Charlie Stross on Buckminster Fuller: “Why are your houses so heavy?”

Dymaxian House

The story of why we aren’t all living in Dymaxion houses today is a convoluted epic of business failure (for one thing, starting up a production line for houses using cutting-edge aerospace technology was something that had never been done before; for another, Bucky’s business sense was not, sadly, as good as his design sense) that has been recounted in numerous biographies. What interests me about it is that it’s a far more humane approach to the problem of providing housing for the masses than his Brutalist contemporaries, whose designs tended to be fixed, immovable, made cheaply out of low-end materials, and built with high density mass housing in mind rather than low impact customizability. It was also way ahead of the field in terms of awareness of environmental constraints; while we could design better today, we’d be making incremental tweaks, whereas Bucky came up with the original idea of modular, lightweight, mobile low-impact housing ab initio.

Charlie Stross: “Why are your houses so heavy?”

Thomas Edison’s Predictions for the Year 2011, from 1911

Thomas Edison

In 1911 the Miami Metropolis printed an article of predictions from Thomas Edison. Here’s an excerpt:

Already, Mr. Edison tells us, the steam engine is emitting its last gasps. A century hence it will be as remote as antiquity as the lumbering coach of Tudor days, which took a week to travel from Yorkshire to London. In the year 2011 such railway trains as survive will be driven at incredible speed by electricity (which will also be the motive force of all the world’s machinery), generated by “hydraulic” wheels.

But the traveler of the future, says a writer in Answers, will largely scorn such earth crawling. He will fly through the air, swifter than any swallow, at a speed of two hundred miles an hour, in colossal machines, which will enable him to breakfast in London, transact business in Paris and eat his luncheon in Cheapside.

The house of the next century will be furnished from basement to attic with steel, at a sixth of the present cost — of steel so light that it will be as easy to move a sideboard as it is today to lift a drawing room chair. The baby of the twenty-first century will be rocked in a steel cradle; his father will sit in a steel chair at a steel dining table, and his mother’s boudoir will be sumptuously equipped with steel furnishings, converted by cunning varnishes to the semblance of rosewood, or mahogany, or any other wood her ladyship fancies.

Books of the coming century will all be printed leaves of nickel, so light to hold that the reader can enjoy a small library in a single volume. A book two inches thick will contain forty thousand pages, the equivalent of a hundred volumes; six inches in aggregate thickness, it would suffice for all the contents of the Encyclopedia Britannica. And each volume would weigh less than a pound.

Paleofuture: Edison’s Predictions for the Year 2011 (1911)

Archigram archive

Archigram: Drive-in housing

Above: Drive in Housing, a “Highly elaborated ongoing speculative exploration of the possible use of cars as mobile and serviced component parts of an adaptable dwelling system composed of cars, drive-in buildings and services.”

A massive archive of Archigram materials:

Archigram Archival Project

(via Bruce Sterling)

See also:

Archigram’s heirs open_sailing (my interview with their coordinator coming soon!)

Hallucinatory Urban Architecture of the Future

Predictions for 2010 from 2000

# “Ninety percent of all consumer goods will be home-delivered.” — trend forecaster Faith Popcorn

# Biomonitoring devices that look like wristwatches will continually update you on your blood chemistry, while microchips implanted in your forearm will interact with the heating and lighting systems of the buildings you enter. — World Future Society

# Animal-to-human transplants will be routine, as scientists will learn how to prevent human immune systems from rejecting the animal organs. — Dr. Jim Raymond, associate dean at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine

# A “skycar” that can take off and land like a helicopter will hit the market — San Antonio Express-News

## “By the end of the decade, Americans will be fed up with substituting virtual life for real life. A backlash against facelessness will prompt a resurgence of person-to-person interactions.” — The Daily Herald

Chicago Tribune: Cracked, cloudy or clear? The crystal ball report

First “Laptop” Discovered in Flash Gordon Comics

flash gordon first laptop

Probably the earliest depiction of a communication device resembling a laptop has been discovered in an ancient Flash Gordon comics by Mende Petreski of Prilep, Macedonia.

Browsing through his comics collection, Mr. Petreski stumbled upon a panel in Politikin Zabavnik weekly published June 14, 1974, featuring the forces of Ming the Merciless using a device which looks a lot like a laptop to talk to their leader.

Science Fiction Observer: First “Laptop” Discovered in Flash Gordon Comics

(via Disinfo)

Apollo moon landing computer software emulation

apollo guidance computer

The Virtual Apollo Guidance Computer emulates the computer system used by the Apollo program‘s lunar missions. It is available for Windows, Linux, and OSX (and there’s a demo of it running on a Palm Centro but I didn’t see a place to download it).

Virtual AGC and AGS

(via Bram Pitoyo

Future Shock documentary narrated by Orson Welles

This is a little known documentary based on the book Future Shock by Alvin Toffler. This documentary came out in 1972 and features Orson Welles as the narrator. [...]

As far as I can tell, this documentary is in the public domain. I took the liberty of uploading my videotape transfer to YouTube. It is in 5 parts, and you can view them below.

Oddculture: Alvin Toffler, Orson Welles, and Future Shock

(via OVO)

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