KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Apr 07 2010

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The future as it should have been

More than 70 years ago, the “Futurists” predicted that our world would be awash in jetpacks, flying cars, moving sidewalks, personal robot helpers and mile-high cities. And let us not forget vacations on the moon, or better yet, on Mars.

Much like a feather on a string in front of a playful kitten, the kitchen of the future, with all its time and labor-saving gadgets and gizmos, has been dangled in front of the American consumer since the 1939 New York World’s Fair. But for me, the future became a reality one very hot summer day in 1960, while I stood in line at Disneyland to see the house that would change my life forever, the home of the future—the Monsanto House.


My first impression of the future, as an eight-year-old boy, was that it would be cool. Ice-cold air-conditioned air blew on my skin as I walked in from a hot and sticky Anaheim heat wave. And there was the future…laid out before me like a buffet. It was the embodiment of every science-fiction movie, TV show, book, magazine and comic book I had ever seen, all before me in glorious molded plastic, and as expected, everything was white or chrome with accents of color. It would be easy to see my life in this home of tomorrow.

And the kitchen of this brave new world was laid out as if it was a medical laboratory. A shiny, gleaming, pristine environment where actual food and food preparation would be banned and we would pop “food pills” and consume “radar-ranged” freeze-dried dinners, and our personal robot helper would clean up the dishes using no water in the sonic dishwasher, and we would all talk to our friends and family on a Viz-A-Phone after dinner.

Thankfully, many of these visions are still the stuff of science fiction. But as we wade knee-deep into the 21st century, we find that a few of Monsanto’s visions have survived and evolved. The ubiquitous microwave oven has evolved from the radar range into an everyday kitchen cornerstone. The magnetic induction cooktop with its heat-free cooking is right out of the Jetsons, and the integrated dishwasher, though not sonic I am sorry to say, is a standard feature in every American home.

So where is the future I was promised? For years, I had invested so much time in books and movies that I felt I knew every nook, cranny and back road of the future, only to awake morning after morning with great disappointment to the world as it was, and I felt a little bit cheated. But then something happened. The future caught up with me. I realized one day, not so long ago, that I am living in the future of my youth, but only without the official uniform of the future, the unitard.

I have my Bluetooth device firmly lodged into my ear, I drive an electric car, and I can watch TV as well as communicate instantaneously around the world via email, IM or Twitter…all from my cell phone. I don’t have a personal robot assistant, but I do have to lift my legs every now and then when the RUMBA comes scooting across the floor. I know for sure I am living in the future as I sit on my sofa, watching live images streaming in from Mars while eating microwaved popcorn. Now, if I only had a jetpack.—Kevin Henry

This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 7th, 2010 at 6:00 AM and is filed under Kitchen Design, Trends. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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