Future Tense?

As we get closer to 2012, one thing should stand out about the significance of that year to all of us…


Uh, no.



What I am referring to is right under our noses. Yes, folks, we are in the FUTURE.


At least, the “future” according to one of my favorite childhood categories of books and magazines—those that examined what life would be like in the faraway future of the late 1990s and early 21st century.  These fantastic reads were always filled with beautiful illustrations of gleaming cities, space colonies, homes filled with all manner of life-enhancing gizmos, hover boards, flying cars, holodecks, rocket trips to the moon and all that Jetsons’ stuff.  Enough to keep a geeky kid like me entertained for months on end.  One book in particular that I loved was called Future Stuff, published in 1989.


The cover of Future Stuff told of 250 “useful, time-saving, delicious, fun, stimulating, and energy-saving products that will be available by the year 2000”, which back then was actually still the far off future. I’ve owned a copy of Future Stuff since I was in late elementary school, and for the last 20 years, I have kept track of all the things listed that came true from the book’s predictions. One by one I would take a yellow highlighter and mark off those inventions and technological advancements that actually managed to make it to the hands of consumers. Fantastic things like electronic still photography, memory card cameras, picture phones, CD-ROMs, electronic books (which they have listed as being mainstream by the year 1990!), computers that you can write on, and robotic lawn mowers.

The predictions also included a number of far-fetched inventions such as round refrigerators, microwave clothes dryers, holographic telephones, and solar powered briefcases! Unfortunately, the “future” isn’t quite there, but we do have more useful, and completely unforeseen, things such as YouTube, smartphones, and Netflix.

Books weren’t the only places where people tried to make a stab at what life would be like in our present. Videos were often put out by companies to showcase their concepts as a way to make sure the public knew that they were technologically savvy and boldly bringing the future to us.


For example, here are some amusing visions of the future from the U.K. in the 60s:

British Telecom’s Vision of the Future

Here are some of the famous AT&T “You Will” ads from the 90s, considered to be one of the most accurate portrayals into the future of consumer electronics ever done:

AT&T You Will Ads

Even companies like Apple showcased a peek into the future back in 1987. See if you can spot the first hints of some famous products from that company.  Note that “apps” are suspiciously absent:

Apple Future Vision 1987

Even today, long removed from the magical year 2000, we still try to see ahead. Microsoft recently made these, looking about 10 years into the future:

Microsoft 2019

Microsoft 2021

I couldn’t help but show this one from IBM around 2000 that gave a glimpse at the magic of RFID.  This bit of the future is being tested out here at the library just now:


Even though in hindsight many of those attempts were rather clumsy, you can actually see a bit of the our present day peeking out from behind cheesy matching fashions, bland future landscapes, a strange blueish-gray tint to everything, and way too much fake wood paneling on what are supposed to be 21st century electronics.

So here is to the future past 2012 and all of the good things that I’m sure we will see when the Mayan calendar rolls over.

Fingers crossed.


8 Responses to “Future Tense?”

  1. December 21, 2011 at 8:17 am #

    Great post will. I am still waiting for my teletransport you know like they had in Star Trek.

  2. December 21, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    Great post will. I am still waiting for my teletransport you know like they had in Star Trek.

  3. December 23, 2011 at 4:56 am #

     I love this! Now I wish we had this book!

  4. December 23, 2011 at 9:56 am #

     I love this! Now I wish we had this book!

  5. December 27, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    The future is cool.

  6. December 27, 2011 at 7:12 pm #

    The future is cool.

  7. January 11, 2012 at 8:29 am #

    ibm also predicted that Wolverine-type sideburns will become popular

  8. January 11, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

    ibm also predicted that Wolverine-type sideburns will become popular