Tech Predictions From 1888

In 1888, New York journalist David Goodman Croly published Glimpses of the Future, a “compilation” of predictions about the future “to be read now and judged in the year 2000”. I found the original link on Reddit, which pointed to this roundup by Greg Ross, based off the original book as digitized by Duke University.

I decided to collect a few additional predictions by Goodman Croly about the technological innovations we’d see in the future.

On “pictures and voices” in education:

Sir O. – It seems to that in that case a novel or romance could best be given in a public hall, with a stereopticon for the scenes, characters, and actions, and the graphophone to give voice to the conversations.

Mr F. – That would make a kind of drama to it, although without actual actors. It would be pictures and voices. And that reminds me, I do not see why the stereopticon is not more used in schools, instead of textbooks, for giving children an idea of history, geography, and the habits, and scenery of distant countries and their inhabitants. Education should appeal more to the eye and to the imagination, and not depend so much on words.

On photography:

You seem to forget the marvels of chromolithography. It is now possible to put in twenty colors on one plate, and to give all the tints of nature with singular fidelity. True the chromo of today is looked upon as crude and inartistic ; but I venture to predict that it will be so far perfected as to allow any well-to-do family to have art galleries of their own, in which will be found reproductions of all the great paintings of the ancient and modern world. The crowning glory of our age will be when the highest art is brought within the reach of the poorest purse.

On information:

There is a conceit in Bellamy’s “ Looking Backward,” which may become a reality. In the year 2000, he says, it will not be necessary to go to a meeting to hear a political orator, or to a church to be edified by a fine discourse, or to a concert hall to hear the noblest instrumental or vocal music. The telephone and the graphophone will be so perfected that we can enjoy these pleasures at our own homes. Now there may be something in this. Who knows but what news paper judgments may be set aside by the ability of every citizen to get into direct communication with original sources of information.

Reading these predictions today is just incredible. 124 years ago, Goodman Croly already had the basic gist of modern photography, education, film, and digital information just right. Most important, even if some of those technologies were already being developed back then (such as motion pictures and “photography”), he could see how the man of the future would use them every day.

And we can’t even get our WWDC predictions right.

“I have no notion of being able to tell what the future has in store for us. The best we can do is to indicate the drift of things.” - David Goodman Croly

Download: Glimpses of the future : suggestions as to the drift of things (free, and available as PDF as well).


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