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Entries in cars (48)

Wednesday
Mar182009

City of the Future Postcards (circa 1910)

 

Leominster in the Future (postcard circa 1910)

At the turn of the 20th century, the postcard seemed to be a popular medium with which to imagine the future. While these depictions were often tongue-in-cheek they, like the Jetsons in the 1960s, held some kernel of truth about society's expectations for what was to come. We see in these two cards some things we might obviously expect like flying machines, subways, cars and monorail trains. The postcards however, also illustrate things that we take for granted today, such as a department of sewers building. Don't forget pneumatic tubes which, as well all know, made the postal service obsolete in 1924. I sure do love when my packages are delivered via Parcel Tube. How did we live without it?

These postcards from the early part of the 20th century were somewhat over-the-top in their depictions (see the floating park in the sky), but they reflected the optimism of the time, as inventions like the automobile and aeroplane ushered humanity into a fast, new mobile future.

Claremont, N.H. in the Future (postcard circa 1910)

Previously on Paleo-Future:

Monday
Dec152008

Everyman's Folding Auto (1939)


The November 26, 1939 San Antonio Light (San Antonio, TX) featured this prediction of the fold-up car of the future.

Even the young man of the scientific future may find trouble, one day on the road, with his sunpower automobile. He gets out, tips up the car with one hand and looks underneath. Finding what seems to be the trouble, he unscrews a few clamps, takes out the engine, and starts off jauntily to the repair shop, as though he were only carrying an alarm clock.

 

Strong muscles? Not at all, merely a lightweight engine.

Next day he comes back for the engineless car, folds it up like a collapsible baby carriage, loads it on the most convenient high speed bus or aero bus, takes it home and tucks it away in any handy closet until the engine has been repaired.

These are not Professor Harrison's predictions, but they are made possible by one of his, that of stronger metals.

What requires so much weight in automobile engines or bodies, in giant bridges, in the steel frames of buildings and a thousand other things is that much metal must he used to make the beams or castings strong. Weight Itself is useless. Need is only for strength.

"Great strides have been made recently," Professor Harrison writes, "in the physics of metals—the study of how atoms cling together to form crystals and these crystals hang together in metal rods and wires. All metals are permeated by microscopic cracks and flaws which greatly reduce their strength.

"If only Ihe crystals of which they are composed would hang to one another with the forces with which the individual atoms cling together! Then a cable of steel an inch thick would safely support four million pounds, instead of the mere 300,000 pounds which it now will held."

Such metals 13 times stronger than now can mean not only lighter engines and folding, fly-weight auto bodies, but also taller buildings, longer bridges, faster airplanes, larger ships--or deadlier machine guns and farther-ranging submarines.


Previously on Paleo-Future:
Dymaxion Car of the Future (1934)
Streamlined Cars of the Future
Zipper-Bag Airplane (1958)

 

Sunday
Oct262008

Report From the Year 2050 (1984)

My interest in futurism can probably be credited to two things: Disney's EPCOT Center and children's science books of the 1980s and 90s. One of my earliest posts here at the Paleo-Future blog covered the EPCOT Center book, The Future World of Transportation. I vividly recall checking out the three books in this series from my elementary school library, my sticky fingers pawing through the technological promises Baby Boomers never saw materialize but insisted we Millennials would soon enjoy. Just over that horizon, just a little further! The year 2000 is going to change everything! We swear! 

The number is just so big. And round! 2000! Look at all those zeros. 2000!
To the author's credit they figured out that to sound even remotely plausible and still make me wet my Underoos over the advanced technology featured in the book, one had to open with a year further out than 2000 A.D.

 

And thus the first chapter, titled, "Report From the Year 2050." Below are four renderings of technology we are certain to have by the year 2050 (if those lying, deceitful Baby Boomers are to be believed).

 

Thursday
Jul312008

The Family Plane of 2030 A.D. (1930)


The June 15, 1930 Fresno Bee (Fresno, CA) published a piece about the year 2030 as envisioned by F.E. Smith, 1st Earl of Birkenhead. Super-airplanes, synthetic food, eugenics and a 16-hour work week are just a few of his predictions. An excerpt about transportation from the piece appears below. Bibliodyssey has a great collection of illustrations by E. McKnight Kauffer, which were used in Smith's book, The World in 2030 A.D.

In speaking of the "family" plane, a development conceded by almost everyone, Birkenhead adds that it will mean the relegating of the automobile to a most minor place in the field of transportation.

 

"By 2030," he says, "motor cars will probably have passed their zenith of popularity. A century later they will only be used for shopping, picnics and the amusement of youth. They will, in fact, sink to the level now occupied by the bicycle."

We may look forward then, it is to be supposed, to having our grandchildren tour the more out-of-the-way parts of the world and marvel at the "quaint" people who still chug here and there in automobiles even as we now smile at Bermuda where bicycles and horse-drawn buggies are the only forms of transportation allowed.


See also:
Sky Toboggan (1935)
Cyclonic Rocket (circa 1930)

 

Friday
Jul042008

Streamlined Cars of the Future


I was quoted today in the Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, Australia) for a piece about the past and future of cars. An excerpt appears below.

In the first quarter of the 20th century, the developed world began an obsession with outer space. Comic-strip storyboards of domed futuristic cities and multilayered transport systems fired imaginations - and not just amongst children.

 

Our automotive pioneers were also looking forward, working to propel the newborn car - the horseless carriage - to meet a vision. And, shape-wise, it looked bubbly.

"The globule-shaped modes of transportation come from a 1930s obsession with streamlining," says Matt Novak, the founder of past-future commentary site www.paleofuture.com. "Creating streamlined modes of transportation gave the perception of efficiency and the perception that you were a part of the future was important."


See also:
What the future didn't bring
New Hampshire Public Radio (Jan, 2008)
Paleo-Future in the Wall Street Journal
Article for MungBeing
Sincerity and the Paleo-Future
Postmodern Paleo-Future

 

Tuesday
Jun172008

Bucky Fuller's Dymaxion Car on Display


From the June 15, 2008 New York Times:

Buckminster Fuller’s 1933 Dymaxion, a streamlined pod on three wheels, is one of the lovable oddballs in automotive history. Three were built, fawned over by the media and by celebrities, but the car pretty much disappeared after one crashed, killing the driver.

 

Other streamlined designs have followed the Dymaxion, including, from top, the 1936 Lincoln Zephyr, the Z.car and the Aptera.

Only one of the cars survives, and New Yorkers will get a chance to see it this summer in an exhibition opening June 26 at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York called “Buckminster Fuller: Starting With the Universe.” The car, a nonrunning shell, has been lent by the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nev.

“The Dymaxion was the zenith of the first wave of semi-scientific streamlining,” said Russell Flinchum, a design historian. It showed up in newsreels and magazines, along with teardrop designs drawn by Norman Bel Geddes, the futurist. It helped lead to public acceptance of streamlined cars like the 1936 Lincoln Zephyr.

The Dymaxion appealed to the era of the Depression, when people dreamed of radical new technological solutions to solve overwhelming problems.


See also:
Dymaxion Car of the Future (1934)
Buckminster Fuller Screenprints (1981)
Fuller's Traveling Cartridge (circa 1960s)
The Most Well-Documented Lives in History

 

Wednesday
Jun042008

Bubble-Top Car (1948)


Leo Rackow's 1948 illustration of a bubble-top car of the future appears above. Its sleek, uber-streamlined design can be found in the book Out of Time by Norman Brosterman.

You may observe that there doesn't appear to be cord coming from the driver's phone. Is Mr. Future just listening to the ocean inside that handset? Or do you suppose that he's so rude he can't be bothered to speak with his mistress, who's so clearly making breakfast for him in the backseat?

See also:
Gyroscopic Rocket Car (1945)
Commuter Helicopter (1947)
Dymaxion "Car of the Future" (1934)