Time for another one of these, I think… Bit of a mishmash this time around – some boats, some fashion, a jet or two, and a giant radio transmitter…
There’s nothing new in imagining what the future might look like, and science fiction is far from the only artform with a monopoly on doing so. However, as the future becomes the present, so does our imagined future become part of our past. And here are a few illustrations of that process…
Houses of the future
Clothes of the future
Giant computer brains
These posts have always been about the Cold War, but this time it’s a little more explicit – possibly inspired by a couple of programmes which aired recently on the BBC.
I’m supposed to be working hard on finishing Apollo Quartet 3: Then Will The Great Ocean Wash Deep Above, so of course I decided to take some time out to hunt down some nice retro-future pictures and post them here, as part of my ongoing project to document a future that just has to be better than the one we ended up with…
Check out more interiors from classic ocean liners of the 1950s and 1960s here.
While we wait for the next Chicxulub meteor to end the experiment we laughingly call “civilisation”, here’s a few of the more aesthetically-pleasing things we’ve managed to produce since we stumbled out of the Rift Valley. I say, “aesthetically-pleasing” because machines expressly designed to kill people in large numbers are not what you would call admirable…
Check out this website for even more fun futuristic fashion, from both designers and media.
And here’s the full pilot of The Solarnauts. It is ace – the credit sequence alone is brilliant.
As well as the USSR, USA and UK, many other nations were involved in the Cold War. However, none, it seems, built quite as many aircraft as those three countries. As a result, this “rest of the world” post proved really difficult to put together. The USA and USSR were in a military pissing contest, so it’s no real surprise they manufactured hundreds of different types of aircraft. Britain’s large inventory was a result of the role the country played in World War 2… But few other nations invested quite so much in their own military-industrial complexes, and seemed mostly happy to purchase their military aircraft from the USSR, USA or UK. The following aircraft, however, were all the products of their nation’s aerospace companies. Not all of them ever saw service.
Back in the day, the UK used to have a massive aircraft industry. It was because of the Second World War, of course. We churned out huge numbers of bombers and fighters during those years, but even in the two decades following, there were dozens of aircraft manufacturers in Britain, all bidding on government contracts. Over the years, the various companies merged, amalgamated, or went under, until pretty much all we were left with was British Aerospace. But back in the 1950s and 1960s, when names like Avro, Vickers, Handley Page, de Havilland, Gloster, Supermarine, still meant something, the UK built some iconic military aircraft. Not just the V-Bombers, but also the English Electric Lightning interceptor, the sadly-cancelled TSR.2, or the Canberra – which became the B-57 under licence in the US…
The SR.53 was a prototype rocket- and jet-propelled interceptor; only two were built. The Type 508 was also a prototype, and a later version of it, without the butterfly tail, went on to enter service as the Supermarine Scimitar.
I did the USSR last week, but now it’s the USA’s turn. The amount of money spent on these aircraft is staggering – far more in total than it cost to put twelve men on the Moon. And yet few of them saw service and even fewer actually saw combat. Despite their capabilities, the technology was far from sophisticated. They pushed the science and engineering of the time as far as it would go, just so they could intercept Soviet bombers before they began dropping bombs, or drop bombs themselves on the enemy without being intercepted. And the only way to do either was to go… higher, faster…
Of the fighters, only the F-101 and F-106 ever flew with USAF. The F-101 was also flown by the Royal Canadian Air Force. The North American A-5 Vigilante was based on the cancelled XF-108, but rather than a Mach 3 interceptor it was a carrier-based Mach 2 bomber. The Convair XB-46 was built for a medium jet bomber competition, but lost out to the Boeing B-47 Stratojet. The Martin XB-51 was built for a low-level bomber competition, but lost out to the Martin B-57, a license-built version of the English Electric Canberra. The Convair YB-60 was an attempt to extend the operational life of Convair B-36 Peacemakers by giving them swept wings and all-jet propulsion. USAF instead chose to use the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress.
One of the things we used to have was the USSR, which meant we also had the Cold War. That gave us “the three-minute warning”, fallout shelters, Mutually Assured Destruction, vast military-industrial complexes, spies and defectors and assassinations, and all manner of political posturing that nowadays all looks a bit farcical but was quite scary at the time. It also gave us some very effective-looking military aircraft. On both sides. Here are some Soviet ones.
The Tupolev Tu-28 was, and remains, the largest and heaviest fighter ever to see service. The Myasishchev M-50 was a prototype – only one was ever built. A second prototype, designated M-52, was built but never flew. The Sukhoi T-4 was also a prototype, and was never given a NATO reporting name.
This time last year it was warm and sunny. This year, it is not. It’s the end of March, it’s freezing cold and there’s snow on the ground. It’s supposed to be spring, dammit. Let’s have some appropriate weather, please. Meanwhile, here’s some pictures to look at:
(places I’ve known)