So you want to live like the Jetsons?
Entrepreneur Paul Moller sure does. Moller, who is based in Davis, Calif., has spent 30 years and, reportedly, tens of millions of dollars trying to develop a mass-market flying car. All he's gotten for his pains are a few prototypes and a $50,000 fine from the Securities and Exchange Commission. Flying cars won't be in the mainstream anytime soon. And the same goes for a whole host of futuristic technologies that have been pop culture staples for years.
But, if you're willing to think of living like the Jetsons as a trip to the past, rather than the future, you can start having some fun in the here and now. Add a few modern gizmos to the mix--one savvy shopper has even posted a list of Jetsons-friendly gadgets available through Amazon.com--and you're practically ready for the next space age.
Let's start with the past: When the Jetsons first aired on Saturday nights on ABC in September 1962, the Hanna-Barbera produced show depicted a family of four, their dog, and robotic maid living in a future built around the technological fads inspired by the early days of the Apollo space program: They zipped around in flying cars, kept in touch via videoconferencing and ate meals that plopped out of a device called the Food-A-Rac-A-Cycle.
Relics of those Jetson-age trends are everywhere now. You can visit architect William Perreria's "Theme Building" at the Los Angeles Airport, completed in 1961, which seems to hover above the ground, supported by a trio of arches. Or you can fire up the computer and surf over to online furniture outlet Design Within Reach, and shop for one of the graceful chairs designed by the Finnish genius Eero Saarinen--he died in 1961--that are crudely echoed on the Jetsons.
And while you won't find the Jetson's Food-A-Rac-A-Cycle in stores, the television dinner meant that by 1962, a future where machines produced a variety of tasty food at the push of a button seemed just around the corner. And in a way, it was. Raytheon patented the microwave oven in 1945, and the appliances would start selling in large numbers in the 1970s. So for a taste of the Jetsons life, grab a 1960s style frozen dinner and nuke it.
Other predictions from the Jetsons proved to be even more on target. Thanks to cheap Web cams and video-friendly instant messaging software, such as Apple's iChat, keeping in touch via video is easier than ever. Cisco Systems and Tandberg are even selling high-end, Star Trek style videoconferencing setups for the workplace.
If you want a car like George Jetson's, however, even a trip to the past doesn't quite satisfy. The closest thing--at least in looks--to the pod-like vehicle George piloted is another product of 1961: the Ford Gyron. The two-wheeled, gyroscopically balanced concept vehicle's spare chrome and white body seems to float through the air. It's a design that probably presages some future version of Apple's iPod digital music player. It was never mass produced. But if you're willing to settle for another spare 60s era design--the Studebaker Avanti--eBay Motors can set you up.