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?"
300 Year Old Library Tool That Enabled A Researcher To Have Seven Books Open At Once, Yet Conveniently Nearby (Palafoxiana Library, Puebla)
350 Year Old Pocket Watch Carved From A Single Colombian Emerald
In 1955, This Tiny Electric Narrow Gauge Train Was Installed In New York’s Holland Tunnel To Monitor Traffic Speed
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.
A British Couple Sleeps Inside A "Morrison Shelter” Used As Protection From Collapsing Homes During The WWII 'Blitz' Bombing Raids... March 1941
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
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.
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.
The World's Oldest Surviving Diving Suit: The Old Gentleman, From 1860
Motorola Vice President John F. Mitchell Showing Off The Dynatac Portable Radio Telephone In New York City In 1973
Kodak K-24 Camera, Used For Aerial Photography During Ww2 By The Americans
The Old "Telefontornet" Telephone Tower In Stockholm, Sweden, With Approximately 5,500 Telephone Lines C. 1890
A Rail Zeppelin And A Steam Train Near The Railway Platform. Berlin, Germany, 1931
Helen, An American Indian Telephone And Switchboard Operator, Montana, 1925
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
Soviet Peasants Listen To The Radio For The First Time, 1928
The First Public Demonstration Of A Computer Mouse, Graphical User Interface, Windowed Computing, Hypertext And Word Processing, 1968
TV Glasses Decades Before Google Glass, 1960s
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."
Jay Ohrberg's 'Double Wide' Limousine. Built By The Man Who Also Created The 'American Dream' Superlimo
A 5mb Hard Disk Drive Being Loaded Onto A Plane, In 1956
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
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
1911: Chester Mcduffee And His Ads Diving Suit, Aluminum Alloy Weighing 485 Lbs/200 Kg
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
Note: this post originally had 84 images. It’s been shortened to the top 30 images based on user votes.