A 1980 magazine article about the future of TV got it spot on — with a few ridiculous exceptions

The writer predicted DVRs, flatscreens, email and "the cable."

"What Can Print Your Plane Tickets, Find the Kids and Beat You at Chess?" asked the headline of a 1980 article in the entertainment magazine Panorama. The answer? Television, of course! Or at least, the television in the far future of the year… 2000!

Writer and consumer electronics expert David Lachenbruch laid out how the technology available at that time was leading to a place where TV would be the center around which most 21st-century activity revolves. And in many ways, he was right.

He imagines a future where hundreds of channels are available at our fingertips and can be scrolled through easily using a "digital remote-control panel." Lachenbruch even foresees DVR!

"If there are two good shows on at the same time, you direct one to 'storage' – when it comes on, it's automatically recorded for you to view whenever you wish. You don't have to touch the video recorder, which is kept out of sight in the component cabinet; everything is controlled from the wireless touch-pad panel."

Another improvement he predicts is the flat-screen TV, writing, "the picture will be freed from the tube." He calls it a "video terminal" as opposed to a television set. One of the most precise imaginings of the whole article is the description of cable and satellite TV.

"The vast majority of city and town video terminals will be connected to what probably will still be called 'the cable' – an anachronism, because it will consist of bundles of high-capacity glass fibers in place of electrical cable, capable of carrying hundreds of channels on modulated laser-light beams. Many rural homes, and some city ones, will have small, dishlike, rooftop or windowsill antennas to pick up programs directly from space satellites." While television beamed from space seems anything but noteworthy these days, 40 years ago the concept was, well, out of this world!

Lachenbruch also predicts the home desktop computer with eerie accuracy. "At your desk, either in the viewing room or in a study with its own 'satellite' screen, is a typewriter-like keyboard. Any member of the family can use this to address a central community or national computer, calling up all kinds of material from the information bank."

He continues, "In addition to displaying textual material, it also provides color pictures, diagrams and animation on request. Being a two-way system, it can, for example, display on request a timetable of all flights to Phoenix and make a reservation for you. Your desk may also contain a printout device to make typed copies of any text material that appears on the screen." This description of a home office sounds quaint by today's standards but it's also very close to reality – especially for 2000.

Of course, like any attempt to tell the future, there are some things that are way off.

While Lachenbruch correctly anticipates email, he doesn’t get close knowing how it would actually be implemented. "Most miraculous of all – thanks to the central computer and the wide-band, two-way information pipe – America will finally solve its mail problem; the Postal Service can actually look forward to making a profit from instantaneous electronic mail. A simple attachment will allow letters to be sent between any two video terminals directly, for display on the video screen or for reproduction on paper."

Another wild guess? Tracking children with electronic locaters. "Another video terminal add-on helps keep track of the children. Each of your offspring has a tiny electronic 'locater' button sewn into his or her clothing; when you press the locate key on your home terminal, a map of the neighborhood appears on the screen with a different colored dot indicating the location of each child."

Locators sewn into clothing reads like pure science fiction but the ability to track smartphones with GPS, and the ever-decreasing age at which kids get such devices, means that parents now can keep track of their offspring by seeing dots on a map.

Seeing predictions of a future now very much in our past is a reminder of just how far technology has come in the past half-century. It makes you wonder what entertainment will be like 20 years from now and if we could even try to accurately predict any part of it.

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candybaroque 45 months ago
honestly my favorite things to read or look at are the past's predictions for the future! theres so much hope!!
RedSamRackham 46 months ago
Indeed we're no longer Marshall McLuhan's global village! ♣
BobD 46 months ago
Still waiting for my flying car, though!
justjoe 46 months ago
Looks like someone forgot about cable/satellite TV hi costs and cord cutters 🤔😊✌️
Greg 46 months ago
Predicting the 2-way wideband "pipe line" seems like the best prediction. I think T.V. will be in it's currant form for a long time. There is no point in screen resolutions beyond what the eye can see. The innovation will be in cell phones and wireless. Variable screen sizes, direct connection to satellites, digital zoom with no pixilation
ncadams27 46 months ago
In 1980, there were home computers, printers, VCRs, and cable TV, so his predictions were not to much of a reach, more of a logical extension. With all this advanced technology, I still prefer MeTV reruns.
cperrynaples 46 months ago
Interesting how much material you're getting from Panorama now. I believe this came from the same company that published TV Guide. It was only published for a few years, and it failed in part because the articles were too long for TVG readers. If it were reintroduced as a blog today, it would be very popular. Clearly, sites such as Deadline own a debt to Panarama!
Pacificsun 46 months ago
True, in that assuming the "Post Office" would be involved with "electronic mail" is highly laughable. However email was a reality (at least for our company) in the late 80's. It was incredibly similar to today, including the exchange of attachments. Access to this wondrous system came to be only because of a merge between our company and and the other, which had developed the program. Unfortunately it was discontinued shortly after we'd gotten used to it. Because the highest executives of our company (at the time) were uncomfortable using it themselves. They also didn't want to delegate others to use it in their place for highly sensitive and confidential materials. (No doubt the security of the system couldn't be verified).
TexasGreek Pacificsun 46 months ago
Sounds like Xerox. My offices were close to Xerox Tower in Las Colinas. Xerox was using e-mail and mice well ahead of others.
As for security and trust, I'm a Systems Engineer with 35 years experience. If I want to know something I will know it. If one person builds a lock another person can break it or change the conditions. (Gordian Knot) I've always told my students that if I were mean and evil I'd be a multi-millionaire living on an island somewhere. There is NO 100% security and never will be. I understand your executives trepidations. They were wise to think so. Most people still don't understand that with every text, e-mail, etc. that we create it is permanent. I tell my students that "Your mind is on parade". I can spend 15 or 20 minutes with your PC or Phone and can get a pretty good idea of who you are. The Brits have a saying, "Who is he when he's at home?" Your PC or phone tells me that quickly. If I can do it then thousands of others can, too. Always be guarded. You are being profiled and tracked in many ways by many different peoples and companies.
Pacificsun TexasGreek 46 months ago
Good comment, thank you for contributing!!
TexasGreek Pacificsun 46 months ago
Of course, and thank you for your contributions as well. You are observant and well spoken. It's a pleasure to read your insights.
Greg TexasGreek 46 months ago
What do you think will be the effect of a new generation of executives that have grown to trust tech?
TexasGreek Greg 46 months ago
I have limited space for a reply, but I say this. My own opinion, of course. Only use the minimal amount of tech that you require. Many use it because they can, status symbol or think that they are "cutting edge". When I do ISO certification, it's amazing that the process owners don't know how they do business. Mind boggling. The U.S. has done a lousy job in educating citizens and students at all levels. Using a device is not understanding one. A person can drive a car but do they know how it works? A.I. is a major mistake. And last but not least, we as a people are not ready for the ethical and moral ramifications of what is happening with tech. We have not grown as a people along with it. (Don't give an AR15 to a 9 year old. They don't understand the ramification on so many levels.)
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