January 2, 2010

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Back to the Future
January 2010
by Jill Keener

It has long been a human impulse to predict the future.  George Orwell predicted a cold, repressive society where your every move was watched by the governmental authorities.  While some might argue that he isn’t far off, the argument could also be made that he missed by a mile.

Jules Verne penned Paris in the Twentieth Century in 1863, about life a hundred years in the future.  It, too, predicted a dominating government which subsidized the arts, demanding that they be simple enough for the most uneducated to understand.  He also mentioned gasoline-powered automobiles, calculators, society’s strong dependence on electricity, high speed trains, and a “worldwide “telegraphic” communications network” that sounded very much like our beloved internet.

But back in the sixties, many of humankind saw themselves surviving into the next century.  What would the world be like then?  Well, we would certainly be on our way to visit Jupiter with the aid of cold-storage hibernation and a sophisticated computer running the spaceship.  And, of course, there was to be regular commercial travel to and from the moon.

The Jetsons, provided us a futuristic view of what household life would be; rocket cars, robots cleaning up behind us and jetting through the air on our own personal rocket packs.

I also searched the web for some of the predictions from the 60’s that came true. 

  • I searched Jean Dixon and other well-known psychics of that time and found only one prediction for the year 1967 – that three astronauts would die in a launch pad fire.  Sadly, the prediction did not take long to come true when Virgil Gus Grissom, Edward Higgins White II, and Roger Bruce Chaffee lost their lives on January 27, 1967 in the Apollo I mission craft.

  • The Answer Machine (1964):  This was a theorized tool for answering homework problems.  Using a typewriter keyboard, the user would ask the machine a question and an answer would quickly appear on the machine’s television screen display.  The machine would sing tunes or play movies of your choice.  It is unclear how the experts thought that one machine could provide answers to so many topics. Today’s internet comes about as close to this prediction as possible and has even surpassed this primitive prediction.

Perhaps more interesting are the predictions that DID NOT come true. 

  • On computers:  “But what is it good for?” – IBM executive Robert Lloyd, speaking in 1968 regarding the microprocessor, the heart of today’s computers.  Until this time, most computer use was confined to scientists and mathematicians.

  • On work and weather control:  In a radio commentary entitled 2000 AD, a forum for various media and science personalities was aired to discuss what life may be like in the year 2000.  The primary theme was that by the year 2000 we would be so automated that no one would have to work more than a day or two each week.  So much leisure time would mean we did not want our vacations ruined by nasty weather, and that we should develop a way to control the weather.  Taking the lightning from the clouds or the winds from the tornadoes were among the predictions, but they were careful to note that for political reasons, we might not want to take weather control too seriously.  Anyone who has had their entire vacation rained out knows that we haven’t come close to this prediction.

  • Transportation and the Magic Beam Highway:  This was a purported transportation advancement that the government was said to be researching.  The highway was to consist of strips in the pavement that would emit electrical impulses that told the car how to perfectly drive on autopilot.  The driver would then punch in his destination, kick back and read the paper while the car’s computer interacted with the road to drive there.  These “electrical impulses” would allow for super-high-tech functions such as acceleration, breaking and object detection in order to avoid accidents.  The technology was to be implemented by 1975. Today, the closest thing we have to the “magic beam” is cruise control and GPS, but reading the newspaper is totally out of the question.

Major events 1967

Our lifetime is filled with innovations, firsts, and major world events.  While by no means a comprehensive list, here are a few:

  • January 15, 1967 – First Super Bowl played.  Won by Green Bay Packers over the Kansas City Chiefs 35 to 10. 

  • South African surgeon, Christian Barnard performed the first heart transplant.  The patient lived 18 days.  Later that year, American surgeon, Rene Favalero performed the first bypass.

  • April 29, 1967 – One day after refusing induction into the Army for religions reasons, Mohammed Ali (the former Cassius Clay) was stripped of his boxing title.

  • June 27, 1967 – The World’s First ATM was installed in Enfield, London
  • August, 1967 – Israel annexes East Jerusalem
  • September 17, 1967 – Despite being asked not to, Jim Morrison defied the CBS censors and sang “girl we couldn’t get much higher” in his performance of “Light My Fire”.

  • October 21 to October 23 – 100,000 protest the Vietnam War with a peaceful rally at the Lincoln Memorial followed by a march to the Pentagon where they clashed with US Marshals protecting the facility. 

Firsts of 1967:

  • Song:  Kind of a Drag – The Buckinghams
  • Popular Movie:  Dirty Dozen
  • Academy Award Winner:  In the Heat of the Night
  • Most Popular TV Show:  The Andy Griffith Show
  • Books:  Non-fiction:  The Death of a President – Wm. Manchester
  • Books:  Fiction:  The Arrangement – Eli Kazan

Regardless of the success or failure of the predictions, 1967 was the year we began to look forward to our own predictions for our lives.  It’s been a pretty good ride!