August 31, 2012
When I was a kid growing up in the late 1980s and early ’90s there were only two things that I was certain of when it came to my future: I was going to grow up to be an animator for Disney, and I was going to have a robot.
Sadly, my drawing skills peaked around the age of 10 and I still don’t have a robot.
The 1980s saw a steady rise in the use of industrial robots (especially in Japan) which led people to believe that domestic robots were indeed just around the corner. We’ve already looked at two different restaurants of the mid-1980s — one in Southern California, the other in Tokyo — that did their best to make robot waiters a reality. But it was the household robot servant of the future that was promised to every kid who ever saw Rosey zipping around on The Jetsons.
The 1981 children’s book Tomorrow’s Home by Neil Ardley included some illustrations of what those robots might look like. Above we have a picture of the child’s bedroom of the future.
Soon another day dawns and it’s time to get up. If there’s no one to rouse you, then you will have told the home computer to wake you at a certain hour. It draws the curtains back, talks to you, plays some music or starts the radio — however you like to start the day. Or maybe you don’t need to get up early today, so you’ve asked the computer to await your instructions on waking. Once you’re awake, you may not feel like getting up right away. You can summon one of the household’s electronic servants, and instruct it to bring you breakfast in bed, or perhaps to put out a particular set of clothes for you. Then you can ask the computer to display the day’s news and any mail it has received for you. But you can’t stay in bed all day, so it’s off to the bathroom before dressing. Here you may get into a special machine that will wash and tone up your body to clean and refresh you totally for the day that lies ahead.
If you’d prefer to go all the way to the kitchen for breakfast, you’ll still find a helpful robot serving up your cereal. Though it looks like you have to dispense your own milk. Forget flying cars and jetpacks, where’s my milk robot!?!
Sign up for our free email newsletter and receive the best stories from Smithsonian.com each week.