We read books, watch TV, and go to the movies, to escape from reality, at least temporarily. But what if the very shows, movies and stories we escape inside of for a few hours at a time were actually providing the groundwork for real-life innovations?
You don’t have to channel surf for too long to come across an old show that – at the time seemed futuristic – by today’s standards seems eerily recognizable. It’s as though our imaginations – when not restricted by reality – create what seem like outlandish and impossible realities. And then, when we see these crazy inventions in print or on screen, we start to think: huh, maybe this can happen.
Take, for example, HG Wells’ When the Sleeper Wakes, a serialized story from way back in 1899. In it, Wells describes a door that slides upwards into the ceiling. That imaginative piece of Wells’ story was the precursor for the automatic door, which was invented in 1954 by Dee Horton and Lee Hewitt.
Of course, Wells’ writing has been noted for its prophetic flair – his works predicted atomic weapons, lasers, and the Second World War.
In 1962, The Jetsons started its run on primetime, and with it a unique look at what life would be like in 2062. While we’re not quite yet at 2062, the cartoon did get some things right – and wrong.
We may not have Rosie the Robot at our beck and call, but robots are far more commonplace today. Even interacting with voice-automated devices, like Siri, is reminiscent of a conversation George Jetson might have had with Rosie.
Short workdays were the norm in The Jetsons – that’s certainly not the case today, although flexible work schedules make up for our long hours. But video chat is something The Jetsons did hit out of the park.
While we can argue whether Wells directly influenced the invention of automatic doors, or if The Jetsons helped pave the way for video conferencing, we can say, with certainty, that the Dick Tracy comic strip did, in fact, inspire the Apple Watch.
Ever since Apple CEO Tim Cook was a kid, he dreamed of creating a watch that mimicked the actions of Dick Tracy’s two-way wrist radio. That futuristic device was invented in 1946, by the comic strip’s creator, Chester Gould. But, to be fair, it was actually dreamt up by an accomplished inventor named Al Gross, whom Gould turned to for sage advice. Gross had developed the walkie-talkie years before and lived on to develop a number of gizmos, including a phone pager, the garage door opener, the cordless phone, and the cellphone. Unfortunately, his inventions were so far ahead of his time that many of his patents lapsed before the public was ready to embrace them.
Perhaps he should have focused his energy in bringing more of his inventions to light in comic strips and TV shows?
Where else can we see glimpses of futuristic ideas in books, film and TV?
Each of these inventions are so commonplace today that we wouldn’t even give them a second glance; but when they first made their appearance – in the entertainment world – audiences were left in awe.
That begs the question – what earth-shattering inventions are on the horizon for the human race? If history is any indicator, we need only stay tuned to our TVs and the silver screen to find out!