1999 A.D. (1967)
Hi all, Nate here. So the other day a guy sent me a link to a video from 1967 about "the house of the FUTURE!", one of those promotional tricks from an electronics company (Philco-Ford, in this case) bragging about how their stuff will CHANGE THE WORLD GODDAMN IT! I wasn't expecting much, but it turned out to be the story of a dysfunctional family more than anything else and I thought I'd share it with you. Plus, I love to laugh at how dumb olde tyme folks were at predicting future advances in technology. Because, seriously, other than my iPad, Doritos Locos tacos from Taco Bell, and the ability to ignore my kids while I play War Thunder for nine hours at a time, everyday life in 2017 is not reeeeally that different than it was in 1967. Yeah, that's what I said, fight me.
Let's check this out via a pile of screen caps, shall we?
So Philo-Ford thinks that nuclear two-parent/one-earner families of 1999 will be just like in 1967. Firstly, all men of 1999 (well, the rich white ones) will work in high-power scientific fields, in by nine, out by five, three martini lunches included, play golf all day, vacation on the Mexican coast, and generally take their trophy wives for granted. Our lucky husband is named Doctor Michael Shore, PhD.
Likewise, fake-1999 is full of vacuous, empty-headed rich white women with Jackie Kennedy hair in skirts and pearls who camp out in their suburban homes all day, organizing brisket recipes and gazing wistfully out the windows awaiting their men to return. Wait, wait, Real Life 1999 just called and that is actually pretty accurate. My bad. Our wife's name is not important, of course.
So the "house of the FUTURE" is fully computerized, or at least more computerized in small technological increments from what was generally available in 1967. The "central house computer" is the size of Fenway's Green Monster and completely covered in randomly blinking lights and unmarked toggle switches. It works tirelessly to keep the husband's beer cold and the wife's cleaning schedule updated, as well as automatically ordering milk when it's out and giving history quizzes to children. So, basically Alexa plus a couple free apps on my phone?
Let's check out some more examples of this revolutionary technology...
Mike's hobbies include drinking to excess, shagging his secretary, and molecular botany. The last one is helped by the snazzy tilted Microsoft Surface worktable he has in his den, because he's an elitist snob. But still, that's pretty cool, I want one, even if it seems to be less of a touch screen and more a viewscreen controlled by a couple of oddly-placed buttons and turn-knobs.
Of course, we know what he really uses that video worktable for...
Mike also uses the various terminals around the house of the FUTURE to check up on his wife's spending habits. Because god forbid she buys anything for herself once and a while. Seriously, how many pairs of shoes does that woman need? Aren't my new golf clubs more important?
The wife uses the marvels of modern electronic wizardry to shop for boring clothes from Sears. See how she aimlessly sifts through endless visual pages of bland flannel checks and starched pastel button-downs, how rewarding for her, you know she went to college and everything, right? In the end she just goes with whatever the other housewives at the Yacht Club are wearing this season because being different and unique will only get you divorced.
She also uses the surely massive (maybe 20kb?) processing power of her house computer to plan out daily meals for her loving family, because of course she doesn't have any other hobbies or interests outside of doting on her shithead husband and their entitled hellspawn child. Oh, is that her name? Karen? Why not. And, Jesus Christ, Karen, don't you know that bullion base goes better with chicken salad than consomme? I can't even look at you right now.
Oh, that's nice, computer, as if Karen already didn't feel the soul-crushing pressure of maintaining her pre-pregnancy size 2 sorority girl figure, now you have to micromanage her every foodjoy? And 400 calories is like half a bag of McDonald's fries so just lay off her, ok? That bitch Mitzi down at the Yacht Club still looks like she did in junior high, I bet her house computer doesn't make her feel like a failure everytime she nibbles the corner off a cookie before barfing it up.
Of course, we know what Karen is really using those computers for...
Mike and the wife also have a bratty son named Jamie (I think). The douchewaffe-in-training kid seems to spend most of his time at home listlessly staring at a TV or a computer screen...ok, fair point, my kids do that now. Hey, so here he's watching some footage of the “Mars mission” (from althistory-1999) and it shows the classic Apollo Lunar Lander. Since this was made in 1967 that struck me as odd, but some googling shows me that the lander prototypes were built in 1966 and it was a big deal in the papers, so having footage of one two years before Armstrong's stroll isn't as weird as I first imagined. Also, those Landers alone cost $22 BILLION in adjusted dollars, no wonder America couldn't afford the Apollo program after a few moonshots.
The smarmy, entitled kid also does his homework on the house computer. One wonders if in 1999 there are even brick/mortar schools anymore, or do only rich kids get to homestudy. Anyway, what the fuck kind of question is that? “Which old white European guy invented the telescope?” is like asking who invented the wheel. The Arabs, the Chinese, you know, foreign types, might have something to say about this. And you don't “grind the telescope”, you grind the lens that goes into a telescope, that's just bad grammar.
Wow, if all his homework questions are of the simple yes/no, either/or, x/y variety then I hope his rich dad can get him into Stanford even if his grades suck. Way to stifle creative thinking, house of the FUTURE, maybe society in general would benefit from that kid learning how to answer essay questions and do math problems.
Of course, we know what the stupid kid is really using that computer for...
What else did I notice here? All the computers have simple keyboards and rows of push buttons and toggles, but not a single mouse? When was the mouse invented? Google says it was some old white guy in the late 1960s, but it didn't catch on until the 1980s. Was it Galileo? Can you imagine doing anything (anything!) computer related without a mouse or a trackpad? The FUTURE suuuucks.
Check out that couch and that metal frame chair, how bone-bendingly uncomfortable! I see this in sci-fi b-movies all the time, when in THE FUTURE will the human body lose the need for comfy pleather chairs and couches that don't look like meat processing slabs? For that matter, very little in this house looks at all comfortable or relaxing, more like a electronics store show-room with some fake plants and the price tags hidden.
The kitchen has a huge-ass microwave and an automatic plate dispenser set-up like in an chintzy Indian casino buffet, because who wants to physically touch their dishes? Is automation really such a big deal to the upper class that you can't just put your dishes and cups in the cabinets like the poors? And I really hate the design aesthetic of the appliances, the pre-fab bakalite industrial look is just not for me. And, anyway, where is Karen's Guatemalan maid Consuelo? Mitzi has two maids and a Mexican gardener, I'm sure Karen knows that.
Staying in the kitchen, that repurposed patio table looks rickety and those chairs look flimsy as hell. The dining room is supposed to be a warm, welcoming space where the family can come together and connect on a deeply personal level, not some spartan, utilitarian Star Trek prison yard where the husband silently chews his overcooked steak while his mousy wife burns a hole through him from across the table. And can a brother get some wallpaper up in here?
We see the kid playing chess with the house computer, a game which absolutely no one under the age of 75 can even recognize. Is this really the extent of the “home entertainment” of 1999? Where do I hook up my Xbox? Can I stream Netflix on that? How am I supposed to ignore my family for hours if I don't have access to reruns of Breaking Bad? Surely you're not suggesting that I go outside and play? What kind of dystopian nightmare is this?
We see every other part of the house, how come we never see the bedrooms? What sort of kinky BDSM sex torture dungeon has Mike set up in there? More likely, though, it's just boring hotel drapes and separate twin beds (yawn). Right? Mike, you have anything you need to tell us? Of course, we never see the garage either, you don't think they have flying hovercars in 1999, do they? They better not!
I feel ya, kid, living in the house of the FUTURE sure looks kinda boring. I think I'll keep my peeling linoleum floors and my WiFi hotspot, I don't have a problem rinsing off my plates before I put them in the dishwasher. I for one am glad this version of the “average consumer future” never came to pass.
Written in March 2017 by Nathan Decker.
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