Arthur C. Clarke once wrote that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
The famous sci-fi writer did, of course, know that it took a lot of hard graft, testing, and trial and error to make the wonder of technology a reality.
Let's take a deep dive into retro-futuristic ideas, machines, and concepts from the past that were once dreamed up as a solution for the future — our present.
1. The 1983 Steinwinter Supercargo concept
Despite looking like a futuristic solution to maximizing storage capacity, this idea was unsurprisingly scrapped due to poor visibility and handling.
2. This diving suit from the '20s
This 20's era diving suit looks like something out of Flash Gorden or Jules Verne from r/RetroFuturism
This retro-futuristic diving suit represents the past's fascination with the unknown of the deep blue sea.
3. The Golden Sahara II with glowing tires concept
1958 Golden Sahara II. A Custom Concept developed by Jim “Street” Skonzakes and customiser George Barris. One of the car’s standout features was the tires. Developed by Goodyear using Neothane, a translucent form of synthetic rubber, they contain internal lighting, which allowed them to glow. from r/RetroFuturism
This car was originally built in 1958. The glowing decorative tires were seen as the highlight of this retro-futuristic decadent design.
4. The Soviet turbojet train concept
This idea was seriously tested by the Soviets and by the U.S. in the 1960s. It turns out that adding a jet engine to a train can cause catastrophic derailments — who would have thought? So, naturally, the idea was scrapped.
5. France's Aerotrain concept
A similar idea to the Soviet turbojet train was tested in France in the 60s. Similarly, it never gained traction.
6. This 60s home communications system
This 60s home communication system by Burkhard Vogtherr is the closest thing they used to have to Amazon Echos and Google Homes devices. We'll take this one any day.
7. The Ford FAB 1 from Thunderbirds
This car was made out of a Ford Thunderbird in the 60s and was used in the extremely popular British sci-fi series Thunderbirds.
8. Polytechnical Museum Robot, Moscow
This robot has been leading visitors around the Polytechnical Museum, Moscow since the 60s.
9. Hoverboard concept from 1955
This flying platform by the U.S. Navy was a precursor to today's jet suit, and hoverboard concepts.
10. Suburban housing apartment concept 1981
Could suburban house stacking like this still be a future possibility in the face of overpopulation? Maybe they could be built alongside some of these recent vertical farming concepts.
11. The Ford Beatnik Bubble
This 'bubbletop' modified 1955 vehicle looks like something straight out the Jetsons. According to Top Gear, it was put on auction as recently as 2015.
12. The GM Futurliner
This vehicle was designed in the 1940s by Harley Earl for General Motors. It was 33 feet long, 8 feet wide, more than 11 feet tall, and weighed more than 12 tons.
13. The mysterious Porsche 911 HLS
This car, and its strange clamshell roof, was a one-off that was almost forgotten until a Porsche employee took a picture of it in 2010, as per TheDrive.com.
14. The "future soldier"
The future soldier wearing thermal protection and infra red detector as envisioned in the early 1960s from r/RetroFuturism
This is one of the few ideas from this list that is actually widely used today. This news report from AP touts thermal and infrared detection as a future technology.
15. This 1986 Soviet Modular Computer System
Called Project Sphinx, this Soviet home computing concept had different modules for different users, as well as for different uses, including telecommunication, health monitoring, and radio.
16. The Soviet Ekranoplane that could fly on water
Ekranoplane km. A Soviet plane that would use ground effect to fly on top of the water. from r/RetroFuturism
This plane was an early example of an advanced ground-effect vehicle that attained sustained flight over a level surface by making use of the aerodynamic interaction between its wings and a level surface — in this case, water.
17. A vision of the autonomous cars of the future
This vision of the future is surprisingly accurate, seeing as the car still has a steering wheel in case the driver needs to take over from autopilot.
18. The "Saturn" vacuum cleaner
“Saturn” vacuum cleaner. Lithuanian Soviet republic 1960s. Copy of “Hoover Constellation” design. from r/RetroFuturism
In the 60s, a time when people were looking to the stars thanks to the work of the Apollo and Soyuz space programs, what could be more futuristic than a vacuum cleaner shaped like a planet?
19. The selfie stick, before smartphones existed
It's true, the selfie stick was originally invented before the advent of social media and smartphones.
20. The Seiko TV watch
According to HistoricTech.com, this watch television hybrid from the 80s is the world's smallest TV in history.
21. The 1930s Mercury train
The Mercury train was designed by industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss. The cyberpunk-looking model lasted until the 50s when it was replaced by more efficient trains.
22. The Isolator looks like it was made to combat smartphone addiction
Hugo Gernsback’s The Isolator, a device designed to increase productivity, from 1925 from r/RetroFuturism
This device, the Isolator, was designed by Hugo Gernsback in 1925. Made to help people avoid distraction, the crazy concept would block out unnecessary sound and vision while supplying the wearer with oxygen.
23. The Holden Hurricane
Even though Porsche wasn't happy with the clamshell concept (see section 13), it didn't stop others from trying, as can be seen with this 1969 model designed by Holden.
24. The Yuri Gagarin monument
This 42.5-meter tall titanium statue of Yuri Gagarin, the first person to travel to space, was once as a futuristic commemoration. Today it still stands in Moscow as a retro-futuristic monument to the icon.
25. This Grumman Aircraft Corp concept astronaut suit
This was an actual space suit Grumman Aircraft Corp tried to sell NASA in 1962. from r/RetroFuturism
26. An idea born from the Cold War
It's crazy to think that cities underground were once seriously envisioned in order to keep citizens safe from a potential nuclear attack.
27. The nuclear-powered "Supertrain"
This nuclear-powered bullet train design was created for the fictional American series "Supertrain" in the 1970s.
28. A vision of future dashboards
What Nissan thought would be the future of the automotive industry shown in the NRV-II concept car(1982). Pretty damn accurate. from r/RetroFuturism
This NRV-II concept from 1982 isn't so far off from dashboard interfaces and technologies we see today.
29. Predicting 2019's craziest car unveiling
Very Futuristic 1980 Citroën Karin concept car - link to more pics and details in comments from r/RetroFuturism
This 1980 Citroen Karin concept car reminds us of something else — we can't think what it could possibly be.
30. Incredibly familiar angular designs
This Aston Martin Bulldog concept also looks strangely familiar.
31. Hang on a minute
Ok, so there's a pretty obvious trend here. This Lancia Stratos Zero concept from 1970 greatly resembles the Tesla Cybertruck. That car is, of course, famous for its retro-futuristic cyberpunk aesthetic.