Technology

Retro Hello to Tata Nano

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As the developing world snaps up tin can cars of the future (like the $2,500 Tata Nano) in ever-increasing numbers at ever-decreasing prices, doomsayers everywhere have jumped in with bleak predictions about pollution, traffic congestion, and the decline of mass transit. As an antidote, enjoy a little 1950s optimism about the glorious transportation future, filled with land-to-water RVs, teletype traffic updates, punch card vacation itineraries, fog "dispelling devices," and in-car radar.

Via Bronwyn Hartung

Cross-posted at reason.tv

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  1. Where’s Wonelacko to denounce such obvious propaganda for the NAFTA Superhighway?

  2. Was everyone an idiot back in the 50’s?

  3. doomsayers everywhere have jumped in with bleak predictions about pollution, traffic congestion, and the decline of mass transit.

    I’m not so sure that “the decline of mass transit” is necessarily “doom”.

    Smells like freedom, to me.

  4. I guess I knew even then that the 120 mph superhighways touted in Pop Science would never see the light of day in the good ‘ol usa.

    Come Feb ’09, immediately following SCOTUS pre-approval of legislation declaring personal arms illegal to sell/possess/use, Pres Hellary will return us to the thrilling days of 55, with violations defined as terrorism, with appropriate penalties.

  5. Not to worry: Tata is currently in talks to purchase Jaguar, and we all know what happened to the last 3 owners.

  6. “Tomorrow living in spacious, well-planned communities will be closely integrated with the highway system.”

    HA!!!!!!!

    commuting radius expanded… If anything the highways probably make people wish they could live as close as possible to work.

  7. and the decline of mass transit.

    Too late, an “express” bus in Seattle takes 45 minutes to travel six miles. Guess how long the non-express bus takes?

  8. Did anyone else notice that all the traffic traveled in the same direction?

    Oh so many questions!

    If the highways are so safe in the future, why the wrecked car?

    And why is Father the one who gets to “drive” and not Mother?

    You know, I bet it was Mother who wrecked the car. She’s been spending far too much time in the kitchen with that Radarange, and it probably scrambled her brain a little.

  9. Much of that technology that they talked about in the first 2/3rds of the cartoon has been created on some scale. . . until they got to the ‘car of the future’. After that, I couldn’t stop laughing.

  10. Yup. Automotive optimism sure does look silly in hindsight.

  11. Only Walt Disney had such visionary optimism …

  12. Automotive optimism sure does look silly in hindsight.

    Oddly, though, I would expect upwards of 90% of the people who live in the US to agree with the proposition that widespread auto ownership has vastly improved the quality of life.

  13. If anything the highways probably make people wish they could live as close as possible to work.

    Nothing is stopping any of those people with 90 minute commutes from living much closer to where they work. Every urban area has housing close to jobs.

    The reason they don’t live 15 minutes from the office is because they would rather live somewhere else. They’ve looked at the tradeoff of the long commute, and decided its worth it.

    Now, personally, I don’t get it. I hate commuting. But I don’t need to get it, as long as they do.

  14. Yeah, some (most?) of the stuff silly. But some stuff, like the containerized cargo bit, is pretty close to how the China -> Costco system actually works these days. And they were spot on with ‘sprawl’; in fact it seems that’s exactly what they were trying for.

  15. I really could have used that radiant heat on the highway during my 14 mile drive to O’Hare this morning that only took and hour and forty five minutes.

  16. When are we going to get slide rules and punch cards to help us with the drudgery of engineering and deciding upon our next vacation? This was almost too optimistic on those points.

    I think we got all the rest of that video was pretty close to what we have now.

  17. With all that automation you would think that everybody would be fat in the future. Apparently they left out the part where they banned video games to end the fat-fuck epidemic.

  18. it is very light not good material

  19. Oddly, though, I would expect upwards of 90% of the people who live in the US to agree with the proposition that widespread auto ownership has vastly improved the quality of life.

    There was already widespread car ownership when that short was made, and there had been since the 1920s. That move is not about owning cars; its about arranging our society and landscape around them.

    It’s not the cars, it’s everything else they were telling us would be so wonderful. Driving log distances to work on clean, efficient highways – you think 90% of Americans are going to say their morning commute has vastly improved their quality of life?

    BTW, inner cities haven’t been the major job centers in this country for 20 years, so no, the availability of housing in cities isn’t an opportunity for most people to live close to their jobs. Those jobs are scattered in office parks along those clean, efficient highways. Like I was saying, automobile optimism sure does look silly in hindsight.

  20. I think we got all the rest of that video was pretty close to what we have now.

  21. So father is going to be able to get from his garage at home right to his own office without encountering a single other human being, not even his coworkers in the office…

    Yet having highways across the world will lead to better understanding among nations.

    Hmm. Is that how it’s worked here? Highways have produced better understanding and harmony between, say, Simi Valley and Watts?

  22. I once had an Aussie lover visit me for 1/2 year here in the states. When she saw one of the freeways in San Diego, she proudly noted “Big deal, we have one of these in Sydney”. I pointed out that you could drive from San Diego to Portland, ME, stopping only for fuel and tolls. When we got back home, I had to break out the road atlas before she’d believe me. IMHO, the greatest construction project (size, mass, usefulness) in the history of mankind is the US Interstate system.

    Standard Libertarian Disclaimer #5 (privately owned roads would be blah, blah, blah) goes here.

  23. I think we got all the rest of that video was pretty close to what we have now.

    In the sense that the dingy parking deck that takes up half a block is the “same thing” as the gleaming, monumental structure in the artist’s rendering, sure.

    J sub D,

    Only if you consider the interstate system one project, but the installation of sewers and treatment plants that’s occurred over the same period to be discreet projects.

  24. Only if you consider the interstate system one project, but the installation of sewers and treatment plants that’s occurred over the same period to be discreet projects.

    That does get tricky. Also both were often done in conjunction with each other. You can toss in some flood control as well.

    Your basic point about sanitation is not going to get an argument. The treatment plants and sewage systems have save more lives than all of the MD’s combined. From an occasionally heretic libertarian, that job was a proper function of government.

  25. I want to live in this massively voluminous and sparsely populated future! Maybe it was post-apocolypse and Walt just edited that part out.

    The reason they don’t live 15 minutes from the office is because they would rather live somewhere else. They’ve looked at the tradeoff of the long commute, and decided its worth it.

    Now, personally, I don’t get it. I hate commuting. But I don’t need to get it, as long as they do.

    I hate it too, which is why I won’t move further out. Economics playes the biggest role; more expensive closer in, less so further out, all things being equal.

    I live 4 miles outside of the DC line, 14 miles to work total, and it still takes me 45 minutes to get to work. If I lived 15 minutes from my office in the city, it would cost me around a cool $800,000-$1,000,000 to live there. And then I would get the privilege of sending my children to the worst performing school system in the country.

  26. There are plenty of houses available in Anacostia, JW.

    And there’s the rub; buying further out is NOT a consequence of people liking longer commutes, or even liking sprawl-style develdopment. There are million-dollar neighborhoods throughout Northwest that are built almost exactly like those in Southeast or the nastier parts of Capitol Hill.

    It’s the schools, and the safety that leads people to buy homes in suburbs that only allow sprawl-style development. Suburbs that allow neo-trad development are selling like hotcakes, too.

  27. If the highways are so safe in the future, why the wrecked car?

    I love how they take the injured “driver” *and* the car. “Hold on bub. I know you have masssive internal injuries, but I gotta get this heap of twisted metal outa the way.”

    And why is Father the one who gets to “drive” and not Mother?

    Because, even in the future, they still know their place.

    I see this short foretold of the one-child future. Now I know why it is sparsely populated. They’re breeding at sub-replacement levels! Sad to see the human race fizzle out like that, but damn, they sure had ssome kick-ass highways.

  28. There are plenty of houses available in Anacostia, JW.

    **Runs to Anacostia** Awwww, you tricked me. It’s just a baseball stadium.

    There are million-dollar neighborhoods throughout Northwest that are built almost exactly like those in Southeast or the nastier parts of Capitol Hill.

    Exactly like the houses in NW, except for the poverty, ghetto life, crime, and burnt-out $1,000,000 Victorians working as crack houses.

    Capitol hill is an enigma to me. One block is run-down ghetto, the next block is full of $800,000++ with the non-black DC power elite living in them, the next 2 are ghetto, the 2 after that, uber-expensive homes again. Very strange.

  29. Before you laugh too long, take another look at the last scene, where the superhighway passes through a land with elephants and buildings that look like the Taj Mahal. They got the Future Superpower right, at least.

  30. My ears perked up at the “highly specialized pleasure vehicles” mentioned at 5:18? Reminds me of a van I had in 1979.

  31. JW,

    Exactly like the houses in NW, except for the poverty, ghetto life, crime, and burnt-out $1,000,000 Victorians working as crack houses.

    Yes, that was my point: the neighborhoods were built the same, but they have vastly different levels of livability. This tells us that it is not how the inner-city neighborhoods were built that makes them unappealing for the modern buyer.

    But I agree, the neighborhoods change faster in DC than anywhere else I’ve ever been.

  32. joe–I knew that was your point. That was only for the benefit of the non-DCers here.

    There are terrific neighborhoods in DC: Cleveland Park, Woodley Park, Dupont Circle. Cathedral Heights, but you have to earn major money to live in any of them. Very little room for the middle class in DC, unless you don’t mind being an early adoptor for gentrification or like living in 800 sq. feet for a family of 4.

    Unfortunately, that is also the pattern for much of the DC metro area. If you are wealthy or poor, you have a neighborhood to live in that gernally meets your expecatations. The middle class, while there is plenty of housing, you sacrifice in some other area. You get all of the costs of living in such a wealthy area, but few of the benefits.

    For instance, I live in Montgomery County, one of the wealthiest counties in the country; #6 or something like that. In the western part of the county, where the uber-wealthy live, they get what they pay for in terms of public services, including the public schools. They rival many private schools in the quality of education the kids receive.

    However, in the eastern half where I am, it’s lots and lots of poor latino immigrants mixed in with native middle class residents. We get shafted on public services, even though our tax rates are the same. (As an example, my kids’ school was built in 1960 and has never been renovated, while schools in the western half, built long after our school was, have been completly rebuilt.)

    For us to move where the schools are good in the county would bankrupt us. Moving further out to another county would mean 2-3 hours+ commuting each day for *each* parent. It’s nuts.

    It’s gotten so bad, that the wife and I are seriously considering moving out of the area, where the cost of living is lower, the schools are good, the communities a bit more socio-economically homogenous, and the commutes are shorter. Much, much shorter.

  33. JW,

    What about places like Mt. Pleasant – that was a decent middle-class neighborhood when I was there. Have prices gone through the roof?

  34. Yep. Real estate in DC is insane; depending on the area, some homes tripled or quadrupled in value since the late 90’s. It’s come off a bit since the bubble popped, but not by much. It’s still a great market to sell and move out of.

    Not Manhattan or San Fran levels, mind you, but still out of the reach for most civil servant/white collar workers. You either have to be single/gay with good disposable income, or if you have a family, in the upper 10% or so of income to afford any decent house in DC. Either that, or make a LOT of sacrifices.

    Mt. Pleasant also has a very large latino immigrant population pulling down the living standards somewhat. You have privileged yuppies and laborers living cheek and jowl. Driving down Columbia Rd. is a taste of 3rd world chaos. Crime has gone up in Mt. Pleasant too.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind diversity (or immigrants) in a community at all, it makes it more interesting, but I would like to have a happy middle, rather than the extremes that seem to populate the area.

  35. I want to live in this massively voluminous and sparsely populated future! Maybe it was post-apocolypse and Walt just edited that part out.

    You could have JW , but for (1) the 1965 immigration act and (2) our governments refusal to enforce the ridiculously lax immigration laws we do have. Think of California with 2/3’s of its present population. A real paradise.

  36. Yes, but who will pick the lettuce for your salads or serve you ice-cold drinks on your plantation?

    Oh right, it’s the future: Robots. Made in Korea.

  37. I want a nuclear tunnel-melter. That is all.

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