Back to the future: Gadget predictions of kids of 1977

blackoutOkay, I’m going to admit straight away to a bias as I was born in 1977. So, when I came across an archive piece from America’s Smithsonian Institution, I couldn’t resist the chance to delve into the past.

1977 was the year of the New York Blackout when widespread looting broke out as the city was plunged into darkness for 25 hours. It was the year Jimmy Carter was elected president and the year Apple II computers went on sale.

And, it just happens to be the year when the Herald-Star in Steubenville, Ohio – which has a claim to fame that Dean Martin was born there – published lots of letters of predictions for the year 2000 made by local adults and children.

Steubenville is a town with strong working-class roots so many showed a pessimism provoked by a struggling economy. Many touched upon their shaken faith after Watergate and post-Vietnam as well as expressing fears about the energy crisis of the time.

But they also revealed an optimism about the technology of the future.

Marty Bohen, 10, from Hardin School predicted we’d all be living in round buildings and being taught by robot teachers. “We will have a robot teacher, a robot maid, and all workers will be robots too.” Clearly he must have had Apple in mind when he added: “We will have a pocket computer that has everything you can name. We will even be able to push a button to get anything you want.”

dab-radioClassmate Tim Villies predicted that everyone would be walking instead of using their cars because of possible gas shortages. But, he was remarkably accurate when he added: “Or there might even be electric cars instead.”

Eleven-year-old John Vecchione predicted cars that float on air. He added: “I will have a good job designing modern houses with push-button controls for everything to make it easier on everyone.

“You could push a button and a bed would unfold from the wall. Everything would run on solar energy so you wouldn’t have to worry about fuel shortages. You wouldn’t have to go to school – it would be on TV and living would be much easier for everyone.”

And Tracy McCoy, 12, said: “I think it is going to be an all-new world. People are going to be able to live on the moon and on Mars. Man is going to have computers to do the work for him. It is going to be a computer-run world.”

Lora Ziarko said she hoped there wouldn’t be any more pollution while Mary Gallo said she hoped there would be no more violence in the world and Mike Metzger predicted business and industry in the US would be enjoying huge successes.

So, while some predictions were a little short of the mark, clearly the kids of 1977 Steubenville were a pretty insightful bunch. All of them will now be between 45 and 48. I wonder what they would say about the next 23 years.

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