Tag: retrofuturism

Attractions & Other Oddities

Love classic, midcentury signage as much as I do? Well, now you can own a piece for your very own, available at my new site, Satelluxe!

In all the time I've spent on the road researching my books, driving through aging and historic towns, I acquired an insatiable love of Googie, a style of design prevalent in old motels and their eye-catching signage. These days, I can't hit the road without stopping repeatedly to photograph a collection of big arrows, oversize type and flashing neon.

Unfortunately, such treasures are quickly disappearing from the roadside, and acquiring a piece for oneself is becoming exceptionally difficult due to surviving signs' size or deteriorating condition. For this reason, I started producing designs of my own, inspired by the very items I see out on the road.

If you've ever hoped to grab a piece of Googie to take home with you, head on over to Satelluxe and have a look. And keep checking back, because there's more to come soon!

In the early 1950s, just prior to the beginning of that great era we refer to as the Space Age, Skelly gas stations distributed a fantastically campy series of science-fiction trading cards titled the All American Space Fleet.

The cards, 24 in all, comprise various space-faring characters boasting such heroic names as "Specs" Regan, who appears to be sporting a little too much gray for his alleged 28 years, and "Curly" Carson, pictured with his diapered Martian friend "Grog." The only woman to appear in the series is Jane Joy, who is "still attending Stewardess School."

The majority of the set featured a variety of far-out spaceships like the Asteroid King, the Cosmic Needle and the Sky Shark, each of which had its imaginary function and specifications listed on the back of the card, along with helpful reminders to "Never, Never Play With Anything Electrical" and to never "Run or Play Hard with Things in Your Mouth."

What's your favorite?

See video

To me, nothing conveys an idyllic vision of the future like the jetpack. That's why I love that this midcentury dream device continues to make headlines even in the 21st century.

Last year, stuntman and professional jetpack pilot Eric Scott set a world record by flying over Colorado's Royal Gorge, and last weekend, he did it yet again by claiming the first jetpack speed record.

Soaring several feet above Scotland's Knockhill Racing Circuit, Scott achieved an official speed of 68 miles per hour. Scott claims to have reached speeds higher than that, but strong winds at the track hindered his performance.

Current jetpack technology still limits flight time to about 30-40 seconds, which is not much more than what was achieved back in the 1960s, but rumor has it that Scott is working on a new unit that can sustain flight for up to 30 minutes.

If he succeeds, then we all might finally be able to fly to work like we were promised 60 years ago.

For years I've assumed that one of mankind's greatest fantasies has been to develop a practical, personal jetpack. But if the covers of Popular Science serve as any measure for this sort of thing, then it seems that for the past few decades man's been dreaming less about rocketing through the sky than he has about riding in some kind of giant wheel.

The revelation struck me as I was skimming Google's new archive of Popular Science and Popular Mechanics magazines for interesting cover art. As I quickly realized, the magazines' covers featured some crazy new vehicle every few years eschewing the apparently pesky and cumbersome multiwheel concept in favor of one enormous gyre.

Of course, once I noticed the pattern, I had to go back and scan all the issues methodically to see just how many variations have appeared over the generations. ... Continued

Technology geeks, especially those like me who are fascinated by retrofuturism, aren't going to be getting much done lately, seeing as Google has recently made available as part of its Google Book Search entire issues of Popular Mechanics dating back to 1905 Popular Science reaching all the way back to 1872!

And when I say entire issues, I mean every page in full color, including the ads (which can be quite fascinating in themselves). Plus, each issue appears to be searchable.

Pictured here are a few of my favorite covers, which tease enticing articles like "Making Movies in a Volcano" (April 1933) and "Rocket to the Moon — No Longer a Fascinating Dream" (May 1950).

Wrap those Christmas gifts now, because the rest of your vacation is going to be spent browsing these archives.

Just a reminder that the auction for the 1956 Aerocar N103D convertible airplane car I wrote about a couple weeks ago ends in just two days.

The retrofuturistic vehicle is being listed as "Best Offer," but you still have the option to beat the rush and snatch it up for the "Buy It Now" price of $3.5 million.

The seller has also added a Web site detailing the history and technical specs of the Aerocar, along with a black-and-white newsreel of the vehicle in action, viewable below.

They've also included list of reasons you should buy the plane-car, which include:

  • It is a unique part of aviation history.
  • It is a testimony to man’s creative genius.
  • It is loved by the public.


Be sure to watch the vintage newsreel on the Aerocar below. ... Continued

Finnair, the flag airline of Finland, has announced its vision of flying for 85 years in the future. Titled Departure 2093, the project comprises designs for five futuristic flying machines that are posh, emission-free and 100% recyclable.

Thing is, the designs are eerily reminiscent of the types of craft the futurists of the '50s promised us for 1993, especially the A1700-2400 Cruiser, a jet-powered VTOL that looks more like a flying saucer, and the yet-unnamed dual-nosecone service ship for an orbiting "space hotel."

Features and amenities for Finnair's fleet of the future include nanoceramic bodies; electricity-generating skins; luminescent crash-landing bags and emergency parachutes; virtual windows with changeable exterior views; intelligent seats that adjust to passengers' bodies, measure their vital signs and offer massages; restaurants with live shows; gymnasiums; and hologram theaters. ... Continued

See video

Some of my best TV memories come from the early days of cable, back before it had really found its place in the entertainment world. I was especially fond of the newly introduced Disney Channel, before the introduction of superfluous productions like Hannah Montana and High School Musical, when Disney dug into their vaults and replayed classic programs that really exercised the imagination.

Many of them, even back in the '80s, stood as quintessential examples of retrofuturism, a pie-in-the-sky view of what the future will hold, with fantastic and often laughable ideas of what space travel would soon hold for us.

Telstar Logistics has just reminded me of one of Disney's best, titled Man and the Moon, in which guest narrator and rocket genius Wernher von Braun describes the way in which we will achieve lunar flight and life in orbit, 13 years before Apollo 8 and 43 years before realization of the International Space Station. (I just love the way he says "atomic re-ack-tohr.") ... Continued

If you enjoyed the midcentury concept cars I posted about a couple weeks ago, then you'll probably like the new slideshow presented by Wired.

Wired attended the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in Pebble Beach, California, where the cars were on display, and got some excellent shots up close and personal.

Mark Frauenfelder over at Dinosaurs and Robots picked up on a fantastic slideshow currently available at The New York Times Web site that includes a number of futuristic concept cars designed by G.M. in the 1950s, featured as part of their "Midcentury Motorama."

Among those included are the torpedo-esque 1959 Cadillac Cyclone, the nine-finned 1958 Firebird III (pictured above) and, the one I would drive every single day were I so lucky to own it, the 1956 Buick Centurion (pictured below).

Also included is the 1953 Futurliner, a restored version of which I discovered years ago parked unceremoniously on the streets of Sherman Oaks, California, and toured with the permission of its owner. (A moment I still regret not having my camera with me.) ... Continued