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The Jetsons Turned 50 This Week

“Meet George Jetson, ….his boy Elroy, ….daughter Judy, ….Jane his wife.” Couple these lyrics with a jazzy, finger popping sound track and add Astro, the semi-talking dog, and you have The Jetsons – a cartoon show that premiered on September 23, 1962 on ABC.

While I never knew The Jetsons only lasted one season after the show’s initial debut, it was a delightful show that I enjoyed watching as a child with my older siblings.

Although the dates are fuzzy to me, The Jetsons aired seven months after John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth in the Friendship 7 space capsule. I also didn’t realize that the shows introduction to television audiences in America came around the time of the U.S. space race.  The show was presented as a cartoon, yet it had some very real and relevant content that all Americans could relate to.

I also never knew what the dates or time period in the future The Jetsons was cast. According to references, The Jetsons were a familiar American suburban family placed in the whiz-bang future of the 21st century (though the show never specified an exact year, the original press materials said it was set in 2062, a century in the future). [Ref 1] Who knew? I’ll have to share this at the next meeting of the Future City CompetitionTM Arizona Region.

Interestingly, the show would prove to be a foundation for building the future in a variety of ways. It was ABC’s first color show and was produced by the cartoon studio of Hanna-Barbera. While the reruns began a year later in 1963, the shows producers would go on to make 51 new episodes between 1985 and 1987. An animated movie hit the box office of theatres in 1990.  I vaguely remember the movie, however, I do remember radio stations playing the theme song around that time. And get this – the re-recorded stereo version reached No. 9 on the Billboard charts in 1986! Repeat – the sound track for The Jetsons hit No. 9 on the Billboard charts in 1986.

So what would George, Judy, Jane, and Elroy think of how futuristic America has become? Rosie the robotic housekeeper did a great job of keeping things tidy in what appeared to be a very high rise condo. Various types of robots have been introduced over the last 50 years, however it has just been in the last 10+ years that we are beginning to really see the effects of artificial intelligence, voice recognition software, and the beginning of more human-like qualities in robots.  Our vacuum cleaners, appliances, tools and even cars all have some type of computerized feature(s), and many can be programmed on demand. While our robots have yet to be domesticated in the manner that Rosie was portrayed, for sure we are heading in that direction.

We do have flying cars or “roadable aircraft”. The BiPod debuted within the last 12 months although it doesn’t fold up into a suitcase. There’s also Terrafugia’s flying vehicle called the Transition that recently received approval from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It should be available for purchase sometime next year. [Ref 2]

We haven’t yet solved the issues associated with rush-hour traffic, or can invoke hover-craft like features on our regular cars to rise above the gridlock.  Video chat is a reality and has been for a while. The technology has improved significantly and the costs continue to go down as Skype and video phones increase in popularity and use. We have lots of computers, and they are becoming quicker and smarter each day. The RUDI (short for Referential Universal Digital Indexer) is pretty much a reality, however, we have yet to see colonies on other planets.

However, we do have a crowning achievement in the International Space Station (ISS). According to NASA [Ref 3], people have been living and working in space around the clock, every single day, for more than ten years. During the past decade, 15 nations have come together, setting aside boundaries and differences, to design, assemble, occupy, and conduct research inside and outside of the largest and longest inhabited object to ever orbit the Earth.

We saw George and his peers use movable side-walks in the cartoon. We have a number of movable sidewalks in the U.S. and other countries, mostly in public places. The cartoon characters had wireless hand-held devices and we have lots of those. As Danny Graydon, the London-based author of The Official Guide to The Jetsons states: The Jetsons was a projection of the model American family into the future. The world of The Jetsons showed people with very few concerns about disrupting the status quo politically or socially, but instead showed a technologically advanced culture where the largest concern of the middle class was getting “push-button finger.” [Ref 4]

The show had an iconic space age look and feel that both reflected trends and influenced them going forward. Camera phones, iPads, video conference and microwaves for cooking are technology concepts that we use every day.

In closing, I have had to refer a few friends to the FaceBook Rehabilitation Center, and push-button-finger-itis could rear its  ugly head at any time.

References

1. The Jetsons turn 50 today, RCGroups.com, http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1738528, September 23, 2012

2. ‘Jetsons’ turns 50: Technology dreamers’ window to future, PC World,

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2010485/technology-dreamers-given-window-to-future-in-the-jetsons.html, September 23, 2012

3. International Space Station, NASA, http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html

4. 50 years of the Jetsons: Why the show still matters; Smithsonian.com, http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/paleofuture/2012/09/50-years-of-the-jetsons-why-the-show-still-matters/, September 19, 2012

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About Vi Brown

Vi is principal and CEO of Prophecy Consulting Group, LLC, an Arizona firm that provides business and engineering services to private and public clients. Prior to establishing her consulting practice in 2001, Vi worked with Motorola, Maricopa County Government, Pacific Gas & Electric, CH2M Hill, and Procter & Gamble. As an adjunct faculty member, Vi teaches undergraduate calculus classes and graduate level environmental courses. She is also a professional speaker.

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