Today on Yesterday on Tomorrow

I love retrofuturism, so finding out about the blog Paleo-Future -- which offers "A Look Into the Future That Never Was" -- has had a truly threatening effect on my productivity today.

Paleo-Future is full of old newspaper and magazine articles, advertisements, artwork, and other past media predicting how life would be lived in the years to come. And, amid the piles of things that never came to be — the flying cars and moon outposts and robot servants — are some things that kinda, sorta have, such as “laser-holography,” whose development was predicted in a 1979 book called Future Cities: Homes and Living Into the 21st Century.

The specific technology for laser-holography, “which creates 3-D pictures apparently out of thin air,” according to Future Cities, might not be here quite yet, but see if the applications foreseen by the book’s authors, via the illustration and caption above, don’t ring a bell:

On the left the heads of a branch office have just come in to their boardroom, first thing in the morning. Across their table is their boss. He is in the head office of the company in the centre of a major city thousands of miles away. … 3-D cameras hanging from the ceilings of each room create the illusion of a complete room with the two sides present…. Electronic conferences like this would save enormous amounts of time, money and energy.

This sounds an awful lot like high-definition videoconferencing, which I wrote about for Convene a few issues ago (digital version here, registration required; text version here). Certainly the goals of laser-holography and, say, Tata Communications’ Telepresence program are similar. As John Landau, Tata’s senior vice president of global managed services, told me: “We telecom people used to talk about how the world is shrinking. Planes did a lot of that. This is shrinking the world that much more.”
Which is pretty cool, even without the flying cars.
Thanks to Very Short List for introducing me to Paleo-Future.

Christopher Durso

Christopher Durso formerly was executive editor of Convene.