24 Visions Of The Future That Never Came To Pass

Come on, 21st century. Where are the hover cars, space dogs and robot butlers we were promised? Photos via Retronaut.

1. Space travel would be so ubiquitous, we’d need space suits for our pets.

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2. Everyone would wear radio hats.

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3. In fact, we’d have radios in everything. Including our bikes.

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4. And our pipes.

“A radio tobacco pipe, which links the pleasure of smoking with listening to the radio.” Advertised at the Berlin Radio Exhibition, 1933.

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5. We’d all drive cars shaped like teardrops.

This streamlined vehicle was designed by Norman Bel Geddes in 1933. Despite its irresistible looks, the Teardrop Car never went in to production because, historians say, “it offered no performance improvement over the normal-bodied model”.

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6. That’s if we weren’t already zooming around in hover cars.

This vehicle really existed. It was called Glideair and was designed by Ford in 1961. They described it as “a wheel-less vehicle that rides on a thin film of air a fraction of an inch above the road.” It never got beyond the prototype stage, though, as it simply wasn’t efficient.

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7. And riding giant mechanical tricycles.

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8. In fact, the humble bike would be reinvented in endlessly creative ways. Monocycle, anyone?

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9. Why let a river stand in your way? Amphibious bicycles would surely be a thing.

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10. Goodbye ‘getting the bus’. Hello ‘lumbering to your destination in this needlessly complicated contraption’.

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11. Life would be a breeze, since we’d have steam-powered robots to do our bidding.

A cart-pulling automaton, built by Zadoc P. Dederick and Isaac GrassSteam, 1868.

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12. We’d even be able to socialise with them.

Here’s inventor Captain WH Richards taking tea with the steel robot he designed - photographed in Berlin, 1933.

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13. We’d have no need for phone books, because all the information would be stored on our watches.

This is from 1984. What they failed to predict was that a) wristwatches would be largely replaced in people’s lived by mobile phones, and b) telephone directories would be made almost obsolete by the internet.

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14. No point in expensive spa treatments, either. We’d all be wearing sauna trousers at home.

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15. Summer holidays would be a thing of the past, too. We’d tan via vending machines.

From 1949.

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16. Propellors on everything!

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17. Including trains!

This is the Bennie Railplane, which had a projected cruising speed of 120 miles per hour. In 1929-30 a test track about a quarter of a mile in length was built on the outskirts of Glasgow, but no investors were forthcoming.

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18. Cruise ships would be devastatingly badass.

Crossing the ocean in 2000, as imagined in 1930.

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19. Commuters would take to the skies.

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20. Work would be a breeze, since we’d all communicate by “radio newspaper”.

A 1939 invention. The idea was that a radio transmission would transfer the newspaper to the device in your home, which would then print it out on a nine-foot roll of paper, which could then be cut or folded. It didn’t catch on.

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21. Then the business man of the future would cruise home by hot air balloon.

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22. Stroll through the door of his perfectly spherical house.

This came from the brain of French architect Claude-Nicolas Ledoux towards the end of the 19th century. It’s interesting that he imagined the future as being rural, not urban.

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23. And relax in a spotless white living room with his weirdly anonymous, white-clad spouse.

A magazine ad from 1982.

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24. And at the weekend? Why, a spot of motorised surfing, of course.

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Visit Retronaut for more wonderful old photos like this.

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Luke Lewis is the executive editor of BuzzFeed UK and is based in London.
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