We’ve never experienced as much nostalgia as in these last few years. Yet we’re not only talking about the nostalgia for a (usually) idealized past, but also of that melancholic feeling for a future that never came. The technological, cultural, societal breakthroughs that we were promised in the 1950’s and the 1960’s, during an era of increasing human evolution, failed to materialize and no stunning miniaturization of communications devices or compression of information (iPods, MP3s, YouTube, downloadable movies, etc.) will replace the grandiosity of inventions that we used to foresee in the near future, (talking about Nasa’s space colonies, individual jetpacks, household robots…).
The utopic character of that possible future vanished away, a cultural fall parallel only to the general pessimism accompanying the crisis of capitalist economics. “Let’s be honest“, writes Daniel H.Wilson in hi opus “Where’s my Jetpack?”, “It’s the twenty-first century and things are a little disappointing”
“Sometimes it feels as if progress itself has actually slowed down, with the 1960s as the climax of a 20th century surge of innovation, and the decades that followed consisting of a weird mix of consolidation, stagnation and rollback. Certainly change in the first half of the 20th century seemed to manifest itself in the most dramatic and hubristic manner. It was an era of massive feats of centralized planning and public investment: huge dams; five-year plans of accelerated industrialization; gigantic state-administered projects of rural electrification, freeway construction and poverty banishment. Science fiction writers who grew up with this kind of thing (including the darker side of “public works” — the mobilization of entire populations and economies for war, the Soviet collectivization of peasant farms that resulted in massive famine, genocide) naturally imagined that change would continue to unfold in this dynamic and grandiose fashion. So they foresaw things like the emergence of cities enclosed inside giant skyscrapers and grain harvested by combines the size of small ships voyaging across vast prairies.
It’s no coincidence, too, that sci-fi’s nonfiction cousin, futurology — or future studies, as it is now more commonly known — emerged as a discipline during this era of the activist nation-state. (…) The 1950s and 1960s were characterized by future-mindedness, an ethos of foresight that attempted not just to identify probable outcomes but to steer reality toward preferred ones. It’s no coincidence that those decades were the boom years for both sci-fi and a spirit of neophilia in the culture generally — the streamlined and shiny aesthetic of modernity that embraced plastics, man-made fabrics and glistening chrome as the true materials of the New Frontier.”
Now let’s shift scenario and try to imagine Italy in those years, a country which was industrially and economically resuscitating but that still kept well impressed in its memory the poverty and the hardship of the first decade after the war. No scenario could be farest to those glorious Nasa Moon Colonies. Yet, sci-fi imagery found a fertile terrain, there, and the imagination of the young public was well captured by that upcoming reality they were so anxiously waiting to live in first person.
It is with the imagination, the naïveté and the state of mind of an Italian late 1950’s child, that we demand you to look and -if you are able to understand Italian- read the following spreads, a selection of pages scanned from an original trading card albums (“Album di Figurine“) published in 1959 by the Collezioni Lampo. The “World of the Future” was half scientific vision, half improbable fiction, but it’s still a complete joy to browse through.
This was tomorrow, after all.
The planets and their life
Science in the future
The home in the year 2000
How you will travel in the future
Ships in space
The army in the future
Reactor cosmic aviation
War in the year 2000
Related, on Socks:
Memories of the future, an article by Ross Wolfe