Americans in the 20th century were very preoccupied with what the 21st century might look like. Science fiction authors like Isaac Asimov wrote articles with predictions, The Jetsons imagined a flying-car future, and Walter Cronkite took a tour of a possible 2001 home.
In 1967, CBS aired The 21st Century: At Home, 2001 hosted by the broadcaster, who took viewers on a tour of a lavish dwelling that anticipated some of the technology we’re living with today. As the special was produced by the CBS News team, it offered a fairly pragmatic view of things. In other words, no moon bases.
The question of where people will live is addressed in the special’s opening minutes, with one prognosticator suggesting property taxes will grow too large to support the needs of individual homes and that residents will flee to “brick beehives”—in other words, apartments—as their living quarters. Others may retreat to “modules,” or pre-fabricated boxes nestled together and piled up with cranes that sound a bit like an IKEA neighborhood.
Once inside their new home, the 21st-century occupant could see visitors at their door with the help of a closed-circuit screen, a prescient idea that seems fulfilled by the Ring doorbell. Guests could then be ushered into the living room, where a wall-sized 3D television screen awaits. Furniture made of paper and inflatable plastic were thought to be on the horizon, though the latter only seemed to get as far as college dorm rooms. Large lighted wall panels could be adjusted in the vein of a dimmer switch.
Cronkite then gave viewers a glimpse of a 21st-century home office, which has dedicated screens for news, weather, stocks, and one for office obligations. A telephone connected to a video screen would allow callers to see one another.
What Cronkite called the “domestication” of the computer is perhaps the most accurate part of the show, with predictions that employees will be able to work from home thanks to telecommunications and children being educated on PCs.
In the kitchen, food may come in special edible packages. Domestic robots will perform menial tasks, though the machine depicted looks less like a Roomba and more like a mini-tank.
All in all, it’s not a bad assessment, even if we’re not sitting on inflatable sofas.
You can see the complete special above.
[h/t AV Club]