I just finished reading The Door Into Summer, a 1957 book by the famous science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein. It was his sixth novel, sandwiched between Double Star (#5), Starship Troopers (#7), and the cult classic Stranger in a Strange Land (#8), all of which won Hugo awards.
A lesser work, in other words, but still entertaining. The story is set in 1970, where Dan, the narrator (who designs household robots for a living), is put into a form of suspended animation and comes awake again in the ‘far’ future of 2000. (Anyone who does this is called a Sleeper, just like in the Woody Allen movie 16 years after this book.)
Heinlein died in 1988, and thus saw the 21st century only in his dreams. In his novel, he depicts 2000—2001 as a time of phone cards, 24-hour banking (with green plastic money), cigarettes that you light by waving them in the air (but no anti-smoking laws), and a kind of Velcro called Sticktite (but no zippers). [Velcro, it turns out, was patented worldwide the year the book was published.] And no one seems to have a computer.
The most surprising thing in the novel to me was that he talks about “the Air Academy” south of Denver, which seemed like a pretty good guess. I first visited there in 1966, and it looked pretty new at the time, but the cadets have been there longer than I realized. They didn’t move on site until 1958, but it turns out the Colorado Springs location was chosen in 1954.
Oh, one other thing. In Heinlein’s 1970, Denver is the capitol of the U.S., because “the Six Weeks War” has wiped out Washington, D.C. Communism also has collapsed. In Heinlein’s 2000—2001, England is a province of Canada, and the National Archives are kept in Carlsbad Caverns.
It’s just entertainment, of course. We all know that 2001 really looked like this.