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Where’s My Jetpack?

It’s 2016 and, for some reason, just saying the year sounds odd to me. It’s like a date being quoted in an old Sci-Fi movie or novel. “In the year 2016, mankind…” fill in the blank – invented cold fusion reactors, developed basic warp drive, created artificial intelligence, pierced the space time continuum, etcetera. Well, it is 2016 and I have to ask the question, “Where’s my jet pack?” I mean, since we’ve made it this far, shouldn’t we be able to reap some of the benefits foretold in future past? So many of the predictions made in the past about the future have really been way off. Now that I think about it, that is not a totally bad thing since many of the predictions involved the destruction of the human race by atomic war or malevolent aliens invading the earth. So I guess I should really be thankful we’re not living like Mad Max instead of being bummed out for not getting the jet pack I dreamed of as a kid.

However, not all the retro-future visions were incorrect. In fact, some were almost prophetic. For example, we all now realize that the smart phone is changing the way we live and work but we are not the first to imagine its impact as seen in the following illustration.

Facetime 1930 style

The fascinating thing about this vision of the future from a German magazine in 1930 isn’t that they envisioned smart phones and Facetime, but that they totally got the culture right: two people sitting at a table and ignoring each other while they look into their phones. The devices are wireless and its nice that they made them ergonomic by giving them a handle. Uncanny.

That’s not the only vision that hit close to the mark. In 1986, AT&T Bell Laboratories produced a video about the “Network of the Future”. In it they discussed “Advanced Packet Technology” that would allow the creation of the “Integrated Services Digital Network”. The video is 16 minutes long and can be viewed today thanks to YouTube.



If you had the patience to watch the whole thing, which I admit is painfully hard to do, you would have heard predictions that were outlandish to them at the time it was made. However, today’s communications technology far exceeds their predictions. In fact, the Integrated Cloud Exchange is one manifestation of the vision and drive of the scientists who worked to create the “Network of the Future”. Hats off to them.

So, at the beginning of 2016, I wonder which is more sad – me not getting that jet pack I dreamed of as a kid or businesses that still use communication technology that was around when that video was made 30 years ago. You decide.