Out on the Cutting Edge
Forget dot-com billionaires. We started talking tech in the '30s and never quit.

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Artist Max Gschwind illustrates NASA's moon-shot calculations, from "A Problem in Celestial Gunnery," June 1962.

The Monsters of Huntsville

It is easy enough for anyone raised on Buck Rogers in the Twenty-fifth Century to get the gist of U.S. plans for space travel. Actually believing them is something else again; they sound so much like excerpts from old science fiction that anyone conditioned by the immortal Buck is plagued, in the presence of space scientists, by the unreasonable but recurring idea that he has fallen in with maniacs or comedians. The Saturn cures him. In its malevolent presence he instantly abandons the conditioned skepticism of a lifetime. The spectator, gripping the edge of his viewing slot like a man in a hurricane, knows in his very liver that the moon is really only sixty hours from Earth.

--June 1962

Boeing's Bird of Prey, an experimental stealth aircraft designed for the Pentagon, Dec. 30, 2002

If any part of the sequence is disrupted--say, by clogged arteries or damage to nerves--impotence can ensue. [Dr. Giles] Brindley showed that wrenching the faucet wide open with drugs could make the whole faulty plumbing system work.

-- "The Selling of Impotence," March 16, 1998

Albert Einstein (right) with British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, from "Statesmen of Europe," November 1931

[The] scheme is called FACD (foreign-area customer dialing), which means long-distance dialing by the customer. In the full-fledged FACD system, a subscriber will pick up the phone, dial three digits plus the local number of any other subscriber in the country, and that's all. No fuss, no operators, no waiting; all America in his own backyard.

--"Bell Labs' 230 Long-Range Planners," May 1954

Pathologist Mel Feany, "Celera, the Genome, and the Fruit-Fly Lady," July 10, 2000

Polio vaccine developer Jonas Salk, "The Intrepid Scientists of the Salk Institute," October 1972

iRobot founder (and Roomba inventor) Rodney A. Brooks, "America's Hot Young Scientists," Oct. 8, 1990

So fast is drug technology moving along these days that ... chemical behavior modification ... is not all that far from becoming reality. "We are on the edge of a choose-your-mood society," says one scientist.

--"A Preview of the Choose Your Mood Society," March 1977

An ideal illustration of the weird relationship between Science and Showmanship is to be found in the most hotly disputed of current developments: color.

-- "Color and Sound on Film," October 1930

What Jet Travel Does to Your Metabolic Clock

"When I got to London," says Nakayama, "I was tired and my body was insisting that it was time to go to bed. But my sense told me it was mid-morning and time to get to work." While Nakayama's mind accepted, reluctantly, the fact that it was 9:25 A.M. in London, his body rejected it and remained on Tokyo time. In describing his symptoms he speaks for an increasing number of intercontinental jet passengers who are coming to realize that subsonic travel across time zones poses special problems of fatigue.... The medical department of Standard Oil (New Jersey), for one, has recommended that company executives not schedule conferences or inspections directly after completing long flights.

--November 1963

Research by Kate Bonamici and Chris Zappone