As I make my morning pour-over, I call out to my central heating system through my voice-automated virtual assistant to take the chill out of the air. My toes are cold. It occurs to me to look at what the American household was like 100 years ago to see where we’ve been, an exercise I can complete in a few seconds.
1919. My grandparents would be born in just a few years. The Great War had just ended (“Great” because there was only one). There were no TVs. Radio was just about to catch on. Alexander G. Bell had just made the first phone call. Frigidaire had begun mass producing refrigerators the year before. The first rudimentary planes were beginning to leave the ground. Einstein’s name was just beginning to spread. The life expectancy in the US was around 55. Today it is almost 80.
That year, Dec. 23rd, the first patent for the central heating system was given to Alice H. Parker, an African-American woman from New Jersey. Women had just gained the right to vote that year, and women rarely had been given the opportunity to receive U.S. patents, particularly women of color.
“Alexa, who was Alice H. Parker?”
In terms of what science-fiction writers were dreaming about, the first robot appeared in film that year alongside Houdini, named Automaton. You can watch the 3 hour silent film on YouTube.
I wonder if we’ve even begun to dream about what 2119 will look like. Guesses?