World’s Fair Flashback: Home of the Future, 1962

2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the World’s Fair in Seattle. Being the home and apartment junkies that we are, we wondered: what did the Home of the Future look like fifty years ago? Have we attained any of the marvels that were promised to us?

The article we’re quoting is “Home Utopia Is Almost Here,” from the July 30, 1961 edition of the Palm Beach Post, and written by AP writer Vivian Brown. The information was showcased at the World’s Fair in Century 21’s Electronics Home of the Future exhibit.

“Rooms Detachable”

The Claim: “The house of the future can be taken apart, and if you’re lucky enough to own one of those mobile units the wings of which can be moved, discarded or replaced at whim, you can enjoy a vacation in a wing of your very own house. Just move the bedrooms to the shore when you get tired of the mountains or vice versa.”

The Verdict: While the new Airstream does look pretty posh, a quick Google search for “modular” or “mobile” homes turned up the same old suspects–double-wides and trailer parks. There are some relatively portable micro homes out there, but to this day, we’ve never heard of someone taking their detachable bedroom on a vacation to the coast.

Image from the Palm Beach Post, July 30th, 1961

“Dust and Bug-Free”

The Claim: “The home will be equipped with its own power plant, and will be dust and bug-free.”

The Verdict: First thing’s first here: what do they mean by “its own power plant?” There were a few portable generators on the market in 1962, mostly used commercially; perhaps they were anticipating the streamlining of that technology. But unless everyone wants to pour gasoline and listen to the sound of a lawn mower 24 hours a day, that one’s a no. Then we have “dust and bug-free…” That’ll be the day!

And a Few More Misses:

  • “Showers for lazy types that will envelop them in a spray of water and soap; rinse and dispense a solvent to evaporate moisture, making it unnecessary to dry with a towel.” 
  • “Windows that close automatically when it rains.”
  • “Thermo electric panels that will heat, cool and light a room.”
  • “A method of hanging coats without touching them.”

“A Pillow Phonograph and Wall-Sized Televisions”

The Claim: “A pillow phonograph that will put you to sleep and wake you up. Wall-size television screens and closed-circuit TV for more togtherness–we’ll be playing bridge with people on TV.”

 The Verdict: We may not have two speaker pillows in every bedroom, but there is a real product of this description! Wall-sized televisions are an obviously around, and while I’ve never played bridge in a Google Hangout, we’ll allow “closed-circuit TV” to apply to webcams–three direct hits.

And They Knock It Out of the Park:

Finally, their description of the home computer of the future applies perfectly to the combo of laptops and smartphones: “We may not be around when the home computer really becomes a status symbol, but we can’t help but note that it will help round up the children, plan the menus and remind Mom of dentist appointments.” Of course that’s just the tip of the iceberg these days, but not bad for a prediction from 1962!

Would you rent an apartment with detachable rooms? Have you found a way to abolish dust once and for all? And what do you predict for the homes of our future? Weigh in below.


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