I grew up during a time when Hanna-Barbera classic cartoons were still aired on TV. I can’t recall what networks they played on but I remember watching The Flintstones, Scooby-Doo, Where are You! (and all of its spin-offs), Wacky Races, The Yogi Bear Show, The Smurfs, Shirt Tales, Pound Puppies, and countless others.
As we enter the third decade of the 21st century, I realize there was one cartoon that shaped my thoughts of the future. Created in the early 1960s with new episodes released in the 1980s, The Jetsons showed the typical space age family. It was the opposite of everyone’s favorite prehistoric family; if The Flintstones was about our past, The Jetsons was showcasing the possible future of 2062.
When I was a kid I thought surely we would have jet packs, flying cars that folded up into briefcases, robot maids, houses in the sky, and a diary you could share your secrets with that would also talk with you.
Well, I don’t have a flying car and my life isn’t made easier with robots that do everything for me including brushing my teeth. But, oddly enough, part of the futuristic world has come to life.
When The Jetsons would make a phone call, they would actually be using a screen device where they could see the other person. This was introduced back when not only did we have corded phones, we still had rotary dials. Now, with Skype and Facetime and the like, we can talk face-to-face with a person who lives hundreds of miles away.
It’s not too long ago when the standard TV was a clunky box shape. But on the cartoon, flat TVs could descend from the ceiling similar to the projector screens at school. All of the components would fit inside the slim TV. To the best of my understanding as a kid, there were a lot of electronic pieces making the TV work. I never did discover what the guts of the box TVs looked like. But now it’s uncommon to not have a flat screen TV.
Do you recall George Jetson had a watch that doubled as a communication device? Much like the Jetson family’s phone, you could see the person talking to you. My friends and I thought it was really something neat in elementary school when your digital watch could double as a calculator. But as a communication device? Not happening. Cut to the 21st century and we have smart watches that can help us navigate using GPS, alert us to email messages, keep track of our appointments, log how many steps we’ve taken, and still supply us with the time.
One of the most memorable non-human characters of the cartoon was Rosie, the family’s robot housekeeper. While her physical presence was quite primitive for a cartoon set in the future, Rosie was able to keep up with the Jetsons messes. We’re not at the point where we have AI housekeepers but we do have access to robot vacuums. Once seemingly out of the average person’s price range, you can find these house cleaning tools at most retail big box stores.
Yet, despite all of this fancy tech, George still used a huge computer. To the best of my recollection, it took up most of his office. Obviously, computers have shrunk considerably but isn’t it odd that was one piece of technology the creators chose to keep big. Then again, his computer was probably considered small compared to the ones used in the 1960s. But by the time the 1980s hit, we had already started using smaller PCs like the Apple IIe.
In four decades, maybe all of our technology will have caught up with what The Jetsons showed us was possible. But by that time, I may be set in my ways and not ready to accept new tech. I mean, it was only a few years ago I bought a smartphone and I still have VHS tapes. But I’m pretty sure I’ll be more than OK with a robot that does all of my housework.