7 Epic Retro Future Predictions and Their Modern Day Versions

In case you haven’t noticed, we have a love here at Man Cave Master for anything vintage. We’ve explored everything from retro games to old-school computer ads. Now we’re tying together the past with the present in an ode to retro-futurism.

Retro-futurism is all about how the past eras saw their future. Those visions spanned all aspects of the world, from cars and computers to clothing. Now we can look back on those priceless predictions and see how different our surroundings are today than past generations had imagined it. 

It’s fun to see the epic retro future images, including flying cars and RoboCop uniforms, and then compare it to the different kinds of awesomeness that surround us today in our man caves and beyond, including smart technologies and portable bluetooth speakers

Without further ado, we present you with the best of the retro future predictions and their modern day versions. Bring on the optimism, along with the houses shaped like flying saucers… and more!

1. Self-Driving Cars

The Retro Future Vision

Back in the 70s and 80s, the visions for the future automobile industry were full of flying and self-driving cars. No, this isn’t how we see our future now but instead how the hippy generation started to imagine what we would drive today.

Envision being behind the wheel of a flying ship! The preoccupation of those past predictors (say that three times fast) was with spaceships and life on other planets, so it made sense that there would be airborne cars to go right along with it.

Retro Future Car

OK, so this fantasy and similar ones didn’t become a reality but you might say we are on our way there. In the meantime, you should test drive these 7 awesome cars, all while Tesla Motors makes progress in the driverless car area.

I mean, we wouldn’t expect anything less from Tesla’s out-of-the-box CEO Elon Musk, now would we? 

The Reality Check

Tesla is working on software updates as we type these words right now that will make its cars go driverless on roadways and parallel-park themselves too.

Tesla Self Driving Car Update

And it’s not just Tesla that is racing to bring the self-driving car to the market. Google is also working on its own version of the driverless auto for commercial resale within the next five years. Its prototypes have racked up hundreds of thousands of test miles on real streets already and rely on Light Detection and Ranging Technology.

Plus, we do have the Tesla Model S. The full-sized luxury electric car is awesome, equipped with a 60-kWh battery and a cinch to charge at any of Tesla’s 2,907 Superchargers. 

And let’s not forget about the Tesla snake charger. The automated system can plug itself into the Tesla to charge your Model S for you! It’s a solid metal snake that is kinda creepy but a totally cool hands-free way to charge up the high-end auto.

This car tech might be enough to tide us over as we impatiently wait so politely for the autopilot “Kitt” models to be ready for our consumption, hopefully within the next few years.

2. Space Travel

The Retro Future Vision

Frank Tinsley imagined the “Lunar Unicycle,” shown below in his drawing from 1959, to be typical of spacecrafts of the future. It was ten years before the first moon landing, and we wonder what Neil Armstrong thought of Tinsley’s space art depicting a 30-foot high unicycle.

Retro Future Space Art

If you look closely at the image, you will see the moon explorers are carrying long poles. Back in the 50s, there were questions about what the moon’s surface would be like and whether it would be so covered with dust that the spacecraft would get lost in the haze.

The space age had not even really begun yet. The building of spacecrafts had not started and yet we were already dreaming of what they would look like in the future. 

In the the 40s and 50s, for example the yellow pulp pages of science fiction mags were full of images of space art. There were images of spaceships travelling to other planets, such as Mars, as well as encounters with life on other planets.

The sci-fi covers and images in the pages within them were full of spaceship rockets hurtling through space, men dramatically rescuing helpless women above the clouds, and other thrilling adventures.

The Reality Check

Today we can defy physics without ever leaving our manly lair, thanks to the oversized gravity chair and other smart technology finds we pointed out in a recent post.

And don’t forget about homes being built with solar panels, so you toss your energy bill in favor of the sun’s rays. If you’re a stargazer, you could even build a constellation light in your home using this handy guide.

Let’s not forget that NASA is taking big steps in exploring the solar system too. Just this year NASA’s Dawn spacecraft orbited the dwarf planet Ceres for the first time.

The spacecraft is not a “unicycle” but instead shaped like a box, with a 7.7ft length rather than the 30 feet that Tinsley had thought might come to be one day. Dawn is an ion-propelled structure made of graphite composite.

Retro Future and Dawn Spacecraft

As for exploring other planets, we’re on it! We have already landed on Mars multiple times, the first time being the Viking 1 Lander in 1976. Today, rumors are swirling about sending humans to the Red Planet in reusable rockets and back, courtesy of Elon Musk’s SpaceX team.

Wait, doesn’t he have enough on his hands with the driverless cars?!

By the way, did you know that you can buy land on Mars? You may want to invest in the planet in case one day humans inhabit it in addition to Earth. Think of it as buying prime real estate before the prices skyrocketed (excuse the pun).

At the Buy Mars website, you can (seriously) buy one acre of planet Mars land within a package that also includes a Martian deed, map, and bill of rights. We’ll eat a Mars chocolate bar and ponder the investment with you.

3. Police Officers

The Retro Future Vision

The future law enforcement officers looked like a type of RoboCop if we go by the 1886 drawings of the British humor magazine Punch

RoboCop Future

The officers look violent with their many thorn-like metal protrusions that would bludgeon the criminals of the world. The complex police uniforms show battle axes built into the helmets, and they held clubs with protrusions that could take out eyes or limbs with one swift movement.

The gladiator vision has continued to be a popular one, which is why actor Russell Crowe is now rich after his Gladiator movie that released back in 2000.

As for what the officers would drive, of course, it would be flying cars that were capsule shaped, as was imagined in the 90s.

It was all about the “bot cop car” in the 90s when the retro video game Future Cop rocked gamers’ worlds.

The game first released on Playstation in 1998 and showed what Los Angeles would look like in the year 2098. Who knows, perhaps that will be the year we see police use Gatling lasers and plasma flares as they do in the game, along with unleashing Hovertanks.

The Reality Check

Today there are about 680,000 sworn officers working in the United States. Regardless of race, sex, age, height, or other differences, each US officer is blue first. Why do they wear blue uniforms? 

There are several reasons why the boys wear navy, including because the color is easy to clean, with stains being less noticeable than with a lighter or brighter shade. Think about it. Would you trust a police officer in a dirty uniform? It might shake your confidence a bit.

Also, the dark color makes it difficult to see the officers in the dark, so they can sneak up on the bad guys.

Not the Retro Future Police Vision

As for the weapons they carry, nope, you won’t see those medieval type instruments shown in the 1886 illustration. Instead, most US police holsters carry Glocks or semi-automatic pistols. Also, the officers carry duty belts. 

The duty or gun belt is made of nylon or leather and used to keep equipment easily within reach of the officers while keeping their hands free. Er, we guess that means saying buh-bye to the retro future shield.

Primary items on the belt are usually a handgun holster to secure the officer’s firearm, radio pouch, handcuffs, chemical sprays, taser, and portable lighting, such as a flashlight.

4. Home Design

The Retro Future Vision

Home sweet home. Back in the 1960s, the retro future man cave looked like a friggin’ spaceship! The design was called the Futuro House.

Retro-Futurism Home

Remember the space talk earlier in this post? Yup, that spaceship design fascinated people in the 60s so much that it extended to their home designs too. 

The Futuro design originated with Matti Suuronen, a Finnish architect who envisioned the home’s exterior as being elliptical shaped and made of glass-filled polyester resin.

This retro future vision of the home looked like it belonged on another planet but was designed for Earthly humans!

The Futuro House was 26ft W x 13ft H, and it stood on metal legs to provide stability. Check out the oval windows that cover the side of the dwelling. It was a space-age man cave!

Futuros were produced in the 60s (I know!!), but consumer purchases were slow to grow and then the oil crisis of 1973 happened, which drove up the cost of the spaceship home.

The out-of-this-world theme (literally) extended to the inside of the retro future home too. You know the show Outer Limits? That’s how you wanted your den to look, right? Actor Rainn Wilson might have ended up with a totally different man cave then!

A “hatch” stairway opened up to take you into the home, like a real flying saucer. Inside were bedchairs on thin legs, rounded benches, and circular tables.

The Reality Check

Today you will see many of the world’s tallest skyscrapers in the US. One such building is NYC’s One World Trade Center, completed in 2014; it has 104 floors and a height of 1,776ft. The tallest US residential building is 432 Park Avenue in NYC; it is 1,396ft high and has 88 floors.

Skyscrapers Not Retro Future Homes

More and more Americans are also living in houseboats, rather than retro future spaceship-looking residences. In Seattle alone there are about 500 houseboats. There are the barge, pontoon, catamaran, and luxury styles of floating homes, to name just a few.

Another interesting home trend in the US features the adaptive reuse of existing buildings into housing. A range of structures, from abandoned churches to factories and freight containers, are being converted into homes.

Perhaps it is part of the green trend; after all, the most environmentally friendly building is the one that is already built.

Sustainability trends and increasing urbanization are driving changes in the housing market. Homeowners are choosing to reduce energy consumption and enjoy smaller power bills, whether buying a couch made of non-toxic flues and natural fabrics or making a reclaimed wood table.

Want to learn more? We showed you how to make that table in our eco-friendly man cave post.

Rather than being a spacecraft-like style of home we’re embracing today, it seems that technology rules the most modern of homes. Automated devices are hitting the market that promise to regulate residential heating, lighting, and security systems.

They are called “smart” homes and lack alien life forms from other planets (unless we count our family’s odd second cousin Pat).

5. Office Worker

Retro Future Employee

The Retro Future Vision

This image shows another blast from the past vision of the future. It’s the office job that people of the 60s thought they would see today.

The pic was part of a 1969 exhibition in Hanover, Germany. Check out the oversized computers, typewriter keys, and photocopier included in this desk.

The office desk of the future, envisioned back in the 1960s, the Mad Men era, featured amazing automation features and out-of-the-box styling. It included television screens for monitors and required more room than we give to desks today.

Other images of retro future desks show receptionists at telephone switchboards and electronic machines for keying rotary files with more speed than ever before.

As with the home and car retro future topics above, the outer space influences are apparent here too; note the rounded style of the office desk and chair’s headrest, to name just two examples.

And let’s not forget about the retro future video conference calls with business colleagues, the video recorders, and the typewriters that people predicted would be part of our 21st century. They were different social networks than Twitter and Facebook, for sure! 

The Reality Check

Technology has exceeded the expectations explained above. We had the typewriter and now it is outdated, replaced by PCs with features such as 16GB of RAM, 1 TB storage capacities, 27in screens, and 3.3 GHz processor speeds.

Many workers today are on the go, so rather than having a stationary desk they have laptops with touch screens, in addition to smartphones and tablets that connect back to their desktops. 

Tech for the Office Worker Today

Many workers today are on the go, so rather than having a stationary desk they have laptops with touch screens, in addition to smartphones that connect back to their desktops.

You can get a washable keyboard, Bluetooth stereo speaker clock kit, and other cool tech gadgets that you might not even know exist today. 

Many jobs of today are based online, revolving around the World Wide Web that was born in 1989. There is Skype, which is similar to the retro future video calls but today the technology is much faster, better quality, and cheaper than it had been imagined to be by this point in time. Technology is advancing quickly!

Say goodbye to the 9-5 job and hello to making our own schedules. Let’s finish our spreadsheets on laptops as we sit at the airport and don’t forget that phone call we will make from our Apple Watch. The wearable technology trend is on fire!

Oh and did we mention Google Glass yet? Google is tweaking the reality glasses to reintroduce them to the enterprise market as a way to boost worker productivity. Businesses will reportedly have to pay $1,500 to buy the glasses once they are ready for purchase by enterprises.

6. Flat TVs

The Retro Future Vision

Back in 1946, Darryl Zanuck said these words:

Television won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.
Darryl Zanuck
20th Century Fox

Retro-futurism and Television

Zanuck’s TV prediction could not have been farther from the truth. Mind you, he was a Hollywood legend who derived his income from the silver screen, so it makes sense that he discouraged the television trend as it threatened his livelihood.

As for how exactly television would look in the future, this image from a Hildebrands postcard shows a woman singing and a woman listening via a device that resembles a phone.

Also, note the singer’s image displayed on the wall, which shows the prediction of what live TV would someday look to be for people. Check out the bottom right-hand corner of the postcard to see the year “2000.” Talk about one heck of a retro future TV vision!

The Reality Check

Zanuck was also incorrect in his retro future discussion of the plywood box. It is a plastic box today, thank you very much, that we watch mindlessly. We have flat screen TVs and flat panel HDTVs.

You can get your television set with an edge-lit or direct LED backlight, remotes with sweet motion control and voice search, 4K resolution, and screen sizes upwards of 80in. 

TV Today

And TV today IS a big deal, by the way. People watch over four hours of television a day, on average, or nine years over a lifetime.

TV viewing includes live coverage of Super Bowls, beauty pageants and late night talk shows, although the process is not like the postcard above depicted it would happen in the future. There is 3D TV and don’t forget about wall-mounting the device either.

The way we consume television is changing every year, with more people choosing to cut the cord on traditional cable TV and instead choose set top players like Roku 3 and the Google Nexus Player.

Watch what you want, when you want, and save money too! Check out this review of the top 5 media streamers on the market to learn which one is the best option for you.

7. Computers

The Retro Future Vision

In the 1960s, computerized learning was predicted to be big in the future.

Computers and Retro-Futurism

Students were given questions in school lessons and asked to select multiple choice answers on their machines. A correct answer moved them forward with the test while an incorrect answer took them to a review of the related topic.

At the end of the test, their answers were printed out on paper to show the teacher. My, we’ve come a long way!

But, what did people back then think about computers outside of the classroom, such as in the home? Ahem, this remark of Ken Olsen, the founder and CEO of Digital Equipment Corporation, back in 1977, is a telling one:

There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.
Ken Olsen,  
CEO of Digital Equipment Corporation

Yes, you read that quote right (as we type this post on a computer at home). And if you want more retro laughter, check out these vintage computer ads that are so bad it hurts.

The Reality Check

Here is a few more computer retro future predictions but these are different than Olsen’s statement because they came TRUE! 

The predictions below are all from futurist Ray Kurzweil. He is the inventor of technologies such as the first CCD flatbed scanner and was asked by Larry Page to direct Google’s artificial intelligence initiatives. 

Here are Kurzweil’s retro future predictions over the past 25 years that have come true:

  • Kurzweil predicted a computer would defeat a world chess champion by 1998. It happened in 1997 when IBM’s Deep Blue chess computer took down World Champ Garry Kasparov.
  • In 1990, he predicted that by the year 2010 computers would answer queries users asked them by accessing info on the Internet. Hello Google.
  • Back in 1999, Kurzweil accurately predicted that people would have the ability to give commands to their computers by 2009. Yes, Apple’s Siri was in development in 2009! 

Today, computers are a major part of learning in classrooms. There are online class discussion forums and tests, and often instructors integrate specific websites into course lectures. Emails provide ways for teachers to touch base with students. 

Often students bring laptops and iPads to the classroom to take notes, research Google for projects, and more. As for distance education courses, they can be done completely on the Internet, without ever meeting the instructor in person.

Yes, the retro future vision of computerized learning appeared to be on the right track. We can’t wait to see how video lectures, the iPad, and WiFi will continue to improve in their effectiveness over the future years!

Retro-Futurism And The Now

Let’s face it – we’re not quite where the folks of the past thought we would be now. We still don’t fly around in cars, and the Kardashians rule the television airwaves. 

Funny of Kardashian Power Now

But we’ve got to give the thumbs up to amazing advances in computerized learning and technologies in general. We’ll see you in your flying Tesla in the future and say hello to your clone too. The future is going to be one heck of an amazing virtual reality ride. We’re strapping ourselves in for this one!