Punch magazine predicted the 21st century… in 1906!

Punch magazine predicting the smart phone effect
Punch magazine predicts how we all act now during social interaction

If Punch magazine were around today, it would sit back, put it’s feet on the desk, light a pipe and say “I told you so”. In the modern day world, we’ve been swept up by the relentless march of advanced technology. Each year, a new or upgraded phone/computer gets released and we simply have to have it. People will camp outside the Apple shop for the newest dumbed down technological marvel so they can hunt Pokemon without thinking about it. This article isn’t a criticism of the technology, but more our insatiable need to know what other people are doing.

What has essentially happened in the last few years, is that social media has allowed the walls of our houses to become transparent so that people can look into our lives. We’ve developed an obsession with morbid voyeurism, being naturally curious creatures. We now have the power to show everyone what’s going on in our lives. Something Facebook dress up as “sharing”. We’ve become so desperate for people to like us (both in the real world and with a small virtual thumb) that we will display everything to everyone.

We have a machine that can fit in our pockets that has access to the entirity of human knowledge. Yet we spend all our time looking at what other people are having for tea. I’ve fallen for the trap, I’m just as bad. I’ll walk along the street staring down at my little screen; ignoring the splendour of the world and looking at what other people are actually doing as opposed to what they want us to see them doing.

“It’s a very interesting story, future boy”

Amazingly, Punch magazine said that this would happen in 1907. In 1906, they predicted that people would be able to use “wireless telegraphs” to read sport results, news or messages.

In the picture that they published, it shows a man reading news and a woman receiving an “amatory message”. Could this be the first love letter via wireless mail or simply an unsolicited nude picture. Judging by her expression and the lack of naming and shaming, I would speculate not the latter. Still, if you were to swap “wireless telegraph” for “smart phone”, you’ve essentially got a prediction of today.

If this has been going on for 110 years, maybe we’re not so bad after all?

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