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he 50s was a very exciting period as technology was rapidly developing and new innovations came out on the fly. In fact, so many new technological inventions were being patented (many that we cannot live without today) that people started daydreaming about the possibilities that technology would bring at the beginning of the new millennium.

If you were a tech junkie the best place to get your information was an illustrated magazine called Mechanix Illustrated which had its first issue published in 1928 and the final issue published in 2001.

This is where many Science Fiction movie writers and film producers were getting their inspiration from. Many of the things that you may have seen in the Back to the Future (1985–1990) movies were inspired by ideas and illustrations created by contemporary engineers who would publish their work in this magazine.

Ingeniosity ahead of its time

Cover of Mechanix Illustrated copy from 1982 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The engineers were simply ahead of their time, the ideas and concepts were there but the technology was simply not or it was too expensive to invent. They would come up with all sorts from future cars that would function only on electricity to flat-screen televisions.

What is very interesting is that some of these concepts are very close to the technologies that we have today, one such is the smartphone which has been presented in an issue from 1956. As you can see in the illustration from the top of the article, the phone is compact to be portable and it has a touch screen as well as a camera implemented.

The initial idea was for the phone to be worn as a necklace, that is the reason why it has the form of a stopwatch and a necklace tight to it.

Predicting the future

Even from the 1950s, they knew that telecommunication is the future of the 21st century, so much so that we would be using our phones constantly. This prediction from the original texts is scary of how accurate it is, they knew that technology will eventually take over for the better (offering an easier life).

Illustration of the future phone from a copy of the Mechanix Illustrated Magazine 1956 (Source: Media Dogs)

The author behind the article which presents this future phone was Robert Beanson who mentioned that this concept would have features such as voice recognition and a multi-colored screen, something which was unbelievable and unheard of at the time.

This idea came to Beanson from an interview he had with Harold Osbourne, an engineer from American Telephone and Telegraph who tried to predict how phones would look in the 21st century. An interesting prediction made by Osbourne was that every human once born would receive a phone number that they would have for life and this phone number would even let people know if a person is still alive.

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