An uncanny 1960s view of the future World Wide Web

An uncanny 1960s view of the future World Wide Web

Summary: E-commerce, 1967 style.


In the 1960s, the future had a Jetsons-type look and feel. Things haven't quite turned out so Jetsonian yet, of course -- as they say, "the future ain't what it used to be."

However, I recently came across this video at the Snopes site, showing what shopping (e-commerce!) would look like in the year 1999 -- as seen from the year 1967. The video, produced by Philco-Ford (didn't they make TVs?), shows the electronics that would be in a typical home by 1999 -- complete with home computers and video monitors that could be used for online shopping and financial transactions.These capabilities definitely became a reality by the year 1999, and even more so today.

The online transactions from online shopping are carried out electronically. (True to 1960s mores, the wife is relegated to homemaker status, while the husband handles the finances.)

"What the wife selects on her console will be paid for by the husband at his counterpart console. All bills and transactions will be carried out electronically. A central bank computer will debit the family's account the amount of purchases and credit the department store, informing the family's home computer at the same time. Father, at the touch of a button, receives an instantaneous printed copy of his budget, the amount of taxes that he owes, the payments left on the car, and so forth. All documents and household records are available on the video screen for immediate reference."

An electronic correspondence machine, or a "home post office," which "allows for instant written communication between individuals anywhere in the world," is obviously the precursor to email, but messages are actually penned in versus typed.

Webcams keep a watch on various parts of the home. Interestingly, the video monitors are flat-panel, versus the bulky cathode ray tubes of the time. There is a self-healing autonomic aspect to the systems, with circuits constantly monitored and rerouted when connections are down by remote sensors.

Only a few missed predictions stand out -- as noted above, women were still relegated to roles as homemakers. And the home computer equipment and monitors were large and clunky looking -- laptops and handheld devices were not foreseen. Online shopping products were displayed in analog video mode.

And, the end users in the video were not having their online experience ruined by spam, spyware and viruses. That stuff wasn't even a gleam in evildoers' eyes in 1967.

A few hits and misses -- but, hey the producers of this video weren't too far off.

Topics: E-Commerce, Banking, Hardware, Laptops

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  • Great find.

    Very insightful back then.
    The 'husband approves wife purchase' was funny - especially his disgusted gesture when he received the bill.
  • Or read James Schmitz

    His "ComWeb" isn't a major plot element, it's just taken for granted. However, it's acknowledged as perhaps the only science fiction anticipation of the Internet.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
    • Seaquest

      Sure, it was like 1992 and there were some aspects of the internet existing then, but it was still a view of the internet as a large, world-wide endeavor. I think they made some pretty good predictions regarding how it could evolve.

      Of course, we're still a long way from such a world-wide appreciation of the oceans XD
  • EDN's 25 year forcast

    It wasn't 1967, but EDN magazine in 1981 made 25 year predictions for the year 2006. They made several good hits and several missws. One of their hits concerning the WWW said, "All current knowledge will be available to anyone over the network". If anyone is interested I can look up some other hits and misses.
    • Re : EDN's 25 year forcast

      I am definitely interested. ? The future is not anymore what it seemed to be ?, Paul Val?ry said. Just remember how 1900 saw 2000 as a time where everybody would have their own plane and the dust would be cleaned by electrical brooms (when I hear the noise of most bagless vacuum cleaners, I regret for sure that it was not the case !)?
    • Please, yes

      It would be great to hear more. The view that "all current knowledge will be available to anyone over the network" was not even foreseen in the most sophisticated science fiction works.
      • EDN 25 year 1981 predictions

        As a living example of the prediction, you can see the full content of the EDN's 25th anniversary 1981 issue in

        The prediction is in "Computer users' needs" by David L Britt.

        Very interesting too "The programming entrepreneur" by Jack Hemenway
        • This is GREAT -- thanks for the pointer!

          Here's a prediction that was spot on -- except that Jeff Montgomery said the Postal Service may be the ISP!
          "By 2006, homes worldwide will be plugged into an international broadband network. In most countries, the network will be operated by the nationalized postal/telecommunications/telegraph agency. In the US, four major groups will vie for this charter: the US Postal Service, the telecommunicators (Bell plus independents), subscriber-TV network and widespread independent broadband networks (such as Western Union, Southern Pacific and MCI)."

          "Dozens of technically feasible and marketable broadband functions will come into common use over the next 25 years, including video shopping, alarm and metering systems, video libraries, electronic-mail systems, office work and EDP time-sharing access. To support such activity, we will need 100M-bps capacity in 100 million homes by 2006."
  • Science Fiction - 1946 - Short Story

    Murray Leinster (Will F. Jenkins) wrote a short science fiction story in 1946 named "A Logic Named Joe" that seems to describe (using a little imagination for something over 50 years old) the internet much as we know it today. It was first published in Astounding Science Fiction in March 1946 and was re-printed in "Isaac Asimov Presents The Best Science Fiction Firsts" Small home computers (Logics) backed by huge interconnected server farms (tanks). A fun read.
  • RE: An uncanny 1960s view of the future World Wide Web

    Isaac Asimov wrote in 1965 a text named "How I see the world in 1995", which was published in the French revue "Plan??te". He had *everything* right except the explosion of the personal computer in homes by that time.

    However, these times may be gone themselves soon if the tendency to have most software and all data "on the web" and keep at home a PC which is used just like a graphic terminal. Perhaps the future will say that the PC itself occured just because up to 1995 the telecommunications did not grox at the right rate; these times seem almost over now.
  • RE: An uncanny 1960s view of the future World Wide Web

    Wonderful! A great reminder how imagination-challenged we are, still implementing 60's ideas...

    Re. "Online shopping products were displayed in analog video mode." - there are commerce sites which show 3d views of products in "analog video mode" using flash (e.g. Thomann music equipment).