Speaking at an AT&T/MIT conference in 1976, "2001: A Space Odyssey" author Arthur C. Clarke shared his vision of the future. He described the ability to communicate with the outside world using HD screens attached to keyboards.
In other words, he accurately saw where the home computers just being introduced at the time were headed. He failed to mention the dominant position that cat videos would come to occupy on these screens, however.
Like many futurists frustrated by the tyranny of tinny audio over phone lines as their primary means of real-time communication, Arthur C. Clarke envisioned video calls being commonplace in the future.
Decades later, Skype and FaceTime made the inevitability a reality, though nerds in the know (with decent early broadband) were video-chatting via Cu-SeeMe in the 1990s.
Decades before the Internet became a
thing, Arthur C. Clarke had a spot-on vision of connected devices "which will enable
us to send much more information to our friends...to exchange pictorial
information, graphical information, data, books and so forth." Impressive, even if he failed to predict Tinder.
In 1976, there was the telephone and snail mail, but nothing that existed only in the digital ether on servers or systems until you checked it (aka email). Yet Clarke was savvy enough to foresee not only where real-time communication was headed, but how mail would go digital, too.
He probably foresaw Snapchat as well, but that prediction deleted itself 10 seconds later.
Arthur C. Clarke imagined a "machine" that would search a "central library" to bring you just the information you were looking for, be it news, info on airline flights, sports scores, whatever. If we can grant that the Internet is Clarke's library, then it would seem that his machine actually turned out to be the algorithms behind Google, Bing and other search engines.
Caption byEric Mack
/ Photo by Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images
Not only did Arthur C. Clarke predict mobile phones, which is not so amazing because the technology was already in existence at the time, he also saw how mobile devices would "restructure society," a process that we're in the midst of right now.
Arthur C. Clarke imagined that by this point in history all travel would be for pleasure and we'd all be telecommuting. The digital commute is not quite so universal yet, but it's been a reality for many of us for years already.
Caption byEric Mack
/ Photo by Johanna DeBiase/CNET
Like many others in the 1970s, Arthur C. Clarke still clearly longed for a vintage Dick Tracy radio watch. Almost 40 years later, they're here, but it's not clear that many people are still longing to talk into their wrists. I still think Clarke would be wowed by how easy it is to order an Uber using an Android Wear device, though.