Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Monsanto House of the Future

More on the retro-future thread.

Maybe "thread" is too strong a word. So far, it has mainly been fragments. Hopefully, this is building up to a coherent thesis about attitudes toward technological progress, particularly about how the huge advances of the late 19th/early 20th centuries and the Post-War era lead people to internalize the idea that every aspect of the world was changing at an ever-accelerating pace. (I also want to tie in the closing of the Western frontier with the opening of the technological one, but that's definitely a topic for another day.)

I've argued that for almost a hundred years, technological progress reliably outpaced prediction while for the past thirty or forty, it's been the opposite. Though it's dangerous to pin these things down,1967 is around the time when our expectations started exceeding our advances.

From Wikipedia:
The Monsanto House of the Future (also known as the Home of the Future) was an attraction at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, USA, from 1957 to 1967. It was part of Disney's Tomorrowland

It was sponsored by Monsanto Company. The design and engineering of the house was done jointly by Monsanto, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Walt Disney Imagineering. The MIT faculty members were architects Richard Hamilton and Marvin Goody, and building engineer Albert G. H. Dietz. The fiberglass components of the house were manufactured by Winner Manufacturing Company in Trenton, New Jersey, and were assembled into the house on-site.

The attraction offered a tour of a home of the future, set in the year 1986, and featured household appliances such as microwave ovens, which eventually became commonplace. The house saw over 435,000 visitors within the first six weeks of opening, and ultimately saw over 20 million visitors before being closed.

The house closed in 1967. The building was so sturdy that when demolition crews failed to demolish the house using wrecking balls, torches, chainsaws and jackhammers, the building was ultimately demolished by using choker chains to crush it into smaller parts. The reinforced polyester structure was so strong that the half-inch steel bolts used to mount it to its foundation broke before the structure itself did.

For a firsthand account, check out this post by Ken Levine.

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