What will life be like in the year 2000? That was the question that the magazine Popular Mechanics posed in 1950 and which Waldemar Kaempffert, the science editor of the New York Times, tried to answer.
The fact that the article was titled "Miracles You'll See in the Next Fifty Years" pretty much summed up the attitude of the day. We weren't just going to see advances or novelties; we were going to see miracles. It was going to be a world of planned suburban communities built in the shape of ever increasing concentric circles with a jet port at the hub, factories and offices next to that, and tracts of land for mass-
Everything would be electric, pollution free and, above all, orderly.
Agriculture would have long ago failed to keep pace with population, so a large fraction of daily fare would be synthetics, such as sugars and starches made from sawdust or wood pulp. Even recycled cloth would be turned into food.
Not that anyone would do much cooking. Frozen foods and microwave ovens would turn boiling, frying, and roasting into curiosities; the Food Channel would never come to be, and Jamie Oliver would be parking cars for a living.
There wouldn't be any dishwashing machines, however. They'd go the way of the horse-
Even table cloths and napkins would be made of paper woven to resemble the finest Irish linen in look and feel. Use it to today, have it recycled by the synthetic food people as next week's dinner. Gives the word leftovers a whole new spin.
Television, of course, would be everywhere and would have long ago been wedded to the telephone. Even shopping would be done by videophone with department store assistants giving personal attention to customers via television cameras. Less the Internet than a more aggravating version of the Home Shopping Network.
But shaving would be a thing of the past as men smeared depilatory cream on their beards. Mind you, since it worked in less than a minute, I suspect that it would not be the thing to use on skin more sensitive than that of, say, a particularly thick-
Housework in the year 2000 would be as effortless as turning on the tap, because everything in the house would be waterproof. Just hose down the sofa, the chairs, the rug, the Picasso (Damn! forgot about that!), and give the living room a going over with an industrial size blower.
I actually had something similar happen when the washing machine exploded on the upper storey of my old townhouse. As my wife and I sat in the hotel we'd been evacuated to afterwards I learned that living in the 21st century wasn't quite that convenient after all.