Daniel Eran Dilger
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iPhone Predicted 40 Years Ago Along With Flying Cars

40 years in the future
Daniel Eran Dilger
Blogs have been buzzing about an article in Mechanix Illustrated from 1969 that made a series of predictions for life in 2008: flying cars that whisked commuters to work on autopilot at the speed of bullet trains, supersonic rocket planes, homes automated by a central computer, a society fed seaweed that tastes like steak, intelligence pills, and other science fiction ideas. Nobody has pointed out that the main prediction that has become a reality is represented by the iPhone.

The article’s first paragraph, hosted by Modern Mechanix in the blog entry What Will Life Be Like in the Year 2008?, describes reading the morning paper on a flat screen and tapping a button to change the page. Yes, the iPhone also swooshes with a finger swipe and zooms with a double tap or pinch, but none of that could be expected to have been on the radar of mainstream futurists in the late 60s.


Judging by how few of the rest of the predictions have come to pass, it’s even more impressive that Apple delivered the iPhone last year. Back in January 2007, Microsoft executives shrugged off the iPhone dismissively and pundits weighed in immediately to insist that it needed a fold out keyboard. They’ve since been forced to reevaluate their position, as the iPhone trounced Windows Mobile, Palm and Symbian in the North American smartphone market to become the second best selling platform (behind the RIM BlackBerry) and the first best selling smartphone model.

Canalys, Symbian: Apple iPhone Already Leads Windows Mobile in US Market Share, Q3 2007

Microsoft is now talking about delivering apps for the iPhone, while fierce Windows Enthusiasts such as Lance Ulanoff of PC Magazine (who a half decade ago reported that he “was happy to learn earlier this month about the discovery of a significant security hole in the Jaguar and Panther versions of the Apple operating system” and announced that “the truth is that the Mac OS is just as vulnerable as Microsoft Windows. Overall, maybe OS X is better than Windows, but that’s not the point.”) have started writing up plaudits for the iPhone that insist it will replace the desktop PC as the computing platform of the future.

10 FAS: 10 – Apple’s Mac and iPhone Security Crisis

Not so fast, cries John Dvorak, who has served as one of the iPhone’s primary critics. The problem with the iPhone, Dvorak explains in PC Magazine, is that it can be dropped into a toilet. Humanity will never settle on technologies that are small enough to be flushable. Imagine dropping your keys, credit cards, currency, wedding ring, watch, digital camera, passport, or some other cell phone into the toilet!

Of course, that would be impossible, because society has mandated that everything valuable or important must be too big to fit into a toilet bowl. That also means we will be stuck with smartphones the size of a Dell Extreme Tower PC for the foreseeable future. Unless of course, we have an iPhone and have eaten enough intelligence pills to avoid precariously dangling it over a toilet.

John Dvorak Concedes 2007 was a “Crappy Year” for Windows Enthusiasts

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  • droughtquake

    Oh give John a break. He just doesn’t want anyone dropping an iPhone on his head!

  • Jon T

    Perhaps surpassed by Rob Enderle’s concern at iMacs – they’d be extremely dangerous in the event of an earthquake…

  • http://web.mac.com/johnnyapple johnnyapple

    I suggest that Dvorak stick his head in the toilet and keep flushing until all of the nonsense is gone.

  • http://www.thecarbonlesspaper.com johnnyapple

    Of course, that would be a serious drain on local fresh water supplies so, skip the part about flushing.

  • gus2000

    If my iPhone dove into the crapper, I’d go after it. I think.

    And we really do have flying cars now, if you’ve got $0.5M lying around.

  • Boregard

    “Call me anything but spell my name right.”

    With publishers cutting back as ad revenue dwindles in a recession (or something alike), give Dvorak & others credit for maintaining enough output to stay hired & issuing the ridiculous flow of FUD which keeps iPhone, Mac, MacBook & Apple brand names flowing out there on a regular basis.

  • lmasanti

    “Of course, that would be impossible, because society has mandated that everything valuable or important must be too big to fit into a toilet bowl.”

    Well, some one can just “Think Different” and develop a “safe net” toilet bowl. It has a metalic net that retains key, cellphone and any kind of non-dilutable elements…

  • BjK


    If only we could develop some system to recycle the water…

    I have it! Just pipe the flushed water back up to the bowl. After he is done, we can ship the water to be used as fertilizer on farms in third world countries.

    Problem solved!

  • fleabiscuit

    Was he talking about round toilets or the elongated ones? It could factor in during my bathroom remodel.

  • beanie

    Daniel Eran
    “Unless of course, we have an iPhone and have eaten enough intelligence pills to avoid precariously dangling it over a toilet.”

    Funny but it happens with other phones. According to SimplySwitch, 855,000 phones dropped into toilet in the UK each year, 315,000 lost in taxi, 225,000 lost in bus, 116,000 in the laundry, and 58,600 to dogs.


  • http://www.ecphorizer.com Tod

    Quote: “Well, some one can just “Think Different” and develop a “safe net” toilet bowl. It has a metalic net that retains key, cellphone and any kind of non-dilutable elements…”

    LMAO as I read the above. Then I choked when I realized that this safety net would also catch and hold “solid waste” matter as well; such things don’t “dilute” very rapidly unless you’re talking about diarrhea.

  • pa

    “What are folks going to do when they spill coffee on their iPhones? They’ve already done a lot worse–they drop them into toilets over and over. ” – Dvorak

    Over and over? I suppose Dvorak thinks this happens quite often, in which case he should be posing as a stock analyst or load up on Apple shares himself. With customers like that Apple should have no trouble hitting 30 million in 2008!

  • http://web.mac.com/lowededwookie lowededwookie

    There’s a flaw in Dvorak’s thought about iPhones and coffee. Most people type with the iPhone in their hands thus rendering the risk of coffee spillage pretty much nil. Add to the fact that when the iPhone is not in use it’s pretty much in your pocket, if you’re still spilling your coffee over your iPhone then you’d have bigger problems to worry about that whether or not your iPhone gets covered, like I don’t know… burnt testicles maybe. Don’t even get me started on coffee over the head in order to soak your in-use iPhone with coffee.

    HOWEVER, the chances of spilling coffee over your desktop… well…

  • JulianT

    Wow!!! This can only mean one thing!!!

    The iPhone Nemo (Waterproof floatable iPhone with automatic remote GPS location notification service) is coming in 2009!!!

    I definitely want one. Preorders anyone……

  • pecos.bill

    Daniel, did your schoolteachers have to write “stick to the point” often on your papers?

    I don’t really see how the morons in the punditsphere have any bearing on what was forecasted 40 years ago.


  • http://www.roughlydrafted.com danieleran

    @ pecos.bill: i recall teachers threatening to mark me down for writing too much.

  • jdb

    What I found interesting about the 40 years in the future article was that they overestimated every technology except the computer which they underestimated.

    I’ve had a thought for a while that computers have far outstripped the best that futurians and science fiction writers predicted. Up until the release of microprocessors, science fiction never envisioned ubiquitous computers used by normal people for everyday tasks. I can find no example in science fiction from before 1975 or so. The only area that science fiction over predicted was on artificial intelligence.

    Even where the above article does make correct predictions it is couched in terms of large centralized computers. There is a quote that is highly relevant, “Computers also handle travel reservations, relay telephone messages, keep track of birthdays and anniversaries, compute taxes and even figure the monthly bills for electricity, water, telephone and other utilities. Not every family has its private computer. Many families reserve time on a city or regional computer to serve their needs. The machine tallies up its own services and submits a bill, just as it does with other utilities.”

    So close. Just change the sentence to “Every family has their own private computers.” and the author would have nailed it.

    I don’t know why these observations fascinate me but they do.

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