The House of the Future (in 1967)

My microwave quit on me the other day. Not in a fizzle‑pop-dead kind of way. The door broke. The little hooks inside the door no longer catch, so the microwave won’t hold shut, and I cannot program it to warm anything. And I don’t know how to easily fix it. So, after six years, I’m back in the market for a new microwave.

This made me realize that I live in a great time. Not only did I have a microwave, but I’m going to get a better one. Still, it’s not as great as the kitchen of the future was supposed to be in 1967.

Walter Cronkite introduces the kitchen of the future. Image: Smithsonian.com

Walter Cronkite introduces the kitchen of the future.
Image: Smithsonian.com

According to Walter Cronkite, by 2001 we would be typing in meals and letting a completely automated chef prepare a full meal for us and serve it on freshly molded plastic dinnerware. That last part doesn’t sound very appetizing, but the whole concept pre-supposes 3D printing, which is still working to become a widespread thing.

So Cronkite’s prediction for the kitchen of the future was off a bit. His 1967 documentary series “The 21st Century” is still a thought-provoking glimpse of what people then thought  life would be like in their future, which is now our past.

Cronkite wanders around a home decorated in the heaviest modern sci-fi house vibe that could be mustered. In the living room, he points out a large console that will control all variety of entertainment and room comfort settings. The kitchen has the autochef I mentioned previously, and there is even a small robot maid.

Cronkite and the home entertainment center. Image: Smithsonian.com

Cronkite and the home entertainment center. No more lost remotes.
Image: Smithsonian.com

The home office allows you to check the weather, tune in to other rooms in the house, get real times news and download the newspaper via satellite. You could also print it out like Cronkite did, but we simply don’t do that anymore.

Cronkite was certainly right about one thing: “No home may be complete without a computerized communications console.”

We’re now 15 years on the other side of 2001, the year that was the focus of Cronkite’s 1967 show. Some of the technological predictions he shared never came to pass. But he was spot on about some observations.

As he walked through the home office, Cronkite said, “With equipment like this in the home of the future, we may not have to go to work. The work would come to us. In the 21st century, it may be that no home will be complete without a computerized communications console.”

But I’m holding out for that automated chef.