Envisaging the future

This week Microsoft released another one of its periodic glimpses of an imagined future in video format.

I actually struggle to see much difference between this year’s one and the last biggie, which is now six years old, which in itself is an interesting reflection on how we seemed to have entered a world of less change in tech as things settle down around the touchscreen as the predominant UI for our generation.

You see the thing is that these kind of pictures of the future are probably more a reflection of the reality of the time in which they are created than any real prediction of the past.

Take for example this one from 1969 from the GPO, the nationalised owner of telephony in the UK until the 1980s.

Video calling is predicted in a way that could be Skype, yet everything surrounding it – from the audio cassette in the telephony device presumably for recording calls, to the wonderfully convoluted way to take a screenshot is very much of the era. Paper is everywhere.

Or this clip from the 60s, the age of the TV, when everything in the future seems to have TV involved one way or another…

Or going back to the 1920s, where biplanes seem to be flying around just about everywhere.

Just in the same why that advertising often can provide a huge insight into the psyche of a particular time, so it seems can the way in which the future is portrayed. Looking at visions of the future with that knowledge I think actually makes them that much more fascinating.

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