We’re used to our everyday technology, but geniuses are constantly coming up with some nifty new gadgets all the time. But what if we told you some of these marvels of modern science were imagined decades prior to their invention? These accomplished authors came up with the most amazing futuristic things that anyone could imagine, and ended up predicting the technological world we live in today.
1. THE CREDIT CARD AS IMAGINED BY EDWARD BELLAMY
In his famous novel “Looking Backward”, published in 1888, Bellamy describes a man who wakes up in the year 2000 and sees that everyone is using a “credit card”, which entitles them to a part of the government’s wealth. 63 years later, the first true credit cards appeared, based on a system of credit, in which its issuer has to pay back the money spent, but at a later time. Now you know who to blame for credit debt!
2. VIDEO CALLS AND OTHER INVENTIONS BY HUGO GERNSBACK
In the series of short stories called “Ralph 124C 41+”, published in 1911, Gernsback imagined devices that allows you to communicate via video with other people. He also talked about television, solar power, movies with sound, and space flight. The first video phone was unveiled in the 1964 New York World’s Fair, where AT&T presented the “picturephone.” Nowadays video chat is part of our everyday life, as apps like Skype or Facetime make the process easy and available for anyone to use.
3. THE TANK AS DESCRIBED BY H.G. WELLS
Published in December 1903 in the Strand Magazine, “The Land Ironclads” is a short story by H.G. Wells featuring “Land Ironclads,” which are 100-foot-long (30 m) armored fighting vehicles that carry riflemen, engineers, and a captain, and are armed with remote-controlled, semi-automatic rifles. In 1916 the first tanks would appear on the battlefield, cementing Wells’ reputation as a “prophet of the future”.
4. RAY BRADBURY DREAMT OF SMALLER, COMFORTABLE HEADPHONES
Although headphones were available when Bradbury published “Fahrenheit 451” in 1953, they didn’t look like anything you know today. Headphones used to be these monstrous, uncomfortable devices that pale in comparison to the modern-era earbuds we’re accustomed to. In this dystopian classic he described “little seashells… thimble radios” people used to hear an “electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk”. 50 years later, Apple would popularize the earbuds, which came bundled with his star product of the time, the iPod.
5. JULES VERNE PUT MUCH THOUGHT INTO A MOON LANDING
In this 1865 classic, Jules Verne tells the story of a club that wants to build a “space cannon” and launch three people into the moon. Verne tried to calculate some of the requirements for this cannon and did a remarkable job, despite there being no data available at the time about a possible space incursion. His scenario of using a cannon was impractical and wouldn’t have worked, but just a mere century later, three astronauts would land on the moon in the Apollo 11 mission in 1969, making his dreams a reality and changing the world in the process.
6. TABLETS WERE PRESENT IN ARTHUR C. CLARKE’S CLASSIC
Even though they aren’t mentioned as tablets, the characters in Clarke’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”, published in 1968, receive their news in “electronic papers”, which worked similarly to the high-end devices we know today. These pads also appeared in other works of cinematography, like the adaptation of this book by Stanley Kubrick, or even in the famous sci-fi TV show, “Star Trek: The Next Generation”.
7. JOHN BRUNNER PREDICTED TECHNOLOGICAL PROGRESS BUT ALSO SOCIAL TURMOIL
Similarities between Brunner’s book, “Stand On Zanzibar” and America in recent years are strikingly similar. He described a president “Obomi” in a country where terrorist attacks were commonplace and school violence ran rampant. Published in 1969 but set in 2010, it’s widely regarded as one of the most prophetic books ever. He also predicted the acceptance of homosexuality, satellite TV, electric cars and laser printers. Marijuana was also legalized.
8. MARTIN CAIDIN THOUGHT PROSTHETICS COULD GO EVEN FURTHER
“Cyborg” was published in 1972 and was quickly picked up for a TV show, “The Six-Million-Dollar Man”, only two years later. In the novel, Caidin imagined a man who survived an accident and is rebuilt with bionic limbs. Prosthetic limbs have come a long way since the 70s, as they’re now really versatile, made out of strong and durable materials, and some of them can even be controlled by our thoughts.
9. REAL TIME TRANSLATION OF OTHER LANGUAGES AS PER DOUGLAS ADAMS
In Adam’s cult classic, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (1979), a little Babel Fish translated everything other aliens said in real time to Arthur, the main character of the book. Other authors have toyed with the idea of a “Universal Translator”, like Gene Roddenberry in the original “Star Trek” series in 1966, but they gave up on the idea and decided to make all aliens just “speak English”. Today, apps like Lexifone and others available for iPhone and Android translate audio from one language to another in real time.
10. THE HACKER CULTURE AND THE BIRTH OF THE INTERNET BY WILLIAM GIBSON
In 1984 the internet wasn’t really what we know today because networks connecting computers with one another were in their infancy. But that didn’t stop Gibson from imagining in his book “Neuromancer” a future where everyone was connected to each other. He even coined the term “cyberspace” in a previous work of his. He predicted virtual reality, an apparatus similar to Google Glass and even the whole hacker culture in this masterpiece of cyberpunk literature.