something like the space program and proclaim landing on the moon a revolutionary leap for mankind. And indeed it was! But you can't ignore the many many baby steps that got us there —the thousands of hard-working people and billions of dollars and hundreds of experiments that slowly pushed us into tomorrow. That goes for everything from space travel to the shiny new biometric scanners on your smartphone.
The March 6, 1965 edition of the Sunday comic strip "Our New Age" included a look at "future phones." Written by Athelstan Spilhaus and illustrated by Gene Fawcette, we can look back at these predictions as far less sexy than the videophone future that Bell Labs was cooking up at the time. But it was this version of the future we actually got. It was this version of the future that helped push us ever closer to the 21st century phones that we know today. And all thanks to incremental change!
Each panel for the March 6, 1965 edition of the strip appears below, neatly cut up in small, easy-to-digest bites.
Images: scanned from the March 6, 1965 edition of "Our New Age"