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Judy Jetson voice actress saw a century of wild technological change

Janet Waldo lived in amazing times, moving from the era of the Model T to the beginning of self-driving and flying cars.

Janet Waldo, who voiced Judy on "The Jetsons," has died at age 96.
Warner Bros.

"The Jetsons" still looks futuristic and bold, if a little hokey to our modern eyes. The family crowds into a bubble-topped spaceship instead of a family car. Every building looks like Seattle's Space Needle. Teen Judy has a gravity-defying ponytail, dad George sails to his desk on a moving walkway and their maid Rosie is a robot.

In one "Jetsons" episode, son Elroy's classmate hides his wrist TV behind a book so he can watch "The Flintstones" (a show that took the family comedy as far back into the past as "The Jetsons" did into the future). We thought that was impossible then, a schoolkid with a wrist-mounted TV. With today's technology, welcome to possible.

Janet Waldo, who provided the perky, ever-bubbly voice of Judy Jetson, died Sunday at age 96. Most headlines mention Judy, but Waldo voiced other trailblazers, too. She was Josie in "Josie and the Pussycats," the red-headed guitarist who led her band with catlike confidence. She was Penelope Pitstop in "Wacky Races" and "The Perils of Penelope Pitstop," who never let a race get in the way of perfectly applied lipstick. She had roles in "The Flintstones," "The Addams Family" cartoon, "The Smurfs" and other shows.

In remembering Waldo, we should remember how the woman behind our favorite futuristic teen lived through changes that once would have been the stuff of science fiction.

When she was born in early 1920, women in the US couldn't even vote. Now a woman is running for president. Automobiles were still a novelty when Waldo arrived on Earth, and even if you had one, good luck traveling too far. The Interstate Highway System was still decades away. When "The Jetsons" premiered in 1962, the family's bubble-topped flying car was a fictional creation made to get a laugh. Now, self-driving and flying cars are in the news, drones buzz around taking aerial photos, and you can pull up Google Maps or even Google Earth to see exactly where you're headed. It's a little unnerving how close we are to living the "The Jetsons"-style reality.

There's an old joke about a frog in a pot of water that slowly boils, never realizing he's steadily cooking to death. That's usually presented as a warning -- negative change can come and we don't realize it because it's slow and we're in the middle of it.

But that joke can also tell us a little bit about how far we've come technologically, in Waldo's lifetime alone. From Model Ts to Teslas, Victrolas to video games, we're in the pot, for good or for bad, and because most of us weren't born in the 1920s, we don't appreciate the sheer rate of change. In remembering Waldo, we should appreciate how "Jetsons"-y her own life became over the near-century she was granted. Maybe there's a lesson in there for us somewhere, if we're smart enough to find it. We may as well enjoy the ride, because despite George's plea, we're not getting off this crazy thing.