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The Newspaper of Tomorrow: 11 Predictions from Yesteryear

The Newspaper of Tomorrow: 11 Predictions from Yesteryear

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Newspapers printed by radio right in the home in 1934  (Source: Novak Archive)

Many of us here in the 21st century like to think of the newspaper as this  static institution. We imagine that the newspaper was born many generations ago  and until very recently, thrived without much competition. Of course this is  wildly untrue. The role of the newspaper in any given community has always been  in flux. And the form that the newspaper of the future would take has often  been uncertain.

In the 1920s it was radio that was supposed to kill the newspaper. Then it  was TV news. Then it was the Internet. The newspaper has evolved and adapted  (remember when TV news killed the evening edition newspaper?) and will continue  to evolve for many decades to come.

Visions of what newspapers might look like in the future have been varied  throughout the 20th century. Sometimes they’ve taken the form of a piece of  paper that you print at home, delivered via satellite or radio waves. Other  times it’s a multimedia product that lives on your tablet or TV. Today we’re  taking a look at just a few of the newspapers from the futures that never  were.

Tablet newspaper of the future from a 1994 Knight  Ridder concept video


Knight Ridder’s Newspaper Tablet (1994)

The newspaper tablet of the future was demonstrated in a 1994 concept video  released by Knight  Ridder. I found the video over at the Open Video Project back  in 2007 and wrote a short blog post about it. I’m sure glad I didn’t make  any snarky comments about how this whole tablet thing was never going to happen  because as we know, the iPad would emerge less than three years later.

Back in 2011, a judge in the Apple vs. Samsung patent battle made note of  this video as possible prior art which could invalidate some of Apple’s iPad  patents. However, last  year an appeals court found that the Knight Ridder concept tablet couldn’t  be considered prior art and that Apple’s patent claims were significantly  different enough.

From the Knight Ridder video:

Let’s take a closer look at the Information Design Lab’s vision of the  electronic newspaper of the future. On first glance, it looks just like a  printed newspaper. In fact, you can browse stories and turn pages just as you  would on paper. But if a story interests you, you can read it more deeply.  Suppose this story about Bosnia catches your attention. Just touch the text and  the full story appears. What you read is no longer limited to the physical  constraints of the printing press and production process. A story is edited for  content and completeness, not for newshole.

And the tablet newspaper extends communication beyond the written word. Touch  the map and it comes alive, using the tools of sound and animation to tell the  story.


Philco-Ford’s newspaper printer of 2001 as  demonstrated by Walter Cronkite (1967)


Philco-Ford’s Newspaper Printer (1967)

We recently looked at an episode of the CBS show “The 21st Century,” hosted  by Walter Cronkite titled, “At  Home, 2001.” Originally airing on March 12, 1967, the show took viewers of  the late 1960s to the futuristic world of the year 2001. In the future, news  would be delivered by a satellite feed and stories could be printed out at the  touch of a button.

This console provides a summary of news relayed by satellite from all over  the world. Now to get a newspaper copy for permanent reference I just turn this  button, and out it comes. When I’ve finished catching up on the news I might  check the latest weather. This same screen can give me the latest report on the  stocks I might own.

You might recognize this newspaper printer from another concept video from  1967 by Philco-Ford called 1999  A.D.

Doc holds a USA Today from the year 2015 in the film  Back to the Future II (1989)


Back to the Future II (1989)

In Back to the Future II‘s futuristic world of 2015 they have  hoverboards, flying cars and instant-dry jackets. But the newspaper’s physical  presence looks pretty identical to that of 1989. The form and function hasn’t  changed, but futurist jokes about everything unhealthy being good for you (think  steak being healthy in Woody Allen’s Sleeper) is shown with this below  the fold headline: “Cholesterol May Be Cancer Cure.”


Machine for printing a newspaper in the privacy of  your own home via radio in 1938 [Source: Novak Archive]


RCA’s Newspapers by Radio (1930s, ’40s)

In the 1930s and ’40s a surprisingly large number of newspapers and  broadcasters (sometimes owned by the same company) were experimenting with newspaper  delivery by radiowaves. The idea was that unused radio spectrum could be  licensed to deliver newspapers at night via “radio facsimile.” These “radio  faxpapers” would be printed in the home while everyone was sleeping. The family  would wake up to a freshly printed newspaper without a paperboy ever having to  get his hands stained with ink.


Digital newspaper of the year 2054 in the film  Minority Report (2002)


Minority Report (2002)

The newspaper in the 2002 film Minority Report seems to have the  size and flexibility of a printed newspaper, but the technological advancement  of a web-connected device. Once John Anderton’s (Tom Cruise) becomes a fugitive  of pre-crime justice we see a newspaper on public transit that’s interrupted  with an animated breaking news special report.

My favorite headline from that newspaper is in the upper right corner of the  screen: “$30 Billion approved.” For what, we’re not sure. But you can rest  assured that $30 billion has been approved for something somewhere.


Partial cover of the April 3, 1988 Los Angeles Times  magazine


L.A. Times Laserjet Printed Newspaper (1988)

The April 3, 1988 issue of  the Los Angeles Times Magazine was dedicated to what Los Angeles  might look like in the year 2013. Their predictions included art by Syd Mead and  plenty of what you’d expect from late-1980s futurism: fingerprint verification  at the ATM, computers in the classroom, smart appliances, and plenty of  household robots. The prediction about what the newspaper of the future might  look like included printed copy delivered electronically to you by way of the  personal computer:

With a barely perceptible click, the Morrow house turns itself on, as it has  every morning since the family had it retrofitted with the Smart House system of  wiring five years ago. Within seconds, warm air whooshes out of heating ducts in  the three bedrooms, while the water heater checks to make sure there’s plenty of  hot water. In the kitchen, the coffee maker begins dripping at the same time the  oven switches itself on to bake a fresh batch of cinnamon rolls. Next door in  the study, the family’s personalized home newspaper, featuring articles on the  subjects that interest them, such as financial news and stories about their  community, is being printed by laser-jet printer off the home computer — all  while the family sleeps.



George Jetson reading the newspaper on his Televiewer  (1962)


Jetson’s Televiewer (1962)

In the third  episode of “The Jetsons” George sits down to read the newspaper on his  Televiewer device. As we’ve seen with videophones  in the Jetsons universe, there’s not a lot of consistency around what the  various devices are capable of doing. Sometimes a given console will appear to  be dedicated to one task (as is often the case with their videophones) but here  George appears to be reading on a more generic device that we can assume might  also handle broadcast TV.


New York post office with pneumatic tube circa 1914  (Source: Library of Congress)


Pneumatic Tube Delivery (1900)

As we’ve seen in our examination of the midcentury animated TV show “The  Jetsons,” the pneumatic tube was thought to be the wave of the future, being  installed as a way to deliver goods (and people!)  right into our homes. The newspaper may still be of the deadtree variety, but  according to the December  24, 1900 issue of the Boston Globe Bostonians of the  future would have their paper delivered each morning by tube.

The pneumatic tube service, by the way, will have reached its perfection long  before the first half of the new century has flown. It will have become a most  important factor in the domestic life of the people which also will have  undergone great changes.

Through such tubes a householder will undoubtedly receive his letters, his  readymade lunches, his laundry, his morning and evening paper, and even the  things he may require from the department store, which will furnish at the touch  of a button any essential solid or liquid that can be named.


Rick Deckard reads a newspaper in the year 2019 in  Blade Runner (1982)


Blade Runner (1982)

In the 1982 neo-noir film Blade Runner directed by Ridley  Scott, we see the protagonist Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) reading a newspaper.  The film takes place in the year 2019, but the newspaper looks like it would be  right at home in 1982. That is, except for the content. The newspaper headline  is difficult to make out, but according to Blade  Runner messageboards the headline probably reads: “Farming the Oceans, the Moon, and Antarctica.”


Alfred Harmsworth in 1896 (Source: National Portrait  Gallery, London)


National Newspaper (1900)

At the turn of the 20th century, newspapers were incredibly local. There was  no such thing as a nationally focused newspaper like USA Today. But in  the December  26, 1900 issue of the New York World, Alfred Harmsworth,  the editor of the London Daily Mail, predicted that there would  soon be national newspapers.

We are entering the century of combination and centralization. I feel certain  that the newspaper of the twentieth century will be drawn into the vortex of  combination and centralization. In fact, given the man, the capital, the  organization and the occasion, there seems to be no reason why one or two  newspapers may not presently dominate great sections of the United States, or  almost the whole of Great Britain. In other words, where there are now a  multitude of papers — good, bad and indifferent — there will be then one or two  great journals.


A newsboy from Philadelphia wears a neon sign to sell  his papers in 1937 (Source: Novak Archive)


Neon Newsboy (1937)

Today the street corner newsboy may be relegated to cartoon cliches about  young newsies screaming “EXTRA! EXTRA!” all around town to announce breaking  news, but back in 1937 newsboys in Philadelphia were outfitted with the wave of  the future: neon signs. From the April, 1937 issue of Popular Mechanics  magazine:

Newsboys in Philadelphia wear neon signs that flash across their chests the  name of the paper they represent. The neon lamp not only has a strong  advertising appeal, making it easy to “spot” a newsboy on a crowded street at  night, but it protects the boy selling paper in automobile traffic. To be  practical, the chest lamp had to be shockproof and operate on a portable  battery. The name of the newspaper is made of a single continuous tube of glass,  its base imbedded in a plastic substance which protects the tube from shock and  breakage. The neon is activated by a battery which gives forty-eight hours  service on one cell. A small vibrator changes the direct current to alternating  current and a transformer steps up its voltage. Battery, vibrator and  transformer are carried in the boy’s apron.

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Posted on: March 23, 2013, 7:03 am Category: Uncategorized