The Most Retro-Futuristic DMV in America

In 1979, two artists covered a Southern California building with futuristic murals. They painted moon motorcycles, high-tech highways, and spaceships that would look right at home in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. But as delightfully retro-futuristic as the building is on the outside, what happens inside may… » 3/06/14 3:02pm 3/06/14 3:02pm

Morgan Stanley Thinks Self-Driving Cars Will Bring Utopia by 2026

The term "techno-utopian" is helpful for referring to people who believe technology alone can solve the world's problems. The term is rarely used literally. But if the financial services company Morgan Stanley is to be believed, driverless cars will literally bring about a utopian society in just over a decade. » 2/25/14 7:33pm 2/25/14 7:33pm

All Work and No Play Makes Self-Driving Cars a Dull Ploy

Back in the 1950s and 60s, self-driving cars represented the fantastic life of luxury that was supposed to be just around the corner. But here in the 21st century we can't even pretend that our driverless cars of the future will be filled with board games and light reading. No, our self-driving car of tomorrow will be… » 2/17/14 2:49pm 2/17/14 2:49pm

What International Air Travel Was Like in the 1930s

Today we largely take international air travel for granted. Every major city in the world is little more than a hop, skip, and jump away. But what was it actually like to fly halfway around the world in the 1930s, when the very concept was still novel? Pretty incredible, as it turns out—provided you could afford it. » 11/27/13 5:03pm 11/27/13 5:03pm

This Depression-Era Carphone Was Way Ahead of Its Time

Today if your car breaks down or you're in an accident, help is little more than a phone call away. It's something that many drivers of the 21st century take for granted, what with our Space Age smartphone technology. This automotive safety net, of course, wasn't available in the 1930s. But one visionary who was… » 8/13/13 1:11pm 8/13/13 1:11pm

Marilyn Monroe Assembled Drones During World War II

It seems every six months or so these photos of Marilyn Monroe from World War II make the rounds on the good ol' internet machine. At the time they were captured in 1944 she hadn't yet taken the name Marilyn Monroe, nor had she dyed her curly locks blonde. She was simply known as Norma Jeane Dougherty and worked in a… » 7/26/13 2:32pm 7/26/13 2:32pm

The Invention of Jaywalking Was a Massive Shaming Campaign

Before the invention of the car, jaywalking wasn't a recognized concept. Want to get across the street? Then just walk across the street—nobody's going to stop you. But the rise of the automobile posed a new problem for people of the early 20th century. While the median state-designated speed limit for American… » 7/22/13 3:21pm 7/22/13 3:21pm

Why the Biggest Obstacle for Elon Musk's Hyperloop Might Be Tunnels

It all sounds so Jetsonian. A new 600 mph "Hyperloop" method of transportation connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco? That's the buzz around the internet water cooler as people guess what Elon Musk has in store for the transportation of tomorrow. I say, sign me up! But if we take any lessons from past visions of… » 7/19/13 1:56pm 7/19/13 1:56pm

Before Jetpacks, We Were Promised Butterfly Wings

The jetpack would emerge in popular American science fiction of the 1920s, and later become cemented into the popular imagination after World War II. But the idea of single-flyer personal transportation tech didn't start with the jetpack. In the late 19th century, people were obsessed with flight. And they imagined a… » 7/17/13 8:35pm 7/17/13 8:35pm

Where the Future Came From: A Trip Through the 1893 Chicago World's Fair

What would you do if you had a time machine? Go watch the ancient Egyptian pyramids being built? Hang out with Jesus and turn some water into wine? Kill Hitler, maybe? These are all, no doubt, noble endeavors. But I've often said—and I stand by this—that if I had a time machine, I'd go visit the 1893 World's Fair in… » 7/16/13 11:15am 7/16/13 11:15am

Fantastical illustrations of airships from the early 20th century

Charles Dellschau was a butcher, but after his retirement in 1899, he became an artist, laboring over intricate collages and illustrations of flying machines. He filled notebooks with gorgeous, multicolored airship designs and mysterious, coded records of the "Sonora Aero Club." » 6/30/13 1:35pm 6/30/13 1:35pm