Thursday Night Science

Given that it’s New Year’s Eve and all, I thought it might be fun to see what people thought the future would look like in 1954. Here are a few entries from “wouldn’t it be nice if…” and “upcoming new inventions” features in Popular Science from that year.

From a 1954 issue of Popular Science.  Image depicts a telephone with the numbers arrayed in three sets of three. A hand demonstrates a moving dialer; to place a call, the user places a finger in the corresponding hole on a rotating overleaf and pulls down, repeating this process with different numbers until the complete number has been dialed.   Caption reads: Straight Dial to Speed Calls. Faster phone dialing in the future may be made possible by this Bell Laboratories patent. The three-column, up-and-down drum would shorten the travel distance of the hand and reset itself much quicker. Simplified operation and easier-to-read numbers, it is claimed, would reduce dialing errors.

This may be, hands down, my favourite. Just imagine if we all had straight dial phones! Life would be so much easier! It’s not like any better technology would ever be developed…

In a "wouldn't it be neat if there was a..." feature in a 1954 issue of Popular Science  Image, in grey, black, and red, depicts a woman's face as she leans in towards a radio (which looks an awful lot like a clock for timecards) to select an 'auto-tuned' station.   Caption reads: Clock radio with automatic station selector. Pre-setting notched controls would bring in successive stations without manual tuning.  -Mrs. W. M. Wikoff, Canton, Ohio

And it would be totally awesome if we could have preset stations on our radios instead of having to manually tune in all the time! (Fun fact: My car radio, which does in fact work although I never use it, doesn’t have a manual tuner. My car was manufactured about 50 years after this idea for an “automatic station selector” was presented in Popular Science.)

This image came out very poorly, but I have a juvenile sense of humour and decided to upload it anyway. From a 1954 issue of Popular Science.   Image depicts a baby in a carriage, looking out at the viewer. Little lines drawn around the handles are supposed to suggest that the carriage is vibrating.   Caption Reads: Vibrator to Rock the Baby. The hand that rocks the cradle will get a little time off its job is [sic] taken over by this spring-powered vibrator. A windup motor in the device would rotate a weighted, off-center flywheel so as to generate horizontal and vertical thrust. When hooked over the rim of a carriage, crib or cradle, the rocker would transfer the thrust in the form of a swaying motion. Its speed of vibration would be regulated by a governor. Rotation of the unbalanced wheel would be started by a counterpoised spring, stopped by a friction brake.

No, it’s not just your eyes, this is a really bad picture. But I have a juvenile sense of humour and I felt the need to put it here anyway. Because. I mean. BABY VIBRATOR. “…generate horizontal and vertical thrust.” Yes, every time I hear the word “vibrator,” I giggle uncontrollably. (You should have seen the time I had to write an article about “concrete vibrators.”)

Finally, a salute to my juvenile sense of humour and the way language norms change:

Feature in a 1954 issue of Popular Science.   Image depicts a pair of candles burning in painted beverage cans, with a hand moving in from the right to light them.   Caption reads: Gay candlesticks for informal parties are an easy project. Paste or tape colorful wallpaper or gift wrapping around cans and pour in sand to keep them from tipping.

Gentlefolk of all genders, may I present…gay candlesticks.

Y’all, have a good New Year’s Eve (except for YOU PEOPLE IN THE FUTURE who already had New Year’s and are reading this FROM A DIFFERENT DECADE). Stay safe, don’t be afraid to confiscate keys, and it’s always ok to call for a sober ride.