Retrofuture Come True: The Roomba Predicted in 1959

I was browsing Pinterest when I saw this photograph that immediately caught my eye. I’m obsessed with retrofuturist predictions about homes, especially kitchens. In the 1950s and 60s, kitchens were still considered “the woman’s domain,” and most of the technology predicted for women was in this arena. We’ve often seen the smart kitchen with computers managing diet and perfectly prepared food emerging from hidden appliances. But rarely do we see what amazing technological predictions they had for cleaning the floor.

Roomba of the Future!

So this was a little more than a prediction, more like an invention that was ahead of its time. This robot floor cleaner was patented in 1957 by Donald G Moore. Controlled by a central console, you only need to press a button and the little robot appears and buzzes around just like the Roomba. It uses similar sensor technology and follows a preprogrammed path around the room so that the entire room is cleaned. One way it differs from the the Roombas on the market today, is one floor unit both vacuums and “mops.” Also, the design on the original is charming but very dated.

Whirlpool Kitchen of the Future

RCA Whirpool included the floor cleaning robot in a presentation of their “Miracle Kitchen” which was featured as an article in the magazine Look in July 1959 and special exhibit during that same summer in Moscow featuring technology from the US. (Read more about the All American Expo and the Miracle Kitchen at Paleofuture.)

Check out the whole kitchen in action in this promotional film. The robot floor cleaner appears at 11:50.

The center of the kitchen is a Home Electronic Center Kid (called HECK) that allows you to monitor and run the whole house by push button, including the robot floor cleaner. Thanks to NEST, smart light bulbs and appliances, and Apple’s HomeKit, we’re getting closer to being able to control our house from our smartphones. Overall, this is a very cool prediction come true to look back on today.

If you’re wondering why this technology didn’t catch on, it’s an easy explanation. Even though it was a patented invention, all of the appliances you see in action were faked. The idea existed but the actual robot didn’t seem to come to fruition at that time. According to an interview done by Matt Novak at Paleofuture with one of the designers of the display: “They had a two-way mirror with a person sitting behind it that could see the room, snd they radio-controlled the vacuum cleaner and the dishwasher.”

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Retro Raygun Art Pieces by Ryan Nagata of 3f Studios

I love rayguns. Not because I’m super into weaponry, but because I love a beautifully designs atompunk stylized raygun. Most often I only see them on magazine and book covers, relegated only to the imaginations of the past. But then I saw these amazing rayguns by Ryan Nagata and realized those imagined gadgets can actually be real. Well, as real as a replica.

Raygun by Ryan Nagata

Ryan is a director and artist living in Los Angeles. He makes many props and replicas, including some realistic Apollo space suits. As a part of 3F Studios he works with his collaborator George Edelman to make short films and web content.

Raygun by Ryan Nagata

Their stuff is impressive and definitely worth checking out if you’re into cosplay. I’m just amazed by these beautiful rayguns. Most are Ryan’s original design and he makes them because he loves the process of designing and building them. Unfortunately, they are not for sale, but you can check out this video of Adam Savage’s TESTED where he checks out these awesome pieces and learns more about Ryan’s process.

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Retro Robot School Supplies

Now that we’re getting into the last half of August, many people in the US are getting sick of the super hot and humid summer weather. It’s also the time of year when many minds drift ahead, thinking of changing leaves, pumpkin spice flavored treats, and (if you’re a parent or a student) heading back to school.

Even though I have no one in my life that will be heading to school this fall, I can’t help but love some of the retro-robot themed school supplies I’ve seen pop-up in various corners of the internet. These are the kinds of items I would have LOVED to buy during my school supply shopping trips. I would definitely be the one with the matching backpack, lunch sack, and pencil case, even if they’re all advertised for boys.

Check out these fun and fabulously retro robot designed supplies. If you have any reason to buy some of these, do it ASAP!

Retro Robot Backpack
Back to school shopping always starts with a backpack. Any robot obsessed kid would love this retro robot bag. It has all the pockets and features any student would need and also LOOK AT THOSE ROBOTS. The print features cute illustrations of a variety of retro-style robot friends. Check it out at Amazon.
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The Home of the Future: Year 1999 AD [VIDEO]

Here is an interesting short film I found on Youtube recently. Originally released in 1967, the short film “1999 A.D.” was released by the Philco-Ford Corporation for their 75th anniversary and it predicts the future of technology in the home. These videos are always a lot of fun to compare how close the predictions are to real life. I also enjoy seeing the retrofuturist visions of technology, especially from the 1950s and 1960s.

Check out the video and I’ll recap some of my favorite of their predictions below.

The video starts with a quaint beach scene of a mother and son (and some disconcerting horror-movie music), to set the time and also the new modular homes of the future. Kind of an odd opening, especially with such a dramatic reveal of what the year is. I don’t know how this film was originally presented to consumers, but I imagine they had some idea what they were getting themselves into.
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Artist Spotlight: Eric Joyner’s Robots and Donuts

People who know me well know two things about me: I love retro robots and I love sweets. So when I started to see these fun paintings of robots and donuts on my Pinterest feed I had to find out who was behind them. A quick Google search revealed they’re by Eric Joyner, and this amazing pop art is his specialty.

Pandora's Box by Eric Joyner
Pandora’s Box by Eric Joyner

Eric’s quirky and fun art is sure to catch anyone’s eye with the anachronism of personified robot tin toys and larger than life donuts. But where do these kinds of ideas come from?
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Temporary Hiatus: Heading to San Diego for the Summer

So if you come by regularly, you may have noticed that one thing that isn’t regular is my posting.

So a funny thing happened, a little over a month after launching this site, I was accepted into the Clarion Writer’s Workshop for this summer. This was my first year applying and I didn’t actually think I would get in, so I didn’t hesitate to launch this site. What a happy surprise!

Of course, that means I am crazy busy getting everything in my life in order to attend and while I’m in San Diego (from mid-June until August) I will have absolutely no time to dedicate to outside projects. So this means I need to go on a slight hiatus.

However, once I am back in August, I hope to get on a regular posting schedule. In the meantime, if you want to be notified once I’m back and posting again, I would recommend liking The Retrofuturist on Facebook.

For now, I will see you in the future (hopefully they’ll have consumer jetpacks sussed out by then).

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Artist Spotlight: Indelible Ink Workshop’s Retro Scifi Prints and Posters

Night Rocket Oribital Lunar Nightclub Poster
Buy Night Rocket Retro Poster on Etsy

Indelible Ink Workshop is run by the couple Luke Minner and Naomi Wilson. Together they create beautiful wall art and posters, including vintage reproductions and original art pieces in art deco and art nouveau styles.

Explore Poster
Buy Explore on Etsy

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Vintage Scifi Classic “The Runaway Robot” Back in Print!

I was so excited when I found out this weekend that the classic science fiction book The Runaway Robot by Lester Del Ray is back in print. This is one of the first scifi novels I read as a kid, and may explain my general obsession with robots, especially the idea of a sentient robotic companion. This book has been out of print for years and I’m thrilled to see it’s available again for young scifi fans to enjoy.

Original cover from 1965 by Wayne Blickenstaff. Source.

The story is about a boy named Paul who has been raised with a robotic companion called Rex. Rex’s main role is to be a protector for Paul on the moon of Ganymede, but they become inseparable friends. When Paul and his family are called back to Earth they have to leave Rex behind. The robot’s bond with Paul is so strong that Rex decides to stowaway on the ship, and that’s when the adventure begins.

I actually have an original copy from 1968 that was a hand-me-down from my father (same cover as above). This story influenced me so much as a young reader that I took the book with me when I moved away to college, and it’s still displayed proudly on my bookshelf. I prefer the original cover art by Wayne Blickenstaff to the new edition. Many of the chapters also have some lovely vintage black and white art.

If you can find a copy of the original printing, I highly recommend it for the beautiful vintage art.

A fun factoid: the novel was actually written by Paul W. Fairman, based on an outline by del Rey.

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The Incredibles – Retrofuturist Review

A little background on what the Retrofuturist reviews will be: I don’t consider myself a critic, so these reviews will more focus on how the book, movie, TV show, etc. embody retrofuture elements or execute the retrofuturist genre and what I generally think about the piece. So here we go:

I had never seen Disney and Pixar’s 2004 film The Incredibles before last week. This is insane because 1) I love Brad Bird’s The Iron Giant and 2) I love Pixar. However, I’m not very interested in superhero or comic book movies in general, so the plot never really grabbed me. But after seeing some of the architecture and interior design of the film online, I decided I wanted to check it out.

Note: There may be some spoilers to follow, so if you’re like me and it takes you over a decade to watch a movie, be warned.

livingroom incredibles
Bob and Helen’s retro-furnished living room.

The Incredibles is about Bob and Helen Parr and their children Violet, Dash, and Jack-Jack, who are “Supers” (humans with superpowers) trying to live bland suburban lives and hide their superpowers from a world that disapproves of them. Bob (the former Mr. Incredible) is completely dissatisfied with his new life, until he receives a message asking him to take on a secret mission to destroy a malfunctioning robot. Eventually he discovers this is all the evil plot of the super-villain Syndrome.
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A Kickstarter Project You Should Support: Save the Scifi

One of the reasons I started this blog is to preserve visions of the future from yesteryear and also to support and highlight others with the same mission.

Singularity & Co. saves vintage books that are out of print and languishing into obscurity by tracking down the copyright holders, getting their blessing, and then digitally preserving fabulous vintage science fiction stories for future generations.

Right now Singularity & Co. have a successful Kickstarter campaign running with about two weeks lefts. This is their second campaign after their original campaign two years ago that allowed them to publish 36 ebooks and open a bookstore in Brooklyn.

rescued scifi books

Their current campaign aims to raise money to rescue even more vintage scifi books. The campaign has already exceeded the original $15,000 goal, and for every $10K beyond that goal, they will archive an additional 10 books.

This is a great project with fantastic rewards at the $10 and $25 levels to receive some of these rescued scifi classics. If you enjoy vintage science fiction and love reading, consider supporting this awesome project.

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