Twenty years ago, you would have been the coolest kid on the block for carrying a Nokia 3310. But time flies and technological innovation accelerates along with it. Today, we live in a world ruled by touch screens, face recognition, and machine learning, so imagine what the technology was like a century ago, or two.

In order to find out, we’re taking you on a historical roller coaster to see what ancient technologies defined the future a hundred years ago. From motorized roller-skate salesmen in 1961, aka the proud ancestors of today’s hoverboards, to giant mechanical tricycles from 1896 and orgone accumulators of the '50s, these are some of the most interesting retro-historical devices.

Some were truly incredible, others look kinda cool, and the rest… make you think "what on earth were they thinking?"

#1

300 Year Old Library Tool That Enabled A Researcher To Have Seven Books Open At Once, Yet Conveniently Nearby (Palafoxiana Library, Puebla)

300 Year Old Library Tool That Enabled A Researcher To Have Seven Books Open At Once, Yet Conveniently Nearby (Palafoxiana Library, Puebla)

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Stephanie Did It
Community Member
1 week ago

The original multi-tab browser interface!

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#2

350 Year Old Pocket Watch Carved From A Single Colombian Emerald

350 Year Old Pocket Watch Carved From A Single Colombian Emerald

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Stephanie Did It
Community Member
1 week ago

And I thought they exaggerated in Romancing the Stone

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#3

In 1955, This Tiny Electric Narrow Gauge Train Was Installed In New York’s Holland Tunnel To Monitor Traffic Speed

In 1955, This Tiny Electric Narrow Gauge Train Was Installed In New York’s Holland Tunnel To Monitor Traffic Speed

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Brett
Community Member
1 week ago

Slow down I the man in the toot toot command you to!

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Three decades ago, smartphones did not exist (the first phone of the "smart kind" was the Simon Personal Communicator, released in 1994,) while just over half a century ago (the first personal-use computer Altair was developed in 1974,) nobody had a computer in their home. Just let this sink in for a little. It feels like technology is accelerating at an immense pace.

According to Ray Kurzweil and his book “The Singularity Is Near,” technology’s quickening pace is not just a feeling, but actually real. It turns out, “the pace of technological progress—especially information technology—speeds up exponentially over time because there is a common force driving it forward.”

In other words, every generation of technology improves over the last as it achieves some kind of rate of progress.

#4

A British Couple Sleeps Inside A "Morrison Shelter” Used As Protection From Collapsing Homes During The WWII 'Blitz' Bombing Raids... March 1941

A British Couple Sleeps Inside A "Morrison Shelter” Used As Protection From Collapsing Homes During The WWII 'Blitz' Bombing Raids... March 1941

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Your Local Lizard
Community Member
1 week ago

I would wake up and hit my head

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#5

This Car Is A French 'Delahaye 175s Roadster', Introduced At The Paris Motor Show In 1949. Only One Was Ever Made. It Was Recently Sold At Auction For Around Five Million Dollars.

This Car Is A French 'Delahaye 175s Roadster', Introduced At The Paris Motor Show In 1949. Only One Was Ever Made. It Was Recently Sold At Auction For Around Five Million Dollars.

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Sori
Community Member
1 week ago

This is so sexy

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#6

Robo-Vac, A Self-Proppeled Vacuum Cleaner Part Of Whirlpool’s Miracle Kitchen Of The Future, A Display At The 1959 American National Exhibition In Moscow, 1959

Robo-Vac, A Self-Proppeled Vacuum Cleaner Part Of Whirlpool’s Miracle Kitchen Of The Future, A Display At The 1959 American National Exhibition In Moscow, 1959

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Brett
Community Member
1 week ago

My roomba’s great grand father

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When taking two separate innovations from different eras, from the birth of the first modern car in 1886 to the beginning of the self-driving car era in 2012, every step of progress speeds up from one version to the next.

The Singularity Hub explains that the more effective technology is, the more attention it receives, and the more efficient flow of new resources it has. “Increased R&D budgets, recruiting top talent, etc. are directed to further improving the technology.”

With that in mind, we can suspect that technological innovation will look very different in a couple of decades' time from now. It may not be the flying cars as we’ve seen in retro-futuristic movies, but it may well be an AI friend who talks to you like a real person. Oh, wait, we don’t need to wait that long, since that already exists.

#7

Philco Predicta Television From The Late 1950s

Philco Predicta Television From The Late 1950s

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Bardhi's Dad
Community Member
1 week ago

Nice design, though

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#8

The World's Oldest Surviving Diving Suit: The Old Gentleman, From 1860

The World's Oldest Surviving Diving Suit: The Old Gentleman, From 1860

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Brett
Community Member
1 week ago (edited)

No thank you this looks like it came out of a horror movie

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#9

Motorola Vice President John F. Mitchell Showing Off The Dynatac Portable Radio Telephone In New York City In 1973

Motorola Vice President John F. Mitchell Showing Off The Dynatac Portable Radio Telephone In New York City In 1973

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Aleksandra Elias
Community Member
1 week ago

And when it stops working, you can use it to put under an unsteady table or wardrobe

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#10

Kodak K-24 Camera, Used For Aerial Photography During Ww2 By The Americans

Kodak K-24 Camera, Used For Aerial Photography During Ww2 By The Americans

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Steve Barnett
Community Member
1 week ago

He's so tiny.

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#11

The Old "Telefontornet" Telephone Tower In Stockholm, Sweden, With Approximately 5,500 Telephone Lines C. 1890

The Old "Telefontornet" Telephone Tower In Stockholm, Sweden, With Approximately 5,500 Telephone Lines C. 1890

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Stephanie Did It
Community Member
1 week ago (edited)

Imagine what that sounded like on a windy day!

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#12

A Rail Zeppelin And A Steam Train Near The Railway Platform. Berlin, Germany, 1931

A Rail Zeppelin And A Steam Train Near The Railway Platform. Berlin, Germany, 1931

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Bardhi's Dad
Community Member
1 week ago

This looks pretty futuristic even for nowadays, though

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#13

Helen, An American Indian Telephone And Switchboard Operator, Montana, 1925

Helen, An American Indian Telephone And Switchboard Operator, Montana, 1925

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UncleTrash
Community Member
1 week ago

"First Nation" "Native" "Native American" "Indgenous" "Aboriginal" Come on man, anything but "Indian"....ffs

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#14

A Thin TV Screen (Only 4 Inches Thick) With An Automatic Timing Device To Record TV Programs For Later Viewing Is The Wave Of The Future As Shown At The Home Furnishings Market In Chicago, Illinois, On June 21, 1961

A Thin TV Screen (Only 4 Inches Thick) With An Automatic Timing Device To Record TV Programs For Later Viewing Is The Wave Of The Future As Shown At The Home Furnishings Market In Chicago, Illinois, On June 21, 1961

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Stephanie Did It
Community Member
1 week ago

They weren't wrong!

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#15

Soviet Peasants Listen To The Radio For The First Time, 1928

Soviet Peasants Listen To The Radio For The First Time, 1928

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Saint Thomas
Community Member
1 week ago

That's the original "What sorcery is this"-stare right here !

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#16

Motorized Roller-Skate Salesman In California, 1961

Motorized Roller-Skate Salesman In California, 1961

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Whovian
Community Member
1 week ago

Imagine skating normally when the fuel finished...... so slow

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#17

FBI's Fingerprint Files, 1944.

FBI's Fingerprint Files, 1944.

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Stephanie Did It
Community Member
1 week ago

How long did it take to find a match??

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#18

The Open Side View Of An Old Calculator

The Open Side View Of An Old Calculator

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Brett
Community Member
1 week ago

Oh I thought that was mark zuckerberg‘s face with out its fleshy mask

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#19

One-Wheel Motorcycle, Germany, 1925

One-Wheel Motorcycle, Germany, 1925

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Brett
Community Member
1 week ago

How do you get out without tipping over?

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#20

The Hindenburg Takes Shape, 1932

The Hindenburg Takes Shape, 1932

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Brett
Community Member
1 week ago

I would not trust those wheel ladders I’d be like nope I’m out

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#21

The First Public Demonstration Of A Computer Mouse, Graphical User Interface, Windowed Computing, Hypertext And Word Processing, 1968

The First Public Demonstration Of A Computer Mouse, Graphical User Interface, Windowed Computing, Hypertext And Word Processing, 1968

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Bardhi's Dad
Community Member
1 week ago

Looks very cool to me

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#22

TV Glasses Decades Before Google Glass, 1960s

TV Glasses Decades Before Google Glass, 1960s

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Brett
Community Member
1 week ago

og virtual reality

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#23

Orgone Accumulator, A Device Sold In The 1950s To Allow A Person Sitting Inside To Attract Orgone, A Massless 'Healing Energy'. The Fda Noted That One Purchaser, A College Professor, Knew It Was "Phony" But Found It "Helpful Because His Wife Sat Quietly In It For Four Hours Every Day."

Orgone Accumulator, A Device Sold In The 1950s To Allow A Person Sitting Inside To Attract Orgone, A Massless 'Healing Energy'. The Fda Noted That One Purchaser, A College Professor, Knew It Was "Phony" But Found It "Helpful Because His Wife Sat Quietly In It For Four Hours Every Day."

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Brett
Community Member
1 week ago

Four hours?! “Honey sit down in this box while I got to the bar here is some books to keep you entertained”

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#24

Jay Ohrberg's 'Double Wide' Limousine. Built By The Man Who Also Created The 'American Dream' Superlimo

Jay Ohrberg's 'Double Wide' Limousine. Built By The Man Who Also Created The 'American Dream' Superlimo

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Cip IESAN
Community Member
1 week ago

If it rains it becomes a "pool-on-wheels"! You can also put some sand inside, to keep the kids quiet.

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#25

Bikes For Your Feet

Bikes For Your Feet

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Brett
Community Member
1 week ago (edited)

How to be the coolest kid on the block Step one: get a pair of these bad boys Step two: there is no step two

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#26

A 5mb Hard Disk Drive Being Loaded Onto A Plane, In 1956

A 5mb Hard Disk Drive Being Loaded Onto A Plane, In 1956

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wandile dludlu
Community Member
1 week ago

I take a single picture that is more than 5mbs now

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#27

The 'Isolator' , By Hugo Gernsback: A Helmet For Insulating The Senses Against Distraction; From The Journal Science And Invention, Vol. 13, No. 3, July 1925

The 'Isolator' , By Hugo Gernsback: A Helmet For Insulating The Senses Against Distraction; From The Journal Science And Invention, Vol. 13, No. 3, July 1925

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Radar Doi
Community Member
1 week ago

looks like a good tool for open offices nowadays :))))

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#28

Using A Two-Horn Listening Device At Bolling Field In Washington, D.c., In 1921 Before The Invention Of Radar, To Listen For Distant Aircraft

Using A Two-Horn Listening Device At Bolling Field In Washington, D.c., In 1921 Before The Invention Of Radar, To Listen For Distant Aircraft

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Caffeinated Hedgehog
Community Member
1 week ago

And then his friend would prank him by farting in front of the device.

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#29

1911: Chester Mcduffee And His Ads Diving Suit, Aluminum Alloy Weighing 485 Lbs/200 Kg

1911: Chester Mcduffee And His Ads Diving Suit, Aluminum Alloy Weighing 485 Lbs/200 Kg

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Brett
Community Member
1 week ago

Steam punk before steam punk was cool

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#30

A Man With A Punt Gun, A Type Of Large Shotgun Used For Duck Hunting. It Could Kill Over 50 Birds At Once And Was Banned In The Late 1860s

A Man With A Punt Gun, A Type Of Large Shotgun Used For Duck Hunting. It Could Kill Over 50 Birds At Once And Was Banned In The Late 1860s

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plush n puppet shenanigans
Community Member
1 week ago

punt guns were so powerful that they had to be shot from a boat called a punt hence the name punt gun to absorb the recoil, they were usually 2 gauge in caliber and they were used for putting food on the table (though not necessarily your table as it was used to supply large amounts of birds to markets)

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Note: this post originally had 84 images. It’s been shortened to the top 30 images based on user votes.

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