How Did Predictions About Computers Hold Up?

Predicting the future is a daunting task. Even the most studied and knowledgeable minds are making a “best guess” in most instances. Many predications range from a Utopia to Apocalypse to everything in-between awaiting us. While predicting the future is necessary for preparation and planning – on a personal scale to World-wide implications – often it provides a source of entertainment and fulfilling curiosity, especially when looking back and comparing how accurate (or in most cases – inaccurate) the predictions were. 50 years ago, TIME magazine made some predictions on how computers would affect our daily lives, impact the workforce, and the economy. Let’s take a look at some of the conditions at the time and, for better and worse, at some of these predictions and how they turned out:

  • The U.S. was home to 100 computers in 1955. In just a decade’s time, that number grew to 22,500. (83.8% of homes had a computer in 2013, not including businesses or government offices)
  • The smallest model weighed 59 lbs
  • 650,000 Americans were employed making computers
  • Prediction – The average American would have a 20 hour work week.
  • Prediction – As little as 2% of the workforce would be employed due to computers and automation.
  • Prediction – Americans were going to have to adjust to more leisurely lives, focusing on cultivating their minds much like the Greeks.
  • Prediction – Computers will become integrated into everyday life much like the telephone and become a public utility of information.

As you can see, predicting the future is not an exact science. Many of us have closer to 20 hour work days than weeks. Thankfully, even in the worst of times, 80%+ of the workforce is employed. I cannot speak for the Greeks of old but I would wager a guess that Aristotle and Socrates would not consider reality TV and the Kardashians as cultivating the mind. To the predictors’ credit, computers have indeed become an integral part of everyday life, touching far beyond what most could have even imagined.

By weight of comparison, here are some predictions for computers in the next 100 years as made by Professor Frink of The Simpsons in the 1970’s:

  • Computers will become twice as powerful
  • Computers will be 10,000 times larger
  • Computers will become so expensive to manufacture that only the 5 richest Kings in Europe will be able to afford them

For more information on the TIME article, follow the jump:

Written by Curtis C.