I’m starting a new occasional feature here, which I think of as my “Back to the Future” columns. It is a look at futuristic devices and predictions for the future, coming from various times and places in the past. Have we met or surpassed those visions of a golden tomorrow? Let’s find out.
Without further ado, then, I bring you….
Today’s offering of future science comes to us from the February 16, 1953 issue of LIFE magazine. Here we are introduced to an amazing labor saver just in time for winter snow: that wonder of modern technology, the remote-controlled snow shovel! Let’s take a look, shall we?
Remote-Controlled Snow Shovel from Reo Motors, 1953
If the machine looks suspiciously like a lawn-mower, well, there’s a reason for that. Here’s what Life had to report:
Lazy Man’s Snow Shovel
Converted lawn mower that clears winter walks is guided by radio signals
Lazy men got some authoritative support recently when two physiology professors concluded that shoveling snow for 10 minutes is harder on the heart than running up 61 flights of stairs. They may get a good deal more comfort out of a new automatic shoveler that picks up snow from the sidewalk, tosses it 15 feet away while the operator sits snug inside his living room pushing three small buttons (above).
The shoveling machine is a Reo Motors’ version of its remote-control grass-cutter (“Lazy Man’s Mower,” LIFE, June 26, 1950). Like the mower, it has a 1 3/4 hp motor and is steered by radio. When the switches are pressed in the living room, radio signals are beamed to the machine, picked up by its cone-shaped antenna and fed to electric relays which start, stop, or turn the plow. But while the plow looks like man’s best foul-weather friend, it may never go on the market. Reason: it would have to sell for $1,000.
Well, no wonder that didn’t catch on. That’s equivalent to $8048.71 in 2008 dollars! Still, aside from problems with snow deeper than 3″, and wheel-spinning on icy patches, it seemed to work just fine.
Where are these today, now that our tech has made some improvement?
About the Future Science graphic:
The nifty logo-ish graphic on this page is the cover of a Buck Rogers book from 1933, slightly edited by moi. I may be adding other graphic themes after a while but generally I’ll have a smaller version of Buck or someone like him as a handy visual tag so you can spot Future Science columns at a glance.
As soon as I have some time for a little housekeeping around here, I’ll also open a gallery where older FS posts and artwork can hang out in one central location for easy browsing and bookmarking.