The alternative world of yesterday's future

The alternative world of yesterday's future

Summary: Video phones, domed cities, insectoid robots — back in the past, the future looked pretty exciting. Here's a look at the world we could be living in, if the tech had only worked out

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TOPICS: After Hours
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  • Video phone: 1956 advertisement for Hughes Products

    Now that we know that the future is mainly about picking out which type of rubberised cover we want for our iPhone 4, yesterday's dreams of futures past are looking somewhat naive. Remember when the future was about jet cars? Or space planes that didn't involve Richard Branson? Or making friends with the highly cultivated, six-legged denizens of Pluto?

    First of all, let's recall the video phone. Not the kind implemented in the iPhone 4, but the one where a technician came to your house and embedded a vacuum tube-powered black-and-white television set with attached 1950s-style TV camera into the wall of your office. This was meant to let you dial up your colleagues across town and marvel together at how cool it all was.

    Photo credit: Modernmechanix.com — A 1956 advertisement for Hughes Products

  • Teleportation: Star Trek

    We all know about teleportation from Star Trek: it's where a special ray disassembles you into your component protons, neutrons and electrons and then carefully reassembles you in some other location, thus completely doing away with the need for costly special effects, as well as — in theory — the need for things like video phones.

    In actual fact, the brains at a place called the Joint Quantum Institute at the University of Maryland have already taken a step towards real teleportation. So far they've only transferred a quantum state between two atoms one metre apart, and with an accuracy of only 90 percent. But hey, it's a start.

    Photo credit: Paramount Pictures/CBS

Topic: After Hours

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