Captain 20Prospect and the World of Tomorrow!!!!!


In the words of James Lileks, “nothing ages faster than yesterday’s tomorrow.” I’d have to agree. I came across this link to the Popular Science website, where they have now placed all 137 years worth of issues into a searchable database. If you are a tech junkie, or someone who geeks out on retro-futuristic illustrations, this site is like crack. Warning, you can get sucked in for hours.

We didn’t have Popular Science around the 20 Prospect household growing up. Dad was a Popular Mechanics kind of guy. As an aspiring engineer I used to look forward to flipping through the pages looking for sneak peaks at the latest technologies that would transform our lives by the year 2000. As Lileks is fond of saying, “I’m still waiting for my jetpacks”.

In the “Popular-Mechanix-Modern-Science-Illustrated” genre of magazines, Popular Mechanics was pretty dowdy compared to Pop-Sci and the over the top designs and illustrations on the covers of Modern Mechanix. Or maybe it was just that by the 1970’s and 80’s our vision of the future had become pretty dull. Gone were the wild fantasies of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. In it’s place the post-apocalyptic digital futures of Blade Runner and Neuromancer. Granted, Blade Runner was still pretty freakin’ cool, and a far site better than the ponderous krep we got in the 70’s, like Planet of the Apes and Logan’s Run. Still, the vision of the future that Cyberpunk projected wasn’t any place you wanted to live.

Digital Science fiction leaves me cold. Not like the analog Science fiction of the pre-1960’s world. (I place Star Wars in the Analog world, as it was a throwback to the science fiction serials of the 30’s and 40’s, and really had more in common with the tales of King Arthur than it did with 70’s Sci-Fi.)

So step up to the WABAC machine, and let’s take a tour of Yesterday’s Tomorrow, and mourn the future that never was. I mean really, were jetpacks too much to ask for?

Sherman and Peabody

One of the unwritten rules of illustration was that all futuristic machines should have an anthropomorphic face

Again with the faces? Look at them long enough and they start to creep you out

What was the fascination with giant, spokeless, wheels?

See what I mean?

Combination Ice Auger & Snowmobile. You know, I think you could sell this in Minnesota.

The 1948 Toyata's are in!!!!

Comparatively speaking, this looks down right quaint.

I know they're out there...

My ideal commuter vehicle

Where's my Jet Pack!!!!!

All Magazine Cover Illustrations courtesy of the wonderful Modern Mechanix Blog

For more looks into the future that never was visit Paleo-Future

5 thoughts on “Captain 20Prospect and the World of Tomorrow!!!!!

  1. This can happen to you!
    These are priceless.
    Why is nothing today as fabulous as these covers? Forget the future, I think I’d like to go back to the past now please.

    • Why did yesterday’s tomorrow look so much better than today’s? I demand that car companies start making cars that look like something out of a Jules Verne novel, damn it!

  2. Love PopSci!!!!! Thank you for letting us know about the online treasure chest and thank you for excavating the gems! The older covers look so much better. Have we lost all our imaginations as we are jaded by all the Mega blockbuster sci-fi movies etc?

  3. They were almost spot-on about helicopters and snow mobiles. (I like the addition of the gun to shoot down big game out there in the woods). And they knew what they were talking about when they predicted cars could shoot off of high buildings and take their passengers to their deaths.

    Thanks for bringing out those remarkable pictures to our attention.

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