Ahead of its time
A Tunnel Across the English Channel? (Sep, 1936)

A Tunnel Across the English Channel?

Among the great technical projects of the future, the construction of a tunnel under the English Channel figures as one of the most probable. In fact, it appears so easy that one may even ask why it has not been done. In answer to that question, this inside story will be of interest.

Five Noted Thinkers Explore the Future (Jul, 1976)

This is a particularly interesting to me because it was published in the month I was born.

In a lot of ways these people were exactly right about the problems of today, if not the will or ability of people to make the needed changes. Wealth inequality is getting worse, not better. There is a nascent back-to-the-cities movement, but suburbs, which are so environmentally wasteful, are still occupying ever larger swathes of the country. And people, or at least people in power still don’t care about reducing energy consumption.

We haven’t had the energy crunch they predicted yet, but climate change requires almost the same types of societal changes to combat and we just haven’t seen it.

Asimov nails the “global village” (internet) and instant communication with anyone at any time. Though for all my hyper-localized social media, I still don’t know the names of any of the people on my floor let alone the rest of my building.

I really liked Buckminster Fuller’s quote: “We have typewriters sleeping with the good plumbing and we have people sleeping in the slums.”. It does point out the glaring inefficiency if huge parts of our society. Say one thing about Foxconn, they don’t have this problem. It does seem wasteful to have all of this infrastructure that just sits idle at night.

Five Noted Thinkers Explore the Future

ARE the suburbs dead? Will there be an economic resurgence of our inner cities? Will larger and larger units of government take more and more control over land use? Is mankind in general entering an era of greater affluence, of new and different attitudes toward land ownership? Is the oil crisis a blessing in disguise?

Problems, Too, Have Problems (Oct, 1961)

This is a veryforward thinking article. It talks about a lot of things that are only getting widespread adoption now including image recognition, parallel processing and mainly general purpose problem solvers like Siri, Wolfram Alpha and Google’s new (and very impressive) Voice Search. I think that what the authors, nor really anyone else at the time, didn’t anticipate just how much more complex and miniaturized computers would become and just how much processing power and data storage would be necessary to perform these tasks.

Problems, Too, Have Problems

by John Pfeiffer

A dialogue, perhaps to become one of the most fruitful in history, has begun between the men who study the human brain and those who design computers. Point of agreement: the brains and the computers need each other desperately.

Ever since man started making tools to tinker with nature one to two million years ago, he has been getting into—and, so far, out of—more and more elaborate kinds of trouble.


With infra-red digital video cameras, computer processing and projectors this tech works amazingly well. Check out this video of the Vein Viewer (Warning: the link goes to a video that shows a person getting an injection and there is a small amount of blood. I know this freaks some people out.)


Varicose veins and other conditions that interfere with the circulation can be detected with comparative ease by a method of photographic diagnosis recently demonstrated at Rochester, New York. Human skin, it was discovered, is nearly transparent to infra-red rays. By using film that was sensitive to this invisible light, photographs were taken in which veins lying just below the surface of the skin stood out clearly. Any derangement was readily apparent in the photographs.

Self-Answering Telephone Thinks and Talks (Mar, 1950)

At a current value of $362 I’m pretty sure you could just get a human answering service for considerably less money.

Self-Answering Telephone Thinks and Talks

By Harry Kursh

“HELLO, hello. This is the residence of Mr. John Smith. Your message is being recorded automatically. Ready! Please speak now.”

Don’t be surprised if that’s what you hear one of these days when you dial the familiar number of one of your friends. For Ipsophone—the robot telephone device with a brain—has been placed on the market and is rapidly coming into use all over the world. Three of these ingenious Swiss inventions have already been installed for the King of Egypt but their cost ($38 per month) will make them practical for even the smallest businessman.

FROM THE EDITOR’S Scrapbook (Sep, 1965)


SELF-CASTRATION. An interesting case was presented recently of a 29-year-old male who had attempted to amputate his penis. The year before he had castrated himself by removing his testes. A most unusual aspect of the case was the fact that, for six years prior to his attempt, he had had alternate periods of bodily feminization and remasculinization.

During the periods of feminization, he reported, his breasts became protuberant, his voice became higher, he did not have to shave and fat distribution became markedly feminine. When examined by a gland specialist, he was found to be a normal male; the changes he reported could not be verified.

V.R. Goggles: 3-D trip inside a drawing, via computer graphics (Apr, 1971)

3-D trip inside a drawing, via computer graphics

Slip this display device on your head and you see a computer-generated 3-D image of a room before your eyes. Move your head and your perspective changes, just as though you were actually inside the room. Architects could use the device to draw buildings in three dimensions; realtors could use it to show buyers the interiors of homes without even leaving the office. Dr. Ivan Sutherland, University of Utah, invented the device, essentially a computer-graphics version of the old stereoscope.


The actual Chunnel ended up taking 6 years to build, cost around $17 billion and opened in 1994.


DOVER, England, is within gunshot of Calais, France. The German 42-centimeters could drop a shell across the 22 miles of water that intervene. The floor of the Straits of Dover is white chalk, underlaid by a stratum of chalk and clay. Beneath, to a depth of 208 feet, lies a ledge of gray chalk, very solid, of the same general character as that quarried in France for use in making cement. This substance is easy to bore, is self-sustaining, and is practically water-tight.

England Will Broadcast First Chain Television Programs (May, 1935)

We Americans are so behind the times. The British were being promised HDTV in 1935! I wonder how many “lookers” there were at that point.

England Will Broadcast First Chain Television Programs

VAUDEVILLE, opera and outdoor sports events are predicted to be among some of the feature programs which will be broadcast to British firesides this fall when the first national television network in the world swings into action in Great Britain.

3D Color-TV is Here! (Jul, 1958)

3D Color-TV is Here!

Remote operator of nuclear reactor can now view in depth and color


Three-dimensional coior-TV is now providing realistic viewing of adjustments inside a nuclear reactor. Use of stereo allows the precise depth perception necessary for correct positioning of controls, and use of color-TV permits quick identification by the control operator of reactor equipment in the dangerous area where no human is safe.