Tag Archives | retro-futurism

Cybersyn, Salvador Allende’s Socialist Internet In 1970s Chile

Red_pepperRed Pepper on Cybersyn, an ingenious proto-internet largely unknown outside of a cult following:

The pioneering cybernetic planning work of the Chilean leader, his ministers and a British left-wing operations research scientist and management consultant named Stafford Beer was an ambitious, economy-wide experiment that has since been described as the ‘socialist internet’, an effort decades ahead of its time.

In 1970, Beer was hired to advise the government, and the scheme he plunged himself into was called Project Cybersyn, a ‘nervous system’ for the economy in which workers, community members and the government were to be connected together transmitting the resources they had on offer, their desires and needs via an interactive national communications network.

Although never completed, by the time General Augusto Pinochet overthrew the young administration in a US-backed coup, the advanced prototype of the system, which had been built in four months, involved a series of 500 telex machines distributed to firms connected to two government-operated mainframe computers and stretched the length of the narrow country and covered roughly between a quarter and half of the nationalised economy.

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Destroying Corporate Status Via HyperStyle

Circa 1990, from the monthly VHS-format periodical Dance International Video Magazine, a segment set in the future describes a hypothetical fashion movement known as HyperStyle. Swathed in “barcodes, plastic fabrics, logo wear, Nusilk fabric, virus accessories”, HyperStyle adherents destabilize the corporate order by co-opting and devaluing brand identities…including barcode-vision goggles and NASA sweatpants:

Today’s crisis can be tracked back to 1990. During one of the first green-house summers, a new fashion appeared, that pirated the emerging corporate culture.

Perpet[r]ators of this style hijacking corporate technology graphics and exploited them through wearable clothing. First seen in London, England, c1990.

The designers did not vandalize the corporate imagery, but rather reproduced it exactly. The resultant confusion led to devaluation of corporate status.

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A 1931 Plan To Convert Egypt’s Pyramids Into An Amusement Park

pyramidsAmazingly, no blueprint for a mammoth slide going down the side. Paleofuture reveals:

In a series of illustrations under the bold headline, “Mammoth Flying Swing to Give Bird’s Eye Pyramid View,” we see the pyramids as they could have been — the main attractions in Giza’s own version of Disneyland.

Signed by Art Williamson in the June 1931 issue of Modern Mechanics and Invention magazine, the illustrations show three cars swirling around the top of a pyramid, driven by a huge electric motor. The thrill seekers then were supposed to board the ride by crossing a gangplank that gives me vertigo just looking at it.

So why didn’t this unbelievably irreverent idea come to pass? One suspects it might have had something to do with objections from the Egyptian government. The illustration mentions that when (not if) the government’s consent is obtained, this amazing project will become a reality.

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Nikola Tesla’s Predictions For The 21st Century

teslaVia the Paleofuture blog on a 1935 interview with Liberty magazine in which Tesla revealed his intriguing imagining of the 21st century. He seemingly anticipated much of the dynamic betweens humans and technology to come, although his recommended diet of exclusively milk and honey has not come in vogue:

The creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was still 35 years away, but Tesla predicted a similar agency’s creation within a hundred years: “Hygiene, physical culture will be recognized branches of education and government. Our water supply will be far more carefully supervised, and only a lunatic will drink unsterilized water.”

Tesla’s work in robotics began in the late 1890s: “The solution of our problems does not lie in destroying but in mastering the machine. Innumerable activities still performed by human hands today will be performed by automatons. At this very moment scientists working in the laboratories of American universities are attempting to create what has been described as a ‘thinking machine.’ In the twenty-first century the robot will take the place which slave labor occupied in ancient civilization.”

Toward the end of Tesla’s life he had developed strange theories about the optimal human diet.

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The Isolator Helmet For Extreme Focus

Manual adderall? A fascinating, torturous device from a century ago, created by a sci-fi pioneer, the Isolator beautifully illustrates the hazards of single-minded focus, although it also would make a splendid fashion accessory. Via A Great Disorder:

These images are from the July, 1925 issue of “Science and Invention”, which was edited by Hugo Gernsback, who later became famous as a pioneer in the field of science fiction. He also invented this contraption which, to my mind, nicely illustrates the folly of taking an excessively narrow approach to solving a problem. The “Isolator” is designed to help focus the mind when reading or writing, not only by by eliminating all outside noise, but also by allowing just one line of text to be seen at a time through a horizontal slit. Obviously…this could be profoundly counterproductive: how would he know that his house was on fire -or, what if he dropped his pencil?

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Googie: Architecture Of The Future That Never Was

Paleofuture on the mid-twentieth century school of design in which apartment buildings, restaurants, stores, banks, and hotels were built in a style heralding the rise of the space age. If only we still lived in a Googie world:

Before I moved to Los Angeles (almost 2 years ago now) I had never heard the word Googie. I didn’t know the word, but I definitely knew the style. And I suspect you might too.

Googie is a modern (ultramodern, even) architectural style that helps us understand post-WWII American futurism — an era thought of as a “golden age” of futurist design for many here in the year 2012. It’s a style built on exaggeration; on dramatic angles; on plastic and steel and neon and wide-eyed technological optimism. It draws inspiration from Space Age ideals and rocketship dreams. We find Googie at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, the Space Needle in Seattle, the mid-century design of Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, in Arthur Radebaugh‘s postwar illustrations, and in countless coffee shops and motels across the U.S.

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1913 Foresaw A Future Of Eating Giant, Irradiated Animals

A century ago, the endless promise of radium pointed toward a future in which a monstrously large frog’s leg sat at the center of every dinner table. Via ZPi, a 1913 article from the Salt Lake Tribune heralding the impending use of radiation to breed enormous livestock of all sorts:

Professor Dawson Turner, at the recent meeting of the British Association, made the astonishing announcement that by treating a frog’s egg with radium he had bred a frog three times the normal size of the species. The application of this discovery may have several very important results for humanity. Perhaps its most obvious value is that it will furnish us with a means of increasing the food supply.

Even at its present stage of development the experiment is capable of greatly reducing living expenses. Frog’s legs are delicious, succulent food similar in taste to fine chicken, and in many ways superior to the choicest quality beef.

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The Personal Flight Vehicles That Never Became Popular

Did you know that hovercrafts could be this adorable — why did the U.S. military the kibosh on them? In a parallel, tidily retro-futuristic universe, we are all riding our X-Jets and WASPs to work. Via Retronaut:

Nicknamed “The Flying Pulpit”, the Williams X-Jet It could move in any direction, accelerate rapidly, hover, and rotate on its axis, staying aloft for up to 45 minutes and traveling at speeds up to 60 miles per hour. It was evaluated by the U.S. Army in the 1980s, and was deemed inferior to the capabilities of helicopters and small unmanned aircraft.

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