Debunking email hoaxes and exposing Internet scams since 2003!

Hoax-Slayer Logo Hoax-Slayer Logo

DividerDivider
Home    About    New Articles    RSS Feed    Subscriptions    Contact
DividerDivider
Bookmark and Share












1954 Home Computer Hoax

Outline
Caption accompanying a widely circulated image claims that the picture depicts how scientists in 1954 imagined a home computer set-up would look in 2004.



Brief Analysis
The claims in the caption are false. The picture does not depict a 1954 prediction of how a home computer might look in 2004. In fact, the picture was an entry in a Fark.com Photoshop contest that uses a Smithsonian exhibit photograph depicting a full-scale mock-up of a typical nuclear-powered submarine's maneuvering room as a source image.

Detailed analysis and references below example.





Last updated: 7th July 2010
First published: May 2005
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer


Subject: 1954 computer prediction

1954 Home Computer prediction




Detailed Analysis
 Submarine's maneuvering room mockup
The source photograph used as a base for the fake image
The caption accompanying the above image claims that it depicts how scientists in 1954 imagined a home computer set-up would look like in 2004. The image has been a popular topic for online forum posts and is also circulating via email. Some versions assert that the image was included in a 1954 edition of "Popular Mechanics".

The text below the image states:
Scientists from the RAND corporation have created this model to illustrate how a "Home Computer" could look like in the year 2004. However, the needed technology will not be economically feasible for the average home. Also the scientists readily admit that the computer will require not yet invented technology to actually work, but 50 years from now scientific progress is expected to solve these problems. With teletype interface and the FORTRAN language, the computer will be easy to use.
In fact, no such "Home Computer" model was created. Nor was the image published in any 1954 edition of "Popular Mechanics". In fact, the image is the end result of some clever manipulation of a real photograph that depicts a full-scale mock-up of a typical nuclear-powered submarine's maneuvering room. The mock-up was part of a Smithsonian exhibit and carried the following explanation:
Washington, D.C., Apr. 10, 2000 A full-scale mock-up of a typical nuclear-powered submarine's maneuvering room in which the ship's engineers control the power plant and electrical and steam systems. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Tim Altevogt.
The manipulated, "home computer" image was in fact an entry in a Photoshop competition organized by Fark.com. The entry was submitted by a Fark user posting under the name lukket. (Editor's Note: Some of the entries in this Fark competition are no longer available on the site. However, lukket's entry is still showing up at the time of writing. Scroll down the entry page to view the image)

The image has been accepted as legitimate by many people and has generated a lot of sometimes amusing debate. Some have postulated that the large wheel in the picture was intended to fulfil the function of the modern-day mouse. Others have pondered if a FORTRAN based system with a teletype interface would really be that "easy to use".

Even though the image is a fake, it does serve to illuminate the fact that our predictions of the future are often highly inaccurate. A quote attributed to a 1949 edition of Popular Mechanics states that "Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons." And Ken Olson, of Digital Equipment Corp is famously quoted as postulating, "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."

Bookmark and Share

References
Fast Attacks and Boomers: Submarines in the Cold War
Fark - Photoshop this mock-up of a submarine's maneuvering Room
Fark Profile - lukket

Last updated: 7th July 2010
First published: May 2005
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer