Saturday, December 10, 2005

1954: "The home computer of the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons"

Another day, another milestone. Douglas Englebart got it all completely right in 1968. But 14 years earlier, Popular Mechanics got it completely wrong: this is their idea of the Home Computer of the future, published in the December 10th, 1954 issue. Still, it's funny to see how future PCs were viewed through the eyes of 1950s technology. Plus, you have to give them credit for predicting the fact that the computer would hit the home at all.

Unfortunately, it all turned out to be a hoax. The image was a cleverly manipulated version of a real photograph (shown here) that depicted a "full-scale mock-up of a typical nuclear-powered submarine's maneuvering room", part of a Smithsonian exhibit.

But let's face it, it's still a nice illustration of the fact that our predictions of the future are often highly inaccurate. A quote attributed to a 1949 edition of Popular Mechanics states that "Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons." And Ken Olson, of Digital Equipment Corp is famously quoted as postulating, "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."

1 comment:

Steve said...

What a great hoax. My father just told me that in 1954 popular mechanics also reviewed the possibility of cell phones. Well he was in high school at the time (spawning the beginning of the tech geek generation) and he decided to try and build a portable phone. He did. It weighed 25lbs, had 6 transistor tubes in it and actually had a range of about a mile, but he did it. Crazy huh?