Technologizer

The Jetsons Turns 50: How the Future Looked in 1962

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Hanna-Barbera

On Sunday, Sept. 23, 1962, Hanna-Barbera followed up its wildly successful prime-time cartoon The Flintstones with a new series about another family of a different era. TIME liked it. We said it was “silly and unpretentious, corny and clever, now and then quite funny.” But it flopped — or at least didn’t fare well enough to be renewed for a second season.

That show was The Jetsons, and despite lasting for only 24 episodes — I’m not counting the blah additional installments produced in the mid-1980s — it’s never left us. Actually, it’s done as much as any work of fiction to shape our view of the world of tomorrow. If you felt good about the future growing up, as I did, it was probably in part because a decades-long endless loop of Jetsons reruns showed that it was going to be neat.

Today the show turns 50. If you’d like to celebrate its anniversary, check out Matt Novak’s excellent post (the first of a series) at Smithsonian.com.

I’m not going to recount every way in which The Jetsons successfully predicted how life would be lived in the future. But here’s one tidbit, which I first saw noted by Don Yowp on his Hanna-Barbera blog.

In the program’s iconic opening sequence, after George lands his personal flying saucer and folds it up into his briefcase, we can spot background characters zipping along on a moving sidewalk. (See above image.) Some of them are watching wireless handheld devices — presumably TVs, although I have a hunch they were capable of video calls as well.

These gizmos have handles and antennas and appear to be based on cathode-ray-tube technology. So they’re not iPhones, but they’re certainly closer than anything that existed back in 1962.

Another guy is reading a tablet-shaped something that might be either an iPad or a Kindle. (If you think it’s just a plain old book, don’t tell me — I don’t want to know.)

Here, just in case you haven’t watched them recently, are the full opening sequence and end titles (“Jane, stop this crazy thing!”). There’s no such thing as having seen them too often. Also included is a Scotch-tape ad that features George reading a newspaper, showing that dead-tree media isn’t going to disappear entirely anytime soon.

(Full disclosure: today, The Jetsons is owned by Time Warner, which makes it a corporate cousin of TIME. It’s an honor to be distantly related to it.)