“Meet Us In September” was the slogan for the ABC Network’s Fall 1969 lineup. These sizzle reels capture all of the programming news of the 1969 season. There’s so much to love about this campaign! The font choice and graphic work is fantastic, both in the overall face of the campaign and the show-specific stuff:
Not sure what to make of this Johnny Cash segment.
Here’s a compilation. The Bewitched promo is interesting, too – really assumes you already know what the whole show is about. Which, I guess, in a three-network world in 1969, is a pretty safe assumption.
Dynamix 1989 Video Catalog
This reel of upcoming games from the small-ish (bigger now that they were acquired by Sierra) game company Dynamix is earnest and sweet. A-10 Tank Killer was on a heavy rotation in my house. David Wolf: Secret Agent looks like something right out of Decker.
Pennywise – Microwave Cooking (1985)
There are few things more comfortingly charming than seeing these two British women in 1985 discussing the merits of the microwave. Using “units consumed” as an indicator of value, no less! Is this an alternate reality?
I’ll admit, I’m not entirely sure what I’m watching here – particularly in the first half without subtitles. When you imagine the Soviet side of the Space Race presented to children, though, I doubt you imagine something this beautiful, colorful, and hopeful. The second half presents an inspiring vision of our future in space. Imagine where we’d be if we’d worked together on this back then.
The Cure’s First TV Appearance
Robert! Put on your long hair!
Is there any time that a live performance of “A Forest” isn’t a contender for the best part of your day?
AT&T’s got a record of anticipating future trends and technologies that extends almost as far back as they do. They kind of have to; that’s their business. This 1993 video, Connections, takes the emerging technologies of the internet and mobile phones and imagines a future that combines the two. And, despite a few silly overreaches, pretty much nails it.
Connections starts off with a trans-continental phone call between a woman, her fiancee, and the owner of the rug store in which the couple met. This call auto-translates the three languages to suit each participant – a translation in the actual voice of the speaker.
The next scene features (what we will find out later is) the girl’s Dad, a land developer using a tablet PC to imagine changes to a building project and then receiving a voice call. Look familiar?
Cut to the family’s Son, playing a VR game online with his buddies, during which he receives a video message from mom reminding him not to turn off the VR system but instead to switch over to the homework module.
Mom and Dad pick Daughter up at the airport, who rushes to a public phone booth to call her finance. Of course it’s a video call, with a voice-activated sign-in that can instantly access the caller’s contacts.
Mom, a doctor, then engages in a remote consultation for a patient.
She then shops for wedding dresses with Daughter, over the internet. The online store uses models of Daughter to explore different customization options.
There are two plotlines threaded through this showcase: the Daughter’s wedding plans and the Dad’s development plans. The development plans are controversial as they would mean the loss of a community center. A concerned citizen appeals to Dad, showing him the appeals of the electronic classroom – a classroom filled with terminals that “connect to the Education Center in Washington” and provide virtual lessons customized to each student.
Speaking of, there’s a Siri/Alexa component that is apparently customizable. There’s a bit where Dad questions Mom’s use of a handsome digital personal assistant. Gulp!
Anyway, the education classroom visit forces Dad to grow a conscience and he confronts his boss in a futuristic office that belongs in an episode of 1995’s The Outer Limits reboot, in an episode that takes place on Coruscant. No future tech in this scene, just some old guys arguing.
The storylines wrap up predictably in a way that makes everybody happy. The boss finds a way to make the development they want to make and incorporate a Community Center as well. Daughter gets married and has a baby. The rug salesman is conferenced in to meet the baby. The end.
It really is remarkable how right this video gets the application of the technology. It’s one thing to say that mobile communication and the internet will merge and define our lifestyles, but there are still dozens of ways that could happen. Just about everything in this video exists now, 20-plus years later. Except, I hope, that we’re a little less cheesy than these guys. I don’t know. Maybe we should be. There’s a lot of hope in this video.
The Odyssey 2’s answer to Pac-Man was, well, Pac-Man.
This ripoff of Pac-Man was actually available a year for home entertainment a year before any Pac-Man ports were, so in a sense it was actually the first to that specific market. It was Pac-Man, though, and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone arguing otherwise with a straight face. That said, there were some interesting additions to the Pac-Man formula. On some levels the map would become invisible, forcing you to remember the layout. On others the box where the ghosts respawn would change location. Little things that, while not admissible in court as grounds for a unique product, do impact the gameplay experience significantly. Still, total ripoff.
The marketing was pretty good, though, and the box art is as on point as most video game box art was at the time.
Sure, Mac, Sure
This bizarre 1970s PSA dispels the myth that eating food makes it okay to drive drunk. I think it also serves a secondary function as a cautionary tale about drinking seventeen different types of alcohol and then getting in a car.
John Berkey 1975 Otis Ad
This ad for the Otis Elevator Company, illustrated by famed Sci-Fi and Space artist John Berkey, depicts an indoor vertical storage solution. Maybe that sounds a little dry, but this is the future for me.
Walter Cronkite takes us on a 1967 journey through the home of 2001.
Like most “blank-of-the-future” media from the ’50s and ’60s, lots of predictions hit the mark and others are way off. A house with a recirculated water supply, drawing power from its own fuel cells, and a central point of command for all environmental aspects can be found today, or will be soon. Inflatable living room furniture for guests, a 30-hour work week, and an electrostatic glass chamber in the entryway to remove dirt and other outside particles, however, seem to have been fallen by the wayside. That’s a good thing for inflatable furniture, but I would love to have that electrostatic glass chamber.
There’s also the standard oversight that we would still need big machines in the future to accomplish complicated tasks, like this room-width home control console or this multi-device office.
Videophones would be two different devices – one for video and the other for phone.
The kitchen of the future contains a large oven-slash-microwave-slash-conveyer-belt, which cooks the food and moves it into a serving area on its own. The kitchen dispenses the exact number of plastic plates needed, plates which are melted down and re-molded into new plates after using. That seems more efficient than, you know, washing them.
As for food service, things are just as automated in the outside world as they are in the house. This vision of future food is pretty bleak, indeed.
Of course we have robot slaves in the future, or as Cronkite puts them, “Robuts”. All housekeeping will be done by basic, clunky, ugly “robuts”, given special instructions like “don’t run over the baby”. Real example given.
There’s a lot to be inspired by here, for sure, but draped over it all is this “machines were made to serve man” vibe that, while true, still comes off in a way that makes every homeowner a little dictator of his or her own country. Also missing is the idea of a central “brain” – wouldn’t the home of the future control the housekeeping robots for you, without your instructions? Wouldn’t the home of the future cook order and cook your food for you, without your involvement? Maybe inserting my 2016 brain into this 1967 idea of 2001 life is a waste of time.
Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory Kit
General Mills ran a promotion in 1971 in which you could obtain your own Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory kit by sending away box tops. This looks pretty serious for a cereal toy, but of course in the ’70s and ’80s cereal toys were serious business.
Lincoln Assassination Eyewitness
This 1956 episode of “I’ve Got A Secret” features an eyewitness to the Lincoln assassination. This is a bridge between two eras that I never would have considered existed!
You probably want to smoke Winston cigarettes after watching that. Don’t do it!
Keebler’s Magic Middles
Love Keebler or hate them, you have to admit that they had a really stacked lineup in the 1980s. We were big on E.L. Fudge in my household growing up, but these Magic Middles were a hit too. Those elves were some busy, busy guys.
1940s Frigidaire Ad
I’ve got more envy for how well this fridge is stocked than for the fridge itself.
1. It’s a Totally Happening Life – We’re pretty big Beverly Hills, 90210 fans in the Timid Futures household. Really big fans. I watched the show religiously while it was in premieres, and we bust out the re-runs whenever we get a chance. We catch ourselves having long conversations between each other about characters and their motivations. Most characters; we don’t typically explore Andrea.
Every holiday season we make sure to watch all of the Christmas episodes; there are good ones (Season 7’s Secret Santa and Cindy’s marital strife stands out) and not so good ones (Season 4’s lame clip show and airplane’s-gonna-crash “drama”), but there’s one that’s a clear head and shoulders above the rest. I’m talking about“It’s a Totally Happening Life”.
By season 3, 90210 was pretty smug about its status as a tastemaker among teens. Each episode had the hottest music of the day, the fashions were (sometimes laughably) on point, and the show frequently took it upon itself to try and introduce new fashions like a radish boutineer for a school dance or his-and-hers diamond earrings as wedding gifts. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that they were confident enough to take on a classic movie, It’s a Wonderful Life for their 1992 Christmas episode.
The backbone of the episode features two angels in heaven, Clarence and Miriam. Fun Fact: The actor doing Clarence is Quaid’s work-buddy-turned-attempted-killer in Total Recall. Miriam gets Clarence’s attention because there’s a disaster about to happen to a bunch of rich kids in Beverly Hills and it needs celestial intervention.
Miriam introduces each member of the gang to Clarence, and the audience, as if we were meeting them for the first time. She goes over their current place in the series’ soap-ish story arc so that everyone’s up to speed: Brenda and Kelly are fighting over Dylan, Steve’s on suspension for breaking into school and trying to change his grades, Andrea’s boring and in love with Brandon, Brandon’s awful, and Donna is organizing a charity event for less-fortunate children. And David’s just recording it all on a video camera.
The camera angles in this episode are completely off the rails.
In the midst of their besmirchment of It’s a Wonderful Life, Brandon and Andrea also take on Twas the Night Before Christmas with a modern, hip, pointless version that begins with ” Twas the Day Before Midterms, all through the school/ the teachers were jammin’, the students were cool.”
The first half of the episode, outside of the angels’ commentaries of how cool and beautiful the gang is (seriously), consists of the soap-opera storylines being lit on fire: the love triangle heats up, Brandon breaks up with his girlfriend and kisses Andrea and that somehow goes poorly, and David’s got some hangup about not being a senior like the rest of them. It all results in the gang bailing on Donna for the charity thing she’s organizing. She’s screwed for about 5 minutes and then the gang is forced to go to the event anyway.
All of this leads up to the event that’s what gets the angels involved: there’s a drunk driver on a semi about to smash into the school bus and kill everyone on board. Just like It’s a Wonderful Life, right? Seriously, the only parallel here is that there are angels.
Clarence confidently reveals that he already diverted the drunk driver, but it turns out that he diverted the wrong guy and he only gets one use of that special power because of angel rules. The angels stress over this for a few seconds and then God Himself intervenes on the behalf of a bunch of rich kids in a school bus. Sorry, starving kids around the world, the BH gang needs God’s attention!
The gang safely arrives at the charity event and Steve’s there dressed as Santa to join them. There’s a little Christmas warmth and then we’re out. This whole thing is just a weird episode, just a really weird episode, and I can’t figure out the decision-making process that led to where this whole thing ended up. At the end of the day, though, it’s very Christmas-y so mission accomplished.
Oh, and Miriam got her wings.
Here’s the episode. While I have my gripes, I can’t turn away. That’s kind of the thing about this series, and why I love it. I have bigger gripes about the series, ones that will never be resolved. I wish John Sears had been an ongoing nemesis for Steve, like that he had bought a rival magazine company after college. I wish the New Evolution cult had continued to haunt Kelly for the rest of the series, trying to throw wrinkles in her life for walking out. I wish David had continued trying to make his music career take off. Oh, wait.
Here you go. Poor Donna.
*And if way-too-deep discussions about 90210 are as much your thing as they are mine, check out The Blaze wiith Lizzie and Kat podcast. I seriously can’t stop listening.
2. Visiona 1 – Here’s Italian designer Joe Colombo’s take on the living space of the future, presented as the Visiona 1 exposition sponsored by Bayer in 1969. Beautiful stuff.
And here’s some video of the exposition itself, where people can actually get in and fiddle with the space. It’s oddly comforting to me that the bathroom is still cluttered.
3. Japanese Twin Peaks Coffee Commercial – At some point this week I got impatient for the Twin Peaks revival on Showtime and started clicking around. I came across this 1993 Japanese coffee commercial. Amazing!
4. Peter Pain Spooks Christmas Spirit – Peter Pain was a Ben-Gay anti-mascot. Kind of like the Noid, but for Ben-Gay. That gives me just enough information to barely understand this comic.
5. Thine Own Wish Wish I Thee – Oddly worded, but beautiful.
1. Mars and Beyond – This episode of Disneyland, the ABC show that would eventually become The Wonderful World of Disney, Walt Disney Presents, and about a dozen other variations on that title, presents the history and future of speculation on the rest of the Solar System and man’s eventual place in it.
This episode is similar in structure to “Man in Space”, but really ups the ante in just about every way with its ambition. It opens with Walt and his robot pal named Garco:
No real reason is given for Garco’s presence, and he’s not featured in the rest of the special, but just look at him!. In typical Disney fashion we’re then taken through the history of man’s speculation of just what was out there in the cosmos, back when all we could do with space was to just look at it with the naked eye.
There’s a ton of gorgeous original animation in this special -it fills the majority of the first half hour and a good chunk of the second. We’re guided through our evolving view of the cosmos; the uncannily accurate, the charmingly inaccurate, and the downright embarrassing branches our views took. My favorites are the interpretations of Bernard De Fontenelle’s visions of what life was like on other planets. Here’s Venus:
About halfway through the special, it shifts gears to what we think might really be out there given our current knowledge of the world around us. It starts this section off with a slightly cruder animation of how the Solar System was formed, how Earth was formed, and eventually, how we were formed – beings capable of living within a wide range of temperatures given the right equipment.
We’re then told about the specific ways each planet would kill us. Saturn’s my favorite, because it looks like a beautiful way to go.
The special then turns to Mars specifically, emphasizing that Man could actually make a go of things there in contrast to the other planets. E.C. Slipher is brought in to give a little more color to the idea, which includes the suggestion that life may already exist on Mars…
…and we’re brought back into more animated speculation on how life might have evolved there.
The last third or so of the special drills down on our efforts to get to Mars. This thing aired in 1957, and seeing this sorted of plan formulated at that point in time both inspires and depresses me. Here’s the spacecraft suggested, an atomic powered saucer 500 feet in diameter and supporting a crew of 20 people.
The reactor is on the bottom of the stem, and the landing vessel is attached to it. On the opposite end of the stem from the vessel is the thruster. The special concludes with a view of the proposed mission, with several of these craft taking the trip to the red planet together.
This special is really well done and captures just about everything I love about Disney the futurist. Like most of his futurism, there’s not a lot of time spent on what wouldn’t work about these ideas or the incredible costs they’d rack up or the dozen other things that would prevent this and I’d make the argument that there doesn’t really need to be. Not here, at least – these specials were meant to inspire first and inform second. And they certainly do that.
Here it is. Enjoy!
2. St. Nicholas Magazine Covers – St. Nicholas was a children’s magazine from the late 19th and early 20th century, published by Scribners. Their covers are beautiful; here are some that caught my eye.
And here’s a promotional poster for the magazine that I also love.
3. Starriors – Here’s a commercial for Starriors, a robot toy from the ’80s that featured an old-school wind-up mechanic in a then-modern way. That’s a lot of dashes in one sentence!
4. Columbia House Games – Did you know Columbia House had a branch that extended their rip-off service to include computer games? Now you do! Here’s an ad from the early ’80s with the available titles and platforms.
Full disclosure: I could not get enough of that Cabbage Patch Kids game as a kid. As far as ColecoVision goes, that one was a system-seller.
5. Chee-tos Ad – And finally, an odd ad for Chee-tos. I wonder if they really got the Duke of Cheddar to say that. I do miss that old logo and those old bag designs. Why did we stop letting the customer see the chips inside of the bag?