One of the 20th Century’s greatest entries in the arena of American literature, died earlier this month on June 6th at age 91. The tech world mourned right alongside the literary world, as well as many former middle-school readers.,
Perhaps Bradbury’s greatest achievement was making sci-fi a thinking man’s genre instead of a realm solely inhabited by laser-shooting men. While his short magnum opus Fahrenheit 451 is populated with flamethrower wielding goons, the novel’s social commentary flows through every page.
It would seem natural that Bradbury would be an unabashed technophile; in reality, though, he was quite wary of the stuff. “To hell with the Internet” he reportedly told Yahoo! when they requested to put some of his writing online. He never flew. His hundreds of printed works were written with a typewriter. After fighting it for several years, Fahrenheit 451 became an e-book only with Bradbury’s loud reluctance.
Regardless of his lukewarm view of modern technology, Bradbury was eerily apt at predicting jumps in tech decades later. Here are five of his most-accurate visions.
Guy Montag, the protagonist of 1953’s Fahrenheit 451, makes a quick trip to a bank opened all night to grab some cash. The tellers are automated robots. The Automated Teller Machine became wide-spread in the 1980s and now they can be found outside every bank and inside every cash-only bar.
24-Hour News Cycle
According to the history presented in Fahrenheit 451, books faded in popularity as round-the-clock news coverage and televised entertainment became the norm. Helicopters armed with cameras follow police chasing criminals, streaming the whole event live into the nation’s living rooms. CNN first went on the air in 1980, and the near-instantaneous and global coverage of news became our way of life as the internet infiltrated our homes. In the wake of the 24-hour news cycle that dominates the way we encounter culture and news, the future of print media is, well, you know.
In Fahrenheit 451, the live events (and shows that oddly mirror reality TV) filled massive screens on everyone’s walls. How big is your TV? How flat? How much Ru Paul’s Drag Race have you watched today?
In his short story “The Murderer” (also published in 1953), Bradbury introduces the concept of a watch radio. This wristwatch didn’t just play music, it showed inter-office communication and video calls. And people in Fahrenheit 451 listened to “seashell radios” that fit right into the ear, just like ear-buds.
The Automated Home
Bradbury predicted several modern conveniences in his apocalyptic “There Will Come Soft Rains,” published in 1950. Set in 2026, the main character in this story is an automated house frantically trying to care for a family that was eliminated by a nuclear bomb. The house features Roomba-like robots that clean the house, automated sprinkler heads, talking alarm clocks, and fire and burglar alarms close to what we have today. Also, the “voice” of the house sounds creepily like Siri’s 1950’s housewife mother.