This collection of old photographs depicts future forecasts that were either accurate or inaccurate throughout human history.

Even though some people managed to predict it fairly accurately, many now seem relatively absurd.

Retro-Futurism, written by T.R. Hinchliffe in the 1960s, is where “retrofuturism” first appeared. In its more popular form, futurism (sometimes referred to as futurology) is “an early optimism that focused on the past and was rooted in the nineteenth century, an early-twentieth-century ‘golden era’ that continued long into the 1960s’ Space Age”.

An artist’s depiction of the future was painted in 1930.

Retrofuturism is primarily founded on contemporary but shifting ideas of “the future.” As Guffey notes, retrofuturism is “a recent neologism,” but it “builds on futurists’ fevered visions of space colonies with flying cars, robotic servants, and interstellar travel on display there; where futurists took their promise for granted, retro-futurism emerged as a more skeptical reaction to these dreams.”


It evolved into its present form during the 1970s, a period of fast technological change. This era saw the intense and quick technological change, from the introduction of the personal computer to the first child born in a test tube.

But the general public started to wonder if applied science would live up to its earlier promise that life would undoubtedly get better due to technological development.

A navigation system as imagined in the 1950s.

Many critics started to doubt the value of applied science after the Vietnam War, environmental destruction, and the energy crisis.

But they also pondered the scientific positivism displayed by previous generations, sometimes in awe, sometimes in confusion.

In the 1960s and 1970s, retrofuturism “seeped into scholarly and popular culture,” influencing both George Lucas’ Star Wars and the paintings of pop artist Kenny Scharf.

The historians’ Joe Corn and Brian Horrigan remind us that retrofuturism is “a history of a concept, or a system of ideas, or an ideology” as they survey the optimistic futurism of the early twentieth century. Naturally, there is no such thing as the future unless one believes in it or imagines it.

The food delivery of the future was imagined in the 1940s.

The future as seen from the past and the past as seen from the future are two overlapping themes combined to form retrofuturism.

Retrofuturism, the first trend, was directly influenced by the imagined future that existed in the minds of writers, artists, and filmmakers in the pre-1960 era who attempted to predict the future, either through serious projections of current technology (for example, in magazines like Science and Invention) or through science fiction novels and stories.

Such retrofitted and modernized views of the future provide a nostalgic, counterfactual view of what the future might have been but is not.

The second tendency is futuristic retro, which is the opposite of the first. It begins with the nostalgic allure of vintage art, fashion, and social mores. Then it grafts modern or futuristic technologies onto it, resulting in a mash-up of past, present, and future elements.

A popular variation of this second trend is steampunk, which refers to the retrojection of future technology into an alternate Victorian era and the application of neo-Victorian styles to modern technology.

Newspaper via television. “Some day, you may be able to receive the front page of your morning newspaper this way.

Self-driving cars of the future, the 1960s.

“Ship’s Cat” By Keith Spangle.

The future of phones, 1956.

James Bond receives a “text” via his smartwatch in the Spy Who Loved Me. 1977.

1970s futuristic concept for jetliner air travel.

The Japanese vision of the future classroom. The odd part is that it included small robots to rap students on the head when misbehaving. 1969.

VR made by NASA in 1989.

Artoo-Deco, an art deco droid from author/maker Kurt Zimmerman.

How NASA imagined life in space. More at “Space colonies of the future as imagined by NASA in the 1970s“.

Fashions of 1950, as predicted on the cover of Life Magazine in 1914.

1981 vision of suburbia after there’s no more room left for suburbs.

Shopping from home as imagined in the 1940s.

Bruce Mccall created a futuristic road trip with the Family.

Car of the future imagined and created by Ian Roussel.

The Soviet vision of the future in the 1930s.

Futuristic Netherlands, drawn in 1970.

A Seiko smartwatch from 1984.

The 2020 Olympics… not 100% accurate. From “The Usborne Book of the Future: A Trip in Time to the Year 2000 and Beyond”, 1979.

Monsanto House of the Future, 1957.

Is this the worst space suit design ever?

This was an actual space suit Grumman Aircraft Corp tried to sell to NASA in 1962.

Teenagers of the 21st century.

The nuke-proof underground city below Manhattan, 1969. (Created by Oscar Newman).

The Air Curtain Entrance, 1956.

Radio Hat, 1949.

Farming in the 21st century, 1958.

Vacations on the Moon (unknown year and creator).

The bright side of atomic energy.

An express ocean liner in the year 2000, as imagined in 1931.

Strolling on the water. More at “Futuristic postcards: Life in the year 2000, 1900“.

Giant pinball rail, 1946.

A flying, driverless car, 1960.

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