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The Office of the Future


Walter Cronkite previews the office of 2001, in 1967.

Marissa Mayer would obviously disapprove. Working from home! Of course, Cronkite couldn’t imagine a woman in this office.


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  • Carbon Man

    Wow. This is actually…nearly pretty accurate.

    • Western Dave

      Except that all of it fits in my pocket on my phone. And I can take it anywhere. Worker drones unite in our 24/7 accessibility to our employers!

      • Miniaturization was definitely the biggest surprise of late 20th-century technology. Most futurist material of the ’60s expected great strides in transportation, energy production, and material fabrication, but in a lot of ways we haven’t progressed from the state of the art then. Instead, we’ve made massive strides in microprocessor and communication technology.

        Almost nobody expected ubiquitous computing and networking, and it shows in the sci-fi of the time. It’s pretty fascinating.

        • As for me, I miss gigantic technology.

          • Incontinentia Buttocks

            I like receiving me e-mail via vacuum tube. It’s so much warmer!

          • Murc

            It’s still out there. It’s just a little unglamorous.

            I do some support for… I’m not going to name them, but they’re one of the world leaders in pumps, seals, and valves. They don’t make anything you’d find in Sears to help pimp out the basement. They make stuff the size of our office building.

            At least once a week I’m on a video call with a guy on satellite uplink from somewhere in China, usually standing near something awesome like, say, a single reciprocating piston that’s like four stories tall.

            • I support helping pimp out the basement. In fact, if it’s finished with genuine formica type paneling on the walls and a kegerator I’ll be over this weekend with my friends after bowling.

              • Jewish Steel

                Next time you flood, basement? Pimphand. You know how I get.

        • Murc

          Almost nobody expected ubiquitous computing and networking, and it shows in the sci-fi of the time.

          As a single example; Asimov wrote a ton of books where it posits we can make computers roughly the size of a human brain that run sophisticated artificial intelligences, but never conceives that maybe the people who could do that would also make other small computers they could carry around with them to preform tasks with.

          • It took Asimov a long time to figure out the difference between a computer and a robot brain. He’d kind of begun to figure it out by the third Foundation book, though.

        • Tom Renbarger

          “But I predict that within 100 years computers will be twice as powerful, 10,000 times larger, and so expensive that only the five richest kings in Europe will own them.”

        • charlie

          I attended a meeting where people from IBM Research discussed ubiquitous computing in the late 1980’s. It definitely left me with the impression that computers would be everywhere, though it was short on where they have actually wound up. Lot’s of every surface would have some kind of touch computer at home when reality has them as integral to our automobiles and phones.

      • LeeEsq

        This is why I can’t really understand the appeal of working from home. I like my work but I want it separate from my private life. Employers should not be able to contact employees off hours except in very specific emergency circumstances. On the job, I’ll work hard. My off-hours are mine though.

  • At the risk of becoming a spelling troll, you could at least get her name right.

  • coriolisification

    Ar 46 sec the flow around the low centre is in the wrong direction

  • Jewish Steel

    I want computer hardware that resembles my McIntosh stereo gear.

    • Josh G.

      Google “htpc case” – you can find quite a few computer cases that fit in pretty well with stereo equipment since they’re designed to be integrated into home theater systems. Not sure if anyone would specifically match a McIntosh, though. You could always find a broken old McIntosh receiver, gut the innards, install an ATX backplate, and use it as a case…

      • Jewish Steel

        Cool stuff. But I want a computer that functions like my McIntosh too. Just some knobs like Grandpa up there and his home printed newspaper.

  • Uncle Ebeneezer

    I love that the idea of just reading the news on the screen, rather than printing and holding it like a newspaper, apparently didn’t occur to them.

    • Charles

      Today I found a paper that looked interesting and my first thought was “Wow, I should print this out so I can read it!” Sad but true.

  • Sly

    The whole show is a hoot. They thought of a kitchen kitchen that completely automates cooking to the point where plastic dishes are molded and melted down on demand, yet the living room featured an entertainment system with a remote control the size of a friggin’ Buick.

    My favorite part is the conceit, pretty popular for most of the 20th century due to steady rises in productivity, was that the most pressing concern for people was going to be how to effectively manage all their free time.

    • If you notice in that clip, the sports teams are the Woodsmere Wasps vs. the Stoneybrook Samurai.

      This is clearly worth another post.

    • Gone2Ground

      Oh come ON! That console was easily dwarfed by the HUGE speakers in the living room….where we could watch ANYTHING WE WANTED!

      Yeah, I loved the kitchen, too, with “prepackaged frozen or irradiated foods prepared on demand”. Didn’t anybody in the 60s eat TV dinners and find them wanting? I know my family did.

      • Sly

        They had TV dinners in the 60s, sure, but they weren’t custom made by an Automatic Chef that you can program with a “typewriter or punched computer cards.” That makes all the difference.

    • Murc

      My favorite part is the conceit, pretty popular for most of the 20th century due to steady rises in productivity, was that the most pressing concern for people was going to be how to effectively manage all their free time.

      We as a society decided that, rather than translating those productivity gains into full employment and a 25-hour workweek, we would just give it all to a small cadre of people determined more or less at random.

      • Sly

        If by “random” you mean “people who could inefficiently allocate capital toward financing the development of a skilled labor force with little risk for themselves and still skim tons of money off the top,” then, yes, I agree.

        • Murc

          I am far from convinced the banksters have enough skill to even allocate capital inefficiently. They’ve always struck me as a bunch of people with the skill of, at best, middling con artists who mainly succeed by a combination of luck and the happy coincidence of being surrounded by other crooks eager to wet their beaks.

          I also don’t know what you mean by ‘financing the development of a skilled labor force.’ The banksters hate financing anything and have been actively trying to make the workforce as unskilled and dependent as possible

          • Sly

            I also don’t know what you mean by ‘financing the development of a skilled labor force.’

            College and vocational school. Higher ed has been the major driver of increased costs of living for pretty much everyone. It’s had a consistently higher rate of inflation than health care for decades.

            In 1960, it was widely accepted as fact that stable middle-class lifestyle was achievable with a highschool diploma, which was made available through a distributed tax system and free to all who pursued it. As the demand for college and vocational training increased (i.e. as middle-class labor became synonymous with technically skilled and professionalized labor), the system of public education generally wasn’t expanded to cover this/ And where it was expanded, it soon receded.

            So we basically added another four years to the twelve year educational standard (five if we count Pre-K, which we should) and decided to make those pursuing that education pay for it on their lonesome. Which only served to make it more expensive.

            So to make it “affordable,” we turned it over to creditors under a system where they had nothing to risk and everything to gain.

            It’s true that the financialization of everything (now we’re letting hedge fund managers do it with K-12… hurray!) has been the biggest driver of income inequality. More than Free Trade and technology making unskilled labor increasingly obsolete; the big fault line in inequality is between the professional class and the investor class, not the professional class and unskilled labor. But debt peonage in service of higher ed is probably the the biggest single driver of why we don’t have a month of paid vacation and a 25 hour work week.

            • JoyfulA

              In the 1970s, a friend earned a master’s in leisure counseling. That’s certainly less useful than a law degree!

  • Look, all I’m saying is, drop by my dump once in a while & you’ll have stuff to steal days earlier.

  • dp

    He was definitely right about “work coming to us.”

  • Anonymous

    can this website help me with the information that i need to know about how are future lawyers are difference from todays lawyers

  • Ruthie

    I’m still waiting for my jetpack!

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