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Entries in television (29)

Monday
May122008

Jeopardy 1999 (1979)


This Saturday Night Live sketch from (1976?) is chock full of Walter Mondale, Fran Tarkenton, and a slew of other references sure to sail over the youngsters' heads. The sketch stars Steve Martin, Dan Aykroyd, Laraine Newman and Chevy Chase.

 

 

Many thanks to Zach Parr for bringing this piece of the paleo-future to our attention.

See also:
Television of Tomorrow (1974)
Home Entertainment of the Future (1981)

Friday
May092008

Television of Tomorrow (1974)


Bob MacKenzie wrote a relatively balanced and thoughtful piece about the future of television in the February 3, 1974 Oakland Tribune titled, "A 'Tomorrow' Look At World Of TV." Even articles about television were shaped by the energy fears of the 1970s.

"It now seems possible that we won't keep getting richer," MacKenzie writes. "The energy to run those room-size television screens and 3-D telecasts may have to be used for something more mundane.... like heating the joint or getting the old man to work and back."

Later in the article, MacKenzie explains what made movie theaters unique in an era before HBO and VHS tapes, "At present the movie theaters are offering patrons what they can't get on their home screens - bloody violence, nudity, sex, naughty words. But even those never-failing attractions will be available on television in the future...."

The piece in its entirety appears below.

Malcolm Muggeridge, the ancient, acidic book critic writing in Esquire, likes to refer to "future historians . . . if there are any."

 

We must now consider the case of future television watchers, if there are any.

What will they watch, and on what?

Every era rewrites the future; visionaries of the 1960s told us about all the fantastic electronic gear that would doubtless bring the world into the living rooms of future Americans - not only in sounds and pictures, but in odors too; specials about pollution would come complete with stink. The images would likely be three-dimensional and life size. Some of the more fervent prognosticators even looked forward to feelevision.

Video screens, it was said with what seemed optimism at the time, would cover entire walls in our homes. Channels would be unlimited; the viewer would be able to tune in on a Russian news program or a course in Latvian cooking at the touch of a button, or rather, a wave of the hand over a sensory node.

Banking and shopping would be done at home through two-way television communications. Voting would be done directly through the video system. Local town meetings would be conducted through television, with the participants all sitting home.

Three-dimensional television, technically feasible through ionization of alpha particles in the air that fills the living room, would bring life-size actors walking around in the room. Viewers would be able to enter into the drama, play roles, with computerized dialogue responding to the home player's improvised lines.

It all sounded wonderful. Or did it?

All those dreams of endless fun and self-improvement through the magic of super-television depended in part of the reigning ideology of the time which was: everything is always going to keep getting bigger and better.

Suddenly the doctrine of eternal abundance as a basic American right is seen as not so certain any more. We are running out of things. And the inevitability of progress can't be taken quite so readily for granted.

It now seems possible that we won't keep getting richer. The energy to run those room-size television screens and 3-D telecasts may have to be used for something more mundane.... like heating the joint or getting the old man to work and back.

The supersize television screens postulated a complete changeover in television technology; in other words, the scrapping of every piece of television equipment now in use - every home set, every camera and videotape machine. For, to increase the size of the screen considerably, we would have to increase the numbers of lines of transmission. That means new machines.

This could happen in 100 years. Almost anything could. But it probably won't happen for a long while, so finish paying off that color set.

Does the energy crunch and all its attendant melancholy side-effects mean that television technology isn't going anywhere?

Not at all. In the near future we'll be receiving new messages new waves on new equipment - not in life-size tri-dimensional smellovision, but in conventional television with improvements.

Like miniaturization, for instance. This branch of the electronic sciences has boomed in the past few decades. The tiny transistors which replaced the cumbersome vacuum tubes have themselves been replaced by even tinier, miraculously encoded bits of metal called MOS chips. One chip the size of a nailhead replaces hundreds of transistors. Not only are they littler, they're cheaper.

What does this mean for you and me? How about a perfectly flat television set that can be hung on the wall like a picture? Perfectly feasible in the near future. And the wrist television set, a la Dick Tracy, is now a practicable machine. Within a decade or so, you may be carrying a tiny walkie-talkie-like device in your shirt pocket. We may all be in instant audial and visual touch with one another.

Once the technology of miniature television receivers is worked out, they will be inexpensive to construct. And they will use less energy than present set, the pocket TV set will be as handy as a pocket calculator - and probably less expensive, since everyone will have one.

Every technological advance has its darker side, of course. If everyone is immediately reachable by two-way television, your boss will always be able to find you - not to mention your wife and your friendly local loan company.

Cassette TV is really on the way, too. A home library of cassettes will be a normal middle-class acquisition long before the Tribune Tower weathers its second centennial. But don't expect home cassettes to arrive immediately, or to be inexpensive when they do arrive. It will be a long time before cassettes reach the mass-distribution economics of the music recording industry. even when it does, a taped television program will cost at least twice what you will pay for an LP music tape.

Since, as mentioned before, it's just possible we won't all be richer then, how will the average family buy TV cassettes of the movies, instruction courses, plays, etc, that will be offered?

Probably by renting cassettes, or borrowing them from public libraries. Cassette TV, when it arrives, will bring the convenience of books and magazines: the viewer will watch a program of his choice, at a time of his choosing.

Full-scale home cassette television should arrive within 10 years, provided we do not develop air shortage in the meantime, and provided the Japanese continue to improve in what used to be called American knowhow.

What about television programs? How will they change?

100 years in the future is very far ahead to peer; if there are still television programs then, they will be about things of interest to a people who will be as unlike us as we are unlike the steerage passengers in the Mayflower. Perhaps their programs will be instructional "How to Eat Plastic," or "I Breathed in Los Angeles and Lived."

Who knows? We will leave these matters to future television columnists, if any. But we can look into the immediate future and make some educated guesses about programs in 10 and 20 years, based on the ways programs are changing now.

The most immediately obvious evolution in television is toward bigger and better movies for television. In a very few years, features produced for TV have moved from skimpily budgeted trash (Z-pictures, one critic called them) to a healthy form that often supplies good entertainment and occasionally brings memorable drama.

TV-movies still supply plenty of trash (perhaps trash is a needed commodity; the world has never been without it), and budgets are still small. But changes are coming, and very soon.

Small budgets and high aspirations have managed fine television movies like "Brian's Song"; but in the future producers may not be so confined in the money department. Ways are being found to produce full-scale motion pictures for television.

"The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman" might be considered the first of anew generation of television movies. Produced with scope and size, this fine picture was budgeted at $900,000 - still a low expense for a theatrical movie, but double or triple the cost of most TV-movies. A network contract for four showings, plus planned revenue for European theatrical bookings, will pay for the film and bring a profit.

Another venture, on NBC, is called International World Premiere. By this plan, new movies for television will be seen on NBC the same night they open in theaters in other countries - so the producers, with revenues from both TV and theaters, can hire major stars and deliver full-scale production.

Eventually, as other ways of financing television films are found, movies for television will become the equal of theatrical movies - in quality if not in sensationalism.

At present the movie theaters are offering patrons what they can't get on their home screens - bloody violence, nudity, sex, naughty words.

But even those never-failing attractions will be available on television in the future - if not in the regularly scheduled programs, then in cassette television. And, needless to say, Cassettes will bring the era of readily-available TV pornography. Whether that constitutes an advance for the civilized world the reader must decide for himself.

And as long as people persist in being human, television drama will concern the same subjects that drama has always treated: the timeless issues of love and faith and valor and ambition and loss, the yearnings of the heart and itchings of the glands.

People will always be interested in these things. And television, or whatever replaces it in the incalculable, unpredictable future, will still be staging the stories about the good guys versus the bad guys.

With any luck, the good guys will still be winning.


See also:
Home Entertainment of the Future (1981)
Living Room of the Future (1979)
Movie Trends of the 21st Century (1982)
How Experts Think We'll Live in 2000 A.D. (1950)
Movie Theater of the Future (1930)
Learning in 1999 A.D. (1967)
Tomorrow's TV-Phone (1956)
Closer Than We Think: Headphone TV (1960)

 

Friday
May022008

Alfred Hitchcock to the Year 2000 (1958)


The April 6, 1958 Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode Disappearing Trick ends with the master of suspense making a plea to the people of the year 2000. A clip of the program can be seen below.

 


 

Since this program is on film and will probably be shown for many years to come, I should like to address my next remarks to those of you who are watching this show in the year 2000. Please write in at once and tell us what life is like. I'm quite curious. Until next week, good night.


See also:
Anachronisms of the Future (1911)
Television: Medium of the Future (1949)
How Experts Think We'll Live in 2000 A.D. (1950)

 

Thursday
Feb282008

We'll All Be Happy Then (1911)


This image, from a 1911 issue of Life magazine, was drawn by Harry Grant Dart and features the farcical technologies of the future. To see pre-R.U.R. images of personal, robotic servants is extremely rare. Dart never ceases to amaze with his tremendous wit, vivid imagination and biting social/technological commentary.

The image can also be found in the book about the 1984 Robot Exhibit in New York.

See also:
Futuristic Air Travel (circa 1900)
Picturesque America (1909)
Much-Needed Rest (1903)
The Robot is a Terrible Creature (1922)
R.U.R. (1922)

Sunday
Feb242008

Movie Theater of the Future (1930)


The August 3, 1930 Syracuse Herald (Syracuse, NY) ran the above article about the movie theater of the future, complete with robot staff.

Titled, "Television Soon Will Flash Talkies Through the Ether; Theater of the Future Will Receive Its Films From Afar," the piece opens by explaining how a single man at a central control booth could beam movies, via television technology, to multiple theaters miles away. The accompanying illustration shows a man opening and activating theaters throughout New York state.

The caption below our robot hosts reads, "Vic Lambdin, Herald staff artist, sketches the Syracuse theater of the future, operated by robots and automations, and [receiving] its talkie programs by television from a distant master station."

The analysis of economic forces behind the move to "talkies" is fascinating. And the feeling that a move to television on the big screen is inevitable is also intriguing given the fact that most people had never even seen a television set in person at that point.

Much the same economic factors that forced the motion picture industry to climb on the talkie band wagon will compel the adoption of television, this may be later . . . but more likely it will be sooner.


See also:
Thinks We'll Do Our Reading On Screen (1923)
Movie Trends of the 21st Century (1982)
How Experts Think We'll Live in 2000 A.D. (1950)
"Just Imagine" Pictures Life and Love 50 Years From Today (1930)
Robots vs. Musicians (1931)

 

Thursday
Feb212008

House of the Future (1956)

Thursday
Feb072008

Home Entertainment of the Future (1981)


This image from the book Tomorrow's Home (World of Tomorrow) by Neil Ardley illustrates the home entertainment system of tomorrow.

This section's most interesting prediction may be that, "the magazines, books, records, tapes and television sets we now have will begin to disappear. But in their place the computer will offer us a greater range of entertainment."

The two page spread's text appears below in its entirety.

Look at this play of the future - a performance of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar by famous actors in your very own living room! Even more amazing, you play the title role yourself. The play has just reached the point where Caesar is killed.

 

All this could come about with developments in holographic video - a system that uses laser beams to produce images that have depth just as in real life. Once perfected, it will produce a show that takes place not on a screen but in real space - even around you. You could walk in and out of the action, and view it from any direction - the ultimate in realism. In this case, the computer that operates the system has been instructed to omit the role of Julius Caesar so as to allow you to take part. Although the images look so real, you could walk through them, so you suffer no harm from your killers' knives.

Such developments may lie far in the future, but there's no doubt that the computer is going to affect home entertainment soon. The magazines, books, records, tapes and television sets we now have will begin to disappear. But in their place the computer will offer us a greater range of entertainment.

The home computer will be linked to a radio dish on your roof. A satellite or radio mast feeds it with many television channels; on the viewscreen of the computer, you can sit and watch the news or sport in several other countries as well as your own. The radio dish or telephone wires also link your home to computer complexes that feed it with all kinds of recorded entertainment - films, television shows you have missed, video magazines and news. Music comes through the computer too, playing whatever you want and whenever with a quality far beyond today's records and tapes. If you want to read something on your own, a portable screen linked to the computer displays any story of your choice.


See also:
Movie Trends of the 21st Century (1982)
Living Room of the Future (1979)
Thinks We'll Do Our Reading on Screen (1923)
Learning in 1999 A.D. (1967)
Tomorrow's TV-Phone (1956)
Closer Than We Think: Headphone TV (1960)