Author unknown. Originally published here (1999)
“One of the pleasures of collecting cards, particularly the older issues, is that it enables the viewer to glimpse the world as it existed when the images were originally produced. Taking this a step further, it can also allow us to see how people in the Victorian era thought we would be getting along 100 years later. Whether you think in terms of Y2K, Year2000 or, plain and simply, just Next Year… it is true to say that society as a whole has never been more obsessed with how it will cope when the clock ticks round to 00:00 on January 1st. Will we survive or will our civilization fall as our computer infrastructure, on which we have become so reliant, crumbles around us?
The Victorians had no such reservations when it came to looking ahead to where they thought technology would have taken us by now. This is ably demonstrated by the EL-size series «Life in the Year 2000» produced (probably in 1899/1900) by Hildebrands (a leading German Chocolate Company of the time) which was recently unearthed in the deeper recesses of The Card Mine. The series was also issued by a number of US companies.
There are 12 different images in the set which, for the most-part, provides a quite accurate forecast of things to come as many of the ideas are now an integral part of daily life.
My thanks go to Dick Sheaff for providing scans of the final 2 cards.”
1. A Quick Stroll on the Water
The Victorian saw the development of Personal Buoyancy Balloons to enable us to walk on water. Such a device would certainly have untold applications so I am left wondering why it has never been developed and marketed. The method of using balloons is admittedly a trifle cumbersome and would have to be combined with a method of generating movement in the desired direction. Even so, such a device should not be beyond the inventive capacity of modern minds – with the aid of computers – if they are still working of course!
2. The Moving Pavement
This has certainly taken its place in the modern world. Just about every Airport has moving walkways these days although not, perhaps, with built-in seats – something for the designers to think about as departure terminals get ever larger and the trek to reach the planes get longer. You simply cannot fault the Victorians here so I would give them 10-out-of-10 for their foresight.
3. House-Moving by Train
Not just Moving House but moving the houses (and entire blocks) on Railway Tracks. Whilst the concept could well be appealing in some cases this would play havoc with streetmaps as we know them. It is hard enough finding «That Shop» you visited last year but imagine the problems of doing so if an entire Town Centre were to be moved around on a regular basis. It is a nice idea – but no thanks all the same.
4. Televised Outside Broadcasting
Another radical forecast (for the time) which is now very much a commonplace event. Technology has, in fact, outstripped the Victorian vision as their system used Telephone Handsets for obtaining the sound. Nevertheless, this was another success for the forward-thinking folk who produced this glimpse of life in the future.
5. Personal Flying Machines
Certainly machines of a similar nature have been around for quite a while but few if any have been developed into usable products. I would wager that very few people have been for a quick flight around the block after lunch. The image itself reveals the Victorian preoccupation with being able to fly like a bird. Whilst such a device would undoubtedly be good for the figure I have my doubts as to whether it would catch on.
6. The Weather-Control Machine
Our End-of-Millennium Report must read «Could do Better» when it comes to providing good weather to order. Perhaps the only way to achieve this would be for Sky Sports in conjunction with the respective Tennis and Cricket Organising Committees to sponsor a group of scientists to produce the first reliable Weather Machine. Image the effect, no more «Rain Stopped Play» – ever!
7. The Combined Ship & Railway Locomotive
This would be perhaps the most difficult marriage of technology to ever be achieved. By their very nature, Ships and Trains have their own inherent shapes which would appear to be mutually exclusive. Having said that, if it were to prove possible First Class passengers would certainly get a wonderful view when the «Shain» was travelling through the countryside and it would have the potential to avoid delays at the Ports.
8. Undersea Tourist Boats
Top marks again for the Victorians. There prediction for craft such as the one illustrated has certainly been fulfilled albeit mainly at Tourist Attractions. The scientific world has also developed this type of vehicle for underwater exploration and, judging from the Discovery Channel, it is only a matter of time before «Sea-Bed Rage» becomes a recognised phenomenon.
9. Roofed Cities
Perhaps this image reflected a lack of confidence in technology’s ability to tame the weather. The concept of buildings and complexes being constructed beneath a protective roof has indeed come to pass although whether this will ever be extended to an entire Town or City is highly debatable. Mind you, our own view of the future often includes such a City so this may be a development to watch for.
10. Personal Airships
As if to emphasize the Victorians desire to conquer the airways, this variation on a theme depicts families going out for a ride in the clouds.
This is surely a means of transport which could be developed in the future so, in many ways, the jury is still out.
11. Summer Holidays at the North Pole
A veritabable convoy of Airships taking eager holiday-makers to the ultimate Theme Park.
There would indeed be a novelty factor or element of Oneupmanship involved in such a holiday but I cannot really see such a concept catching on in a big way – a trifle chilly for sunbathing!
12. Police X-Ray Surveillance Machine
Surveillance techniques have certainly developed far beyond those invisaged 100 years ago. An X-ray machine capable of seeing through a solid wall may still be difficult to imagine – but you never know!!!
Overall, the visions contained in this series have proved to be quite accurate – I wonder if the same will be said for our predictions for the Year 2100.
You ready to make these victorian inventions a reality? Sign up for a Startup Weekend near you.