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Entries in closer than we think (45)


Robot Railroading (1960)

The April 24, 1960 edition of Arthur Radebaugh's Closer Than We Think imagined a futuristic world of robot-driven trains. Looking at this image makes me think that someone could produce some pretty awesome steampunk art featuring James J. Hill and a Katrina Van Televox type robot, even though the "robots" described in this strip weren't of the humanoid variety.

Future trains will be fully automatic -- robots that can regulate their own speed and control their own movements to meet the most precise schedules.

The Union Switch and Signal Division is currently working on two kinds of electronic "brains" to make this possible. One type would be a trackside "decision maker," to regulate train speed, routing, starting and stopping. The other would be a "control servo," to signal that the robot train is obeying orders -- or isn't, and why. A central monitoring panel would oversee train movements for hundreds of square miles. The first such installation may be on the New York subway shuttle trains.

Next week: Lunar Power Pack

Thanks to Tom Z. for supplying the color version of this strip.

Previously on Paleo-Future:



Quick-Change Car Colors (1958)

Imagine a Hypercolor t-shirt. Now, instead of a t-shirt, imagine a car. And instead of a lame 90's fashion fad, imagine a lame 90's automotive fad.

The September 21, 1958 edition of Arthur Radebaugh's Closer Than We Think illustrated just such a possible fad. I mean... innovation.

 The automobile industry is studying a new kind of specially sensitive car body finish whose color can be changed at will. An electromagnetic gun would emit rays that would instantly "repaint" the car in any desired hue or combination -- perhaps to harmonize with milady's new fall outfit.

D. S. Harder, retired executive vice-president at Ford, recently described research in this direction. He added that this new kind of "photosensitive" surface would also be self-cleaning -- with the silent energy of static electricity or a supersonic vibrator driving off all dust and dirt.


Previously on Paleo-Future:



24-Hour Daylight (1960)

I'd put this retro-futuristic prediction in the "why the hell would you do that?" file.

The August 7, 1960 Chicago Tribune ran this panel of Arthur Radebaugh's Closer Than We Think, titled "24-Hour Daylight." It imagines a world in which miniature artificial suns illuminate cities of the future. To be fair, those people look like they couldn't be happier. Does sleep deprivation cause some sort of euphoric state?

Man-made balls of fire may be used to light up tomorrow's cities. American scientists are currently pondering an idea along those lines that was first described in technical papers by George Babat, a Russian.

Bendix researcher Donald Ritchie recently reported that balls of light -- actually miniature suns -- might be created by focusing huge transmitting devices so that the rays they generate would cross each other and produce electromagnetic fields. These luminous fields could be used to light up large areas underneath them. Rays would be pointed as necessary to determine exactly where the artificial "sunlight" would fall.

Next week: Missile Movers

Previously on Paleo-Future:



Highway to Russia (1959)

The March 3, 1959 edition of Arthur Radebaugh's Closer Than We Think depicts a highway to Russia, as imagined by Senator Warren G. Magnuson. According to Wikipedia, (the only source for anything that my generation might care about) this was not a new idea. Joseph Strauss, designer of the Golden Gate Bridge, proposed something similar for railroads in the 1890s.

Sen. Magnuson of Washington has a bold new idea for linking our newest state, Alaska, with Siberia via a bridge or vehicular tunnel across the 30- to 40-mile stretch of shallow waters of the Bering Strait. It would go from Wales, on the tip of Seward Peninsula, to Little Diomede and Big Diomede Islands, thence to Peyak, Siberia.

The Senator forecasts this hook-up within the lifetime of the present generation, to create a rail and highway route between points as distant as New York and Paris. "I am convinced," he says, "that the tourists who one day will drive this route will be our best ambassadors!"

Next week: Plastic Schoolhouses

Previously on Paleo-Future:



Hospitals in the Sky! (1958)

This "hospital in the sky," as imagined by Arthur Radebaugh in the May 11, 1958 edition of his comic Closer Than We Think, operates under the assumption that the "weightlessness, irradiation and low temperatures of outer space" would allow for more effective treatment of patients.

The American Rocket Society has reported to President Eisenhower that practical medical science could benefit importantly from the weightlessness, irradiation and low temperatures of outer space. So we may find that some of tomorrow's hospitals may actually be anchored in the heavens.

One of these hospitals might be shaped like a disc atop elevator tubes leading to the control section. The mushroom-like disc would contain weightless operating rooms for treating heart and other organic troubles as well as bone diseases. It would also serve as a nucleus for crystal balls which, orbiting slowly, would utilize concentrated sunrays to treat cancer, skin diseases and similar ailments. There would also be experimental areas for the study of low temperature therapy -- a challenging new field for medical investigation.

As always, thanks to Tom Z. for the full-color version of this Radebaugh panel.

Previously on Paleo-Future:



One-World Job Market (1959)

The November 29, 1959 edition of Arthur Radebaugh's Closer Than We Think features a job interview of the future. And what job interview of the (paleo)future would be complete without a man from Philadelphia and his entire family chatting via videophone with a potential employer in Buenos Aires?

Until recently, a man limited his job hunting to his home town. Now he sometimes searches the country. Tomorrow's job markets -- and opportunities -- will be world-wide.

Television will make it possible for an employer in Buenos Aires to interview a job seeker in Philadelphia. New Yorker Felix Cuervo has already pioneered in this direction, interviewing applicants for Civil Aeronautics Administration positions over a 2-way closed circuit. Said Cuervo: "Dress, bearing, manner and ability can be gauged over television about as accurately as in personal interviews."

Thanks again to Tom Z. for the color version of this Closer Than We Think panel.

Previously on Paleo-Future


Chrysler VP Predicts Solar-Powered Cars (1958)

The current crisis in the American auto industry has led to louder (though long-standing) charges that it did not do enough to produce fuel-efficient vehicles using cutting-edge automotive technologies. Given Chrysler's bankruptcy filing, and recent sale to Fiat, it seems appropriate that we look at what the auto industry was telling the American public about the future of cars 50 years ago.

This February 9, 1958 edition of the sunday strip Closer Than We Think by Arthur Radebaugh quotes James C. Zeder, a Chrysler vice-president. Mr. Zeder predicted that in the years ahead solar-powered cars would be feasible and that the expanding knowledge of nuclear and solar energy would bring more abundant power to people everywhere. The full text of the strip appears below. As always, thanks to Tom Z. for the color version of this panel.

Detroit, Feb. 7 -- The automobile industry may be producing cars driven by solar power in the years ahead, James C. Zeder, Chrysler vice-president, predicted today.

"We know how to get electrical energy from sunlight by means of silicon converters," said the Chrysler engineering expert. "If we continue to increase the efficiency of these converters, and if we are able to develop small, efficient energy storage cells solar powered cars will be feasible."

Zeder added that expanding knowledge of nuclear and solar energy is "bringing into sight" more abundant power for people everywhere.


Tomorrow the sunmobile may replace the automobile. The power of bottled sunshine will propel it. Your solar sedan will take energy from sunrays and store it in accumulators that work like a battery. This power will drive your car just like gasoline does today.

Previously on Paleo-Future: