People love to guess the future. There is never a shortage of predictions, not to mention movies that are based in the future with directors putting their spin on what they believe will be popular years, decades, or even centuries from now.
Even Walter Cronkite couldn’t escape trying to predict the future. In the YouTube video below called “Walter Cronkite in the Home Office of 2001” Cronkite attempts to predict, back in a March 12, 1967 episode of the CBS show, “The 21st Century,” what the future of telework would look like.
First off, we have to applaud the American broadcast journalist for his forward-thinking. After all, telecommuting wasn’t even really a concept until about 1973, when the “father of telecommuting” Jack Nilles coined the term. So for Cronkite to even have had the idea of people working from their homes is indeed impressive.
For the most part, Cronkite gets virtually all of the aspects of working from home correct. He enters, stage-right, into what appears to be a mock-up of a home office. He claims: “This equipment here will allow him to carry on normal business activities without ever going to an office away from home.” This statement must have been shocking for the 1960s viewing audience watching this program.
The first piece of equipment is a console that relays news via satellite from all over the world. This would, in the future, become the Internet. Cronkite goes on to say that if a person wanted a newspaper copy for future reference, he would simply turn the dial to print, and a copy would come out. This would go on to become our modern-day printers.
Walking over to the next machine (which resembles a computer and monitor) Cronkite says that he can now check the weather, which goes from typed words to a weather map. Cronkite points out that the machine can also give him the information on stocks he might own. This machine would obviously be incorporated into a modern-day computer.
Cronkite then points out a mock-up of a future telephone, which looks like a microphone stand with a keypad at the base. If he wants to see the people he’s speaking with, he simply turns on yet another monitor, and up pops an image of a person. It’s unclear in Cronkite’s scenario, though, if the image is simply a photo of the person or something along the lines of today’s teleconferencing tools, in which live video of the person appears. Still, it’s an innovative idea for 1967, and might be considered one of the prototypes of what will go on to become videoconferencing.
A third monitor allows Cronkite to “keep in touch with other rooms in the house” as he works through a closed circuit television system. This would later become more commonly known as a video security system, which in today’s world, can be viewed on smartphones, and as Cronkite predicted, computer screens as well.
Although the equipment used in Cronkite’s scenario is obviously outdated, his ideas and perceptions about telework and its possibilities are very advanced. Even though many of the functions of the various computers in his display can nowadays be done by a single machine, many people use multiple computers when working, so Cronkite wasn’t far off the mark.
“With equipment like this in the home of the future, we may not have to go to work,” concludes Cronkite in the video. “The work would come to us.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
photo credit: istockphoto.com