Friday, May 19, 2017

Thrifty Acres: Back To The Future With Reader's Digest

Hello! My love affair with vintage magazines continued with the another thrift store purchase of several(early 1950's-mid 1960's) Reader's Digest volumes. (The ads from the first purchase round were used in postcard crafting, as seen here.)

I love looking at the ads in these older issues and glancing at the stories to see what was on people's minds back then. But there was a special source of amusement in the February 1962 Reader's Digest:

This issue celebrated the 40th anniversary of the publication, so the above article did its best at predicting what life the in the US would be like in 2002. It made for interesting and entertaining reading!

Some of the forecasting was accurate, while other prognostications were way off. So here's a rundown on some of the hits and misses in the categories covered in the article:

The Nation:
Hits - it's true that "In 2002 the United States will certainly be more industrialized, more urbanized, than ever". And the projected population of California as being 35,000,000 is close to the 2015 figure of a little over 39,000,000.

Misses: Detroit's population has declined in recent decades; the article said it would have doubled by 2002. 

The "average worker" doesn't have a 28-hour week. 

Resources And Energy:
Misses - no, half of the US energy requirements aren't being met by atomic power, and thermonuclear fusion hasn't been harnessed either. 

Hits - increased speed for trains and planes was predicted, and this has come to pass, though not always as fast as what the magazine article mentioned. Electric cars were forecasted. 

Misses - some real doozies here - trucks are still on the road and not "museum pieces" (shipping via pipelines was suggested). And alas, we still don't have "rocket belts" for "short trips downtown". 

The City:
All misses here, as there are many suggestions for easing congestion, none of which have been implemented on a large scale. That is, unless I'm unaware of "people pods" that move suburbanites into cities via all-weather helicopters. And other than airports,I've not seen widespread use of moving sidewalks. 

Hits - many here: communication satellite for global television and telephone systems. Phone would have such features as voice recognition, remote control features, and other capabilities that are dead-on. The official quoted from American Telephone & Telegraph (when's the last time you saw AT & T written out like that?) was on the ball! 

Miss - foreign language translation systems aren't as advanced as what had been predicted. 

Hits - as predicted, organ transplants are much more successful now, and genetic research has advanced significantly as well.

Misses: alas, the expected cure for the common cold hasn't been found yet, and we don't have "a single injection, or pill, (that) will immunize us against all communicable ailments". 

Hits - it was predicted that man would reach the moon by 1970 and of course, we now know that this goal was reached a year earlier than that. But...

Misses - there's only one space station in action right now, not the multiple ones implied in the article. And there's not been manned missions to other planets. After all, even the following isn't true: "By 2002, trips to the moon will be commonplace." 

One BIG miss is something that would have fallen in the area of communication: the Internet. My husband is familiar with the history of computer science, and says that industry heads in that field neglected to forecast such widespread computer usage. So of course, it's not mentioned in this article either.

Still, "Forty Years From Now" was a fun read. Our daughter pointed out that Reader's Digest will be 100 years old in 2022, and she wondered what sort of issue the magazine will put out then in commemoration. Perhaps they'll have an article entitled "100 Years From Now"?

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