Did you ever imagine what the future would be like when you were a kid? We all did. Some of us were obsessed with jetpacks and robots, while others dreamed of videophones and space travel. It was “all of the above” for two kids in Reynoldsville, Pennsylvania, who imagined what the futuristic world of 1999 would look like in 1975.
The year was 2001. John Howard was Prime Minister of Australia. "Can't Fight the Moonlight" was at the top of the charts. Big Kev was enthusing about washing powder on our CRT TVs. And 10-year-old Amanda was dreaming of a handheld, voice-activated computer.
The 14 February 1975 edition of the Courier-Express newspaper in Dubois, Pennsylvania included a story by two Year 6 students, Rob Guthrie and Bob Mulhollan. The two men, Rob and Bob, would be 56 years old if they’re still alive. And their predictions are pretty damn cute.
Spelling errors, including “socker” when I’d guess they mean “soccer”, have been retained.
It is Friday, the 13th of October, in the year 1999. Robert Mulhollan is about to celebrate his 37th birthday. His good friend, Robert Guthrie calls him on the picture phone, “Let’s take a 3 day hike to the planet X”, Rob suggests to Bob. The following day was spent getting their equipment together, which included paper clothes, glass boots and four jet packs. Their diet consisted of spaghetti, venison, vanilla and chocolate milkshakes and 100 Hunkies. Al of this was compacted into 3 capsules, to be taken on daily.
Egor, their friendly robot was constructed in their family workshop and he speaks with a monster accent. It is essential that they take him with them to carry their supplies.
The first day they traveled 3,000 miles per hour [4828km/h]. Their first rest stop was on the moon where they watched a lunar socker game between the Martians and the Lunar Robots.
Continuing on their trip, they discovered a lost robot with his electrons running out. They gave him some Egors and named the new friend Ralph. Egor was very jealous of what he felt was his competitor.
They spent that night at their destination, Planet X. A special martian pie was enjoyed for Bob’s birthday. The trip home was on a new interplanetary space route 310.
They arrived back in Reynoldsville just as their oxygen tanks were ready to run out.
They went to visit Mrs. Mulhollan where a surprise party was awaiting Bob.
Ralph the new robot was given to Mrs. Mulhollan as a gift from outer space and this suited Egor just fine.
Predictions from little kids are oftentimes silly, but they’re a unique brand of futurism. They represent a kind of unvarnished look at the hopes and fears of an era through the eyes of humans who aren’t yet completely jaded by the world. And, perhaps most importantly, they aren’t selling anything.
Futurism is often tainted by obsessions with consumerism that can provide some fascinating glimpses of tomorrow. Disney gives us a beautiful and shiny future. But the goal is always to turn those dreams into a sale. With old predictions from children, we often get a future stripped of a cynical sales motive which provides the purity of just wanting a “friendly robot” that “speaks with a monster accent”.
Sadly, both Rob and Bob’s names are common enough that I haven’t tracked them down.