Greengates Builders Merchants

Things Men Were Promised But Didn't Get

The films, books and TV shows of our childhood led us to believe the future would be littered with all manner of amazing innovations.

From flying cars to food in pill form and holidays on the moon, the future was rich with promise.

What's more it seemed a perfectly reasonable promise, at least for anyone who belonged to the generation which had also been told that if people still had to go to work they would commute via teleportation or at least by using some kind of a jetpack.

If we sound disgruntled, is it any wonder? Guys our age were promised all sorts of stuff and, aside from a few expensive prototypes and occasional innovations delivered so slowly that we lost all interest, none of it has materialised on the shelves of our local stores. Here are just four of the things we were promised:

Flying Car

Particularly frustrating this one, largely because there have been prototypes out there since at least the 1930s. World War II even saw a flying jeep called the Hafner Rota buggy, but somehow nothing similar has ever quite managed to match price and practicality and make it through to production.

More recently, American company Terrafugia successfully tested the Transition (pictured), a "roadable aircraft" designed to take off and land at local airports and drive on any road.

Most designs make neither good cars nor particularly good aircraft, and are anyway too large to be used on anything but motorways and A-roads. But possibly that's no bad thing as it is hard to imagine the chaos and catastrophe that would result if rush-hour London was translated to the skies above.

Space Food

In fact by now the only thing we expected to be taking pills for was breakfast, lunch and dinner. Forty years ago the Apollo and Soyuz guys were enjoying weird bite-sized cubes, freeze-dried powders and - in the case of the Soviets - even tubes of caviar. Now all we have is boil-in-the-bag and the pot noodle.

But actually the pie in the sky wasn't that nice either, and in 1965 a corned beef sandwich was smuggled aboard Gemini III for Mission Commander Gus Grissom. Nasa was pretty hacked off - free-floating breadcrumbs are potentially disastrous - so that even now astronauts look upon space food as a necessary evil rather than something to celebrate.

Meeting Martians

The idea of communing with extra-terrestrials has been current for decades, and greeted with fear and anticipation in equal measure.

Unfortunately the more we explore the less likely such a meeting seems, not because there isn't anyone out there but because if there is we know the distances involved to be immense.

Of course it is possible they are on their way to meet us, but light years are light years no matter what your species and the universal laws of physics mean travel will take many lifetimes. Unless warp speed really is a reality, of course, or if they have cracked the problems of teleportation.

Personal Jetpacks

If flying cars are too big to be practical, how about a personal jetpack? Comic book heroes had them in the 1920s, and in 1965 Bond used one to good effect in the pre-credits sequence of Thunderball. But the technical challenges are immense, and designers are still wrestling with issues of control, safety and stability.

One, the Martin Jetpack, is going on sale around now but it is powered by a two-litre petrol engine and is so large that the US Federal Aviation Authority classifies it as an aircraft. Costing $100,000 it can remain airborne for around 30 minutes with a top speed of 60mph. And a parachute is included.


Greengates Builders Merchants says “We think we can live without these things in our lives”.




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