So where’s my flying car?
In 1928, Popular Mechanics introduced the flying car in concept only. It wasn’t until 1957 that the magazine actually announced, “A new kind of flying machine is being designed (by Hiller Helicopter) that sounds like the answer to your desires for a personal aerial vehicle. It is almost like a flying carpet.”
The vehicle would boast air speeds up to 50 mph but would only cost as much as a “good car.”
Popular Mechanics got into the prediction business way back in 1902, when the publication was first launched. And although the editors might not have been able to glimpse the year 2014 with total accuracy, it didn’t stop them from making the attempt.
Over the years — as electricity replaced steam engines, brick buildings were overshadowed by glass, concrete and steel skyscrapers and the globe kept shrinking thanks to advances in transportation and telecommunications, Popular Mechanics continued to publish annual prognostications by scientists, inventors and other visionaries.
As to the precision of their prophesies, Popular Mechanics predictors didn’t make out much better than the assorted psychics who make their yearly forecasts on New Year’s Day.
Although we have yet to acquire flying cars, to give Popular Mechanics credit, our mail is presently sorted by robots (1921), rickets no longer cripples little kids (1925), cars emit fewer noxious fumes (1928), our clothes are made of milk (1929) and our buildings can revolve (1930).
Also, our food is cooked by microwaves (1937) and fortified with grass (1940), push buttons replaced dials on telephones (1942), full dinners are available in the freezer section of supermarkets (1947) and we currently hang our television sets on the wall (1954).
Yet, when the Popular Mechanics forecasters missed the mark, they missed it by a mile.
Chicago never became another Venice as imagined by planners in 1928. Air-conditioning buildings via rooftop lakes (1928), making clothing of asbestos (1929), radio-controlling farms (1939) and turning wristwatches into “total communication centers” (1968) — all flopped.
Furthermore, the world is still awaiting the highly accurate weather prediction machine that was touted to Popular Mechanics readers in 1950.
Those of us who visited the Monsanto House of the Future were thrilled at the sight of such labor-saving appliances as the microwave oven and the sonic dishwasher. We oohed and aahed at the thought of modular bathrooms, telephones featuring presets, pushbuttons, and hands-free transmitters as well as climate control centers that filtered, cooled, heated and scented the air in each room independently.
While all that futuristic stuff may have fascinated Disneyland crowds from 1957 to 1967, the Monsanto House faced the demolition ball after only 10 years. Considered passé even though the future it predicted, namely 1986, wouldn’t be reached for nearly two more decades, it was relegated to the ashcan of history.
In 1962, we started aspiring to live life like the Jetsons — an animated family residing in Orbit City some 100 years into the future at the time of the television show’s debut. All residences and businesses, rendered in Googie-style architecture, found themselves butting up against clouds as they pivoted on adjustable columns.
Any household task that couldn’t be accomplished by pushing a button was relegated to robot maids like Rosie. Audiences especially relished the notion that George Jetson’s space-age technology regularly broke down and inconvenienced his family in 2052, in much the same manner it did during the ’60s and ’70s.
But what I really want you to note is that George Jetson commuted to his two-day-a-week, one-hour-a-day job in a saucer-shaped, bubble-topped aerocar.
Terrafugia recently announced that the world’s first flying car will go on the market in 2015. Not only is no runway required for takeoff, but Terrafugia also claims that the Transition runs on premium unleaded gas.
The driver operates the two-seater with a steering wheel, gas and brake pedals while on the ground and where the vehicle can attain 149.3 mph. A pilot with a minimum of 20 hours (according to CNN) has the option of switching to stick and rudder while in the air where the cruising air speed is 107 miles per hour mph.
And in case you were concerned about space, the Transition’s wings fold up so that the flying car can be parked in your garage.
Prepare yourself for sticker shock, however, since the base purchase price for the Transition is $279,000. You can reserve your very own vehicle right now, however, with a measly $10,000 deposit.
Sign me up. In 2024, that is. I might be able to cough up the deposit by then. Happy New Year, dear readers.