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Predictions you might be glad didn’t come true

Posted on January 14, 2021 | Comments

We all know what did happen in 2020. Any thoughts about what didn’t? To answer that question, I checked out the list Bob Larkin compiled of far-out 2020 predictions made during the last century that were for the most part a “no-show.”

For example, podiatrists might have something to say about how Richard Clement Lucas lectured in 1911 that the human foot would turn into one big toe. I think personal helicopters sound a lot more promising. However, just as Popular Mechanics was way off with its 1949 prediction that computers would weigh 1.5 tons by 2000 which were hand-held by then, its 1951 forecast that by now family cars would be replaced by choppers has parents with teenagers “itching to drive” breathing a sigh of relief that didn’t happen.  

Staying with the transportation theme, in 1959, Navy submarine U.S.S. Barbero used a rocket to send 3,000 letters addressed to political figures such as Dwight D. Eisenhower. For missile  aficionados, the nuclear warhead was replaced with mail containers and the missile was launched towards the Naval Auxiliary Air Station where the mail was then successfully delivered. Proclaiming the test a total success, Postmaster General, Arthur E. Summerfield predicted that mail could be delivered within hours to anywhere in the world. We may not have rocket mail, but we did get electronic mail known as email.   

For fans of 2001: A Space Odyssey, this far-out prediction is for you. According to the website, Inverse, Arthur C. Clarke, co-writer of the screenplay and inventor, science writer, and futurist, believed that the boring houses of the 1960’s would be replaced by moveable houses an owner could relocate just for a change of scenery. He predicted that entire communities could go south for the winter and return to original locations during the summer. Makes me think of the movie, Up which was such a creative premise but in reality wouldn’t really “fly.”

Are you curious about the future of our language? Ladies Home Journal was in 1900 when the magazine asked John Elfreth Watkins Jr., for his educated guesses about language by the 21st century. Strange they chose Watkins since he was the Smithsonian Institution’s curator of mechanical technology. Not a fan of extraneous letters, he predicted that C, X, and Q would be eliminated from the alphabet and that we’d communicate with condensed words. Half right, each year Merriam-Webster’s dictionary adds “shorthand” words such as guac and avo or the less obvious–TL; DR for “Too long, didn’t read.” Okay, time to wrap this up until next month.

Originally published in the Orange County Register, January 14, 2021

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