The perils of technological prophecy

A picture of a home computer of 2004, as imagined 50 years ago by experts at RAND. Oooops!

UPDATE AND CORRECTION: Oooooops! Kevin Drum informs me the picture below was a spoof. My bad; the steering wheel should have tipped me off. Sorry!

Second update Another reader points me to a explanation: the item is a submission to a photo-spoofing context; it’s based on a submarine control room.

A third reader (out of a total of nineteen who have written in so far to set me straight) points out another anachronism; FORTRAN development didn’t start until 1954. Tim Lambert identifies the “teletype” as a 1970’s-vintage Decwriter.

Here’s the good news: Since we now know that any false assertion posted on this site will be immediately contradicted and retracted, any unretracted assertion can be taken to be 100% true.

A reader sends this image from Popular Mechanics of 1954.


Well, at least it runs FORTRAN. But does the teletype have a spam filter?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

One thought on “The perils of technological prophecy”

  1. Futures Past

    Mark Kleiman of the Reality Based Community posts a hilarious picture of what a home computer in 2004 will look like, according Popular Mechanics in 1954. No word on what the steering wheel does.

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