Archive for June, 2007

Google as predicted in 1964

Monday, June 25th, 2007

I do enjoy looking at old predictions of the future. Eventually, the future arrives and we can compare it with the predictions.

Sometimes, the predictions are better than the reality. Sometimes, reality outpaces not only the predictions but even the dreams of the past. And sometimes, the predictions end up being pretty-much spot on.

That’s the case with a piece about the “answer machine” of the future, which appeared in the book Childcraft Volume 6: How Things Change, published by Field Enterprises Educational Corporation in 1964. (Thanks to Paleo-Future for bringing this to my attention.)

Here’s how it starts:


I think Google can handle that:


What else can our Answer Machine do for us?


A single click from Google’s first result shows us this picture:



Yep, “File | Print” does the job nicely.


The original “Mary Had A Little Lamb” recording was not kept, but we can listen to Edison re-enacting it or to an 1899 recording made on Edison’s 1878 tinfoil phonograph.


A Google Video search doesn’t disappoint, although you do need to scroll past movies about Edison Lighthouse. I especially like this movie, filmed by Edison, which demonstrates that the more things change, the more they stay the same.


Someday? I already have an answer machine that can do all those things. And if that fails, I can ask my question at Uclue. I’m feeling lucky.

When, not why, did the chicken cross the street…er…road?

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

This is a bit of fluffy whimsy and a bit of formal research.  And how often do they go together?

In my varied and sundry research tasks, I found myself challenged to date the origins, in print, of the old “Why did the chicken cross the road?” query.  Most sources set the date it first appeared in print as 1915, in a how-to manual on vaudeville comedy.

But a quick search on the very useful Google News Archives  showed a few entries that went back as early as 1905.

To get to the bottom of things, I looked into a few historical archives of newspapers and magazines from the 19th and early 20th centuries, and found a number of other chicken-crossing mentions.  The earliest of the bunch dated back to 1847 — more than half a century prior to the “textbook” answer (if, indeed, you can imagine a textbook on corny jokes).

And here it is:




Are we having fun yet?