In 1989, General Electric unveiled a so-called “house of the future” in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The company’s primary aim was to showcase the versatility of plastics in domestic architecture, which had historically been monopolized by classic materials like wood and brick.
But the $10 million project wasn’t only about construction. The house, which ended up being about one-third plastic, also included prototypes for a whole host of newfangled technologies that designers thought would eventually enter the mainstream. And, as far as predictions for the future go, they didn’t do a bad job.
For the 16th episode of This Old House’s 11th season, host Steve Thomas took a break from following the reconstruction of a 19th-century barn in Concord, Massachusetts, to visit General Electric’s impressive edifice. Mark Tilley, General Electric’s manager of building and construction programs, walked Thomas through the house, highlighting all the shiny new toys and, of course, the revolutionary uses of plastic: a plastic roof designed to look like slate, a plastic wall designed to look like stucco, etc.
Not every piece of technology has caught on. Most bathrooms don’t, unfortunately, have a body dryer that has rendered your classic bath towel obsolete; and not many faucets have been known to turn on via foot pedal. You probably don’t store food in compartments cleverly concealed beneath kitchen floor panels, either. (Thomas, for his part, seemed skeptical about the secret floor bins, asking, “Now, would anybody actually use something like this?”)
But you’ll no doubt recognize certain innovations from your own modern life—like the flat-screen television in the living room; the touch-screen security system; and the voice-activated assistant that can play music, change the lighting, and obey other commands. As Nerdist points out, the voice itself even sounds a lot like Amazon’s Alexa.
You can watch a clip from the episode, which first aired on June 1, 1989, below.