Our Greatest Tech Forecasts of the Last 90 Years

The Kiplinger Letter — long famous for its economic, business and political forecasting — also alerts its readers to emerging technologies.

The Kiplinger Letter - Sept. 20, 2013

Long before the technology marvels of the 20th century — airplanes, television, air conditioning, computers, satellites, the World Wide Web, cell phones and more — became commonplace, they were the stuff of futurist fantasy...and embryonic industries poised to boom.

The Kiplinger Letter — long famous for its economic, business and political forecasting — also alerts its readers to emerging technologies. In celebration of its 90th birthday this week, the Letter brings you this sampling of brief forecasts from its pages...foreseeing inventions that fundamentally changed how we live and work.

Check out these compelling forecasts on the following pages.

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The Rise of Cellular Communications

three girls chatting with their smartphones at the park

three girls chatting with their smartphones
(Image credit: Josep M Suria)

Microchips: The leading edge of technology for years to come.

Fantastic reductions in size and cost lead to new applications in existing products and point to new products. "Computer on a chip," tiny circuit board performing functions only big black boxes used to do…

“Smart phones”…to store often-used numbers, take messages.

December 28, 1979

Interstate mobile phone conversations will become commonplace via cellular radio…a new network of transmitting and receiving “cells.” They will automatically switch calls to unused frequencies as you drive.

May 20, 1983

The ultimate tools for road warriors are just a few years away. All-in-one wireless communicators will combine the functions of a landline phone, cell phone, personal digital assistant and PC. The gadgets…notebook PCs or smart phones...will operate seamlessly over expanded wireless networks in the same way cell phones do now.

April 1, 2005

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Computers Simplify Daily Tasks

Young business people working in the office

Business people

Electronic Brain: Gov’t scientists now predict simplified models for practical business uses…inventorying, accounting, mailing lists, sales, market research, other records.

May 24, 1952

Nationwide computer hookups will bring some enormous changes:

Moneyless banking…deposits, charge purchases, payments, all kinds of deals via your account...

Central accounting & inventory systems…

July 29, 1966

Computers will be cheaper, smaller, simpler…used EVERYWHERE.

July 7, 1978

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Computer Networking Connects the Globe

On computers…the latest thing is to hook them up into networks, use telephone or special lines to link them together around the country. It’s a way of cutting costs…sharing of computers via “teleprocessing.”

November 12, 1971

Networking among computers will make it easy for any computer owner to communicate with another if he has the wire address and the right connections. This is already happening on a relatively limited scale via computer “bulletin boards.”

New American Boom 1986

Computers that listen & talk will be commonplace in next decade in offices and on shop floors.

September 1, 2000

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A Food Revolution


(Image credit: 2011 Getty Images)

Use of radio waves for heating & cooking is a growing business, but these waves interfere with others and even cause some radio static.

April 12, 1947

And here are some more things that are coming along by the time you reach middle age…to change your thinking and your living. New houses, new gadgets in them. Automatics. Push buttons. Microwave ovens. Plastic plumbing. TV on wall screens. Fuel-cell heat. Irradiated foods to supplement canned & frozen. New foods from the sea. Synthetic foods, chemically made, with all needed nutrients & vitamins.

December 27, 1963

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The Coming of Air Conditioning, Prefab Homes, Polyester, and the Fax

Inventions which may make deep changes in things in the future: Mechanical cotton picker, Synthetic rubber, plastics, air conditioning equipment, prefabricated houses, television, artificial cotton – cellulose, facsimile transmission, auto trailer, artificial wool – cellulose, gasoline from coal, photo electric cell, steep-flight airplanes, tray agriculture.

September 4, 1937

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E-mail Takes Over

Electronic mail…using computers, printers at an office and home. Hooking up with other computers via satellites and TV to replay messages.

July 7, 1978

Wireless e-mail may soon be as ubiquitous as cell phones. Its use is poised to take off over the next several years as software giants and cellular carriers challenge Blackberry's reign.

June 24, 2005

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Electric Cars Hit the Road

(Image credit: Maria Pavlova)

Electric cars will grab up to 15% of the market in 20 years…more if the driving range expands to 300 miles or so before recharging. Stringent clean air requirements in Calif. will spur sales of electrics.

January 17, 1992

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The Rise of Videotapes, CDs, and Cable TV

VHS Rewinder

VHS Rewinder

Soon to hit the market…TV tapes…and makers have high hopes. Will be sold along with a player that is attached to your home TV set. Thus, “personal” home entertainment, akin to your own stereo or recorder.

August 14, 1970

Boomy sales of compact discs and players, thanks to lower prices. Players are selling for $300-$400…compared with $1000 or so a year ago.

April 19, 1985

Cable TV with up to 500 channels in ’95. 50 games every Saturday plus 100 movies. But you’ll pay $3 to $5 each and a $20-$50 monthly fee.

January 8, 1993

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Knight Kiplinger
Editor Emeritus, Kiplinger

Knight came to Kiplinger in 1983, after 13 years in daily newspaper journalism, the last six as Washington bureau chief of the Ottaway Newspapers division of Dow Jones. A frequent speaker before business audiences, he has appeared on NPR, CNN, Fox and CNBC, among other networks. Knight contributes to the weekly Kiplinger Letter.