Walter Cronkite Demonstrates the Home of the Future in 1967

The Atlantic

Take heart. You could be controlling your television from a panel half the size of a pool table.

Sometimes, I take the remote control and the hardware and software it controls for granted. Increasingly complex television choices have overtaxed our television user interfaces. We ask too much of the humble remote, and so it disappoints for simple tasks like searching for a movie on cable.

But things could have been worse! Take a look at this video Matt Novak posted to YouTube. It anticipates the ability to dial up all kinds of entertainment at home from football in 3D to music delivered through orb-like speakers. It's all pretty ho-hum, actually, from today's perspective. 

What really stands out, actually, is the proposed control system. The console that Walter Cronkite operates here is probably eight feet long and looks like a panel from a nuclear power plant control system. 

No really, here's the control room from an American facility with a still I grafted on from the video:

View photo

.
a11_controls_full_inlay.jpg

This was a design sensibility that preceded the development of graphical user interfaces. Knobs abound, switches, too. And, of course, these elements would come packaged in a beige desk of a machine.

Much as I hate the modern remote and its limitations. This would undoubtedly be worse. And as a quick primer in UI change relative to expectations and the miniaturization of electronics, you could do worse than comparing this video with your setup at home. 





More From The Atlantic
View Comments