Travel back in time

What Tomorrow Looked Like Yesterday

1945

Trinity

Trinity TestThe United States Army, and a retinue of scientists who have participated in the top-secret Manhattan Project to create a workable atomic bomb before the then-hostile governments of Germany or Japan can do so, carry out the first detonation of a nuclear weapon in human history, generating a massive explosion with a yield of 22 kilotons of TNT. This is the final test before the deployment of two nuclear weapons in the United States’ war with Japan mere weeks later. Manhattan Project scientists present to witness the test include Robert Oppenheimer, Richard Feynman, Enrico Fermi, and John von Neumann.

Operation Overcast

V2 RocketAfter Germany’s surrender, ending the European hostilities in World War II, American military forces embark on a program to recruit captured German scientists, particularly those involved in the development of rockets and missiles, to perform further research and development in these areas for the United States, especially with the Pacific war between the United States and Japan still very much an active concern. The German scientists are also interrogated to find out if any of their technology has been shared with Japan. Numerous German rocket scientists, notably Wernher von Braun and Eberhard Rees, are identified as possible assets to the American war effort despite their past affiliations with Germany’s Nazi regime.

1946

The Upper Atmosphere Research Panel

V2 rocketThe first meeting of the Upper Atmosphere Research Panel, known more informally as the V2 Panel, is held, comprised of researchers from various universities, industry, and the military, to decide on peaceful uses for the nearly 80 rockets’ worth of German V2 rocket hardware seized in Germany at the end of World War II. The technology of the rockets themselves will be studied, while payloads are proposed to study the properties of Earth’s upper atmosphere, radiation received from the sun, and the environment of space itself. Also of key importance will be reverse-engineering the V2 to aid in the design of American-made sounding rockets. Eventually the German scientists and engineers who were taken into custody with the captured hardware will be brought to the U.S. to continue their research.

The Atomic Energy Act of 1946

AtomPresident Truman signs the Atomic Energy Act into law, laying the groundwork for both future military development of nuclear weapons and a civilian nuclear energy industry, though the latter will take time (and further amendments to the law) to develop. The primary development of the initial version of the law is the founding of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, a civilian agency intended to lead both areas of development (and intended to take over from the scientists who, up until now, had been operating in secret as part of the Manhattan Project). Over time, the Commission’s responsibilities will grow to include regulation, safety, and disposal of dangerous radioactive material. Major amendments will be made in 1954 under President Eisenhower to encourage the peacetime nuclear power industry to grow.

Operation Paperclip

Operation PaperclipPresident Truman, after months of weighing the pros and cons of offering amnesty to many of the German scientists involved in the V2 rocket program, signs off on Operation Paperclip, a project to repatriate those scientists to the United States. The initial estimate is that a thousand German scientists will be brought to the U.S., but over time the total will grow closer to 2,000, bringing well over 3,000 family members with them. Wernher von Braun and Hermann Oberth are among the scientists and engineers who accept the offer to work for the U.S., and their efforts, while they do have military value, will form the core of the nascent U.S. space program, with von Braun eventually designing the Saturn V rocket that will take future astronauts to the moon. The Soviet Union mounts a similar program in the weeks to come, attempting to repatriate German scientists and engineers to continue their rocketry research for the Soviets.

First view of Earth from space

EarthMounting a 35mm film camera into a captured German V2 rocket launched to an altitude of 65 miles, scientists and engineers at the U.S. Navy’s White Sands Missile Range capture the first photo of Earth from space. (The previous highest-altitude photos taken were from a hot-air balloon in 1935, from an altitude of less than 14 miles, although at that altitude the photos did reveal the curvature of the Earth.) The rocket and camera are destroyed when they fall back to Earth, but the reinforced film cartridge survives. This is the first of many such experimental flights carried out at White Sands.

1947

Earth from a hundred miles up

EarthContinuing experimental photography from captured German V2 rockets, scientists and engineers at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range capture a view of Earth from space at an altitude of 100 miles. Though the V2 is capable only of ballistic suborbital flight, an automated camera on the rocket captures the curve of the Earth before falling back to the surface. As with earlier experimental unmanned flights in 1946, also using captured V2 rockets, the rocket and camera are destroyed upon impact with the ground.

1949

Captain Video…and his Video Rangers!

Captain VideoThe first-ever American-made science fiction television series, Captain Video And His Video Rangers, debuts on the DuMont Television Network. Originated live from a studio in New York City, the series is aimed squarely at younger viewers, but in years to come the show will enjoy scripts written by such science fiction luminaries as Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Jack Vance, Robert Sheckley, and James Blish. The series runs five nights a week for six years.

RDS-1

RDS-1The Soviet Union detonates its first nuclear weapon, internally code named RDS-1, near a specially-built “dummy” village which includes various structures, aircraft and other military hardware, and livestock, all present to test the effects of an atomic weapon detonation in their vicinity. Western intelligence is caught off guard when the radioactive fallout is picked up by detection equipment on weather reconnaissance flights between Japan and Alaska, as the Soviets were not expected to have their own nuclear weapons until sometime in the 1950s. This is a turning point in the Cold War, initiating the race toward the next evolution of nuclear weapons: the hydrogen, or thermonuclear, bomb.

1950

First US television ratings

TVThe A.C. Nielsen Company publishes its first-ever television ratings in the United States, compiling data collected over a “sweep month” running from early April through early May of 1950. The top TV program at the time, according to Nielsen’s data gathering, is Milton Berle’s Texaco Star Theater. The Nielsen ratings and data collection methodology will attract controversy for decades to come, and will spell doom for many shows with small but loyal followings.

1951

Tales Of Tomorrow: Verdict In Space

Tales Of TomorrowThe first episode of ABC’s science fiction anthology series, Tales Of Tomorrow, premieres on ABC, with each episode’s opening titles proclaiming that the series is produced “in cooperation with the Science-Fiction League of America”, a collective of sci-fi writers including Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon among its members. This episode, written by Sturgeon himself, stars Lon McCallister and Martin Brandt.

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Tales Of Tomorrow: Blunder

Tales Of TomorrowThe second episode of ABC’s science fiction anthology series, Tales Of Tomorrow, air on ABC, with each episode’s opening titles proclaiming that the series is produced “in cooperation with the Science-Fiction League of America”, a collective of sci-fi writers including Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon among its members. This episode stars Robert Allen and Ann Loring.

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Tales Of Tomorrow: A Child Is Crying

Tales Of TomorrowThe third episode of ABC’s science fiction anthology series, Tales Of Tomorrow, air on ABC, with each episode’s opening titles proclaiming that the series is produced “in cooperation with the Science-Fiction League of America”, a collective of sci-fi writers including Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon among its members. This episode stars Bert Lytell and Robin Morgan.

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Tales Of Tomorrow: The Woman At Land’s End

Tales Of TomorrowThe fourth episode of ABC’s science fiction anthology series, Tales Of Tomorrow, air on ABC, with each episode’s opening titles proclaiming that the series is produced “in cooperation with the Science-Fiction League of America”, a collective of sci-fi writers including Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon among its members. This episode no longer remains in the archives and may be lost.

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Tales Of Tomorrow: The Last Man On Earth

Tales Of TomorrowThe fifth episode of ABC’s science fiction anthology series, Tales Of Tomorrow, air on ABC, with each episode’s opening titles proclaiming that the series is produced “in cooperation with the Science-Fiction League of America”, a collective of sci-fi writers including Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon among its members. This episode, which featured Chloris Leachman, no longer remains in the archives and may be lost.

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Tales Of Tomorrow: Errand Boy

Tales Of TomorrowThe sixth episode of ABC’s science fiction anthology series, Tales Of Tomorrow, air on ABC, with each episode’s opening titles proclaiming that the series is produced “in cooperation with the Science-Fiction League of America”, a collective of sci-fi writers including Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon among its members. This episode no longer remains in the archives and may be lost.

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Tales Of Tomorrow: The Monsters

Tales Of TomorrowThe seventh episode of ABC’s science fiction anthology series, Tales Of Tomorrow, air on ABC, with each episode’s opening titles proclaiming that the series is produced “in cooperation with the Science-Fiction League of America”, a collective of sci-fi writers including Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon among its members. This episode, based on a story by Charles Sheckley, no longer remains in the archives and may be lost.

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Ananke

AnankeUsing a telescope at Mount Wilson Observatory, astronomer Seth Nicholson discovers Ananke, a tiny moon of Jupiter orbiting the huge planet at an average distance of 21 million miles and at a high inclination relative to Jupiter’s equator. Ananke is most likely a captured asteroid or the remnant of a captured asteroid, and other small Jovian moons in the same orbit may be other pieces of the captured (and shredded) body. Ananke is the first Jovian moon discovered in nearly two decades, and it will be over two more decades before another is found.

Tales Of Tomorrow: The Dark Angel

Tales Of TomorrowThe eighth episode of ABC’s science fiction anthology series, Tales Of Tomorrow, airs on ABC, with each episode’s opening titles proclaiming that the series is produced “in cooperation with the Science-Fiction League of America”, a collective of sci-fi writers including Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon among its members. This episode stars Sidney Blackmer and Meg Mundy.

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Tales Of Tomorrow: The Crystal Egg

Tales Of TomorrowThe ninth episode of ABC’s science fiction anthology series, Tales Of Tomorrow, airs on ABC, with each episode’s opening titles proclaiming that the series is produced “in cooperation with the Science-Fiction League of America”, a collective of sci-fi writers including Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon among its members. This episode, based on an H.G. Wells story, stars Thomas Mitchell. Beginning with this episode, Tales Of Tomorrow alternates with the last few episodes of Versatile Varieties, a meaning each show runs every other week, at least until Versatile Varieties completes its run in December.

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Tales Of Tomorrow: Test Flight

Tales Of TomorrowThe tenth episode of ABC’s science fiction anthology series, Tales Of Tomorrow, airs on ABC, with each episode’s opening titles proclaiming that the series is produced “in cooperation with the Science-Fiction League of America”, a collective of sci-fi writers including Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon among its members. This episode stars Lee J. Cobb and Harry Townes.

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Weather Radio: all weather, all the time

Weather RadioThe U.S. Weather bureau signs on radio station KWO35, located at New York’s La Guardia Airport, broadcasting weather forecasts primarily for the benefit of pilots. Not targeted for public consumption, the experimental station broadcasts for several hours a day at a frequency of 162.55Mhz, outside of the spectrum reserved for FM radio. A similar station on the same frequency will later sign on at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport in 1953, again mainly for the consumption of airline pilots. Marine forecasts are added later, and the system helps the Weather Bureau prevent its local forecasters from being overwhelmed by requests for “personalized” weather reports for pilots. These two stations are the precursor for the nationwide weather radio network operated by the Weather Bureau’s successor agency, the National Weather Service.

Tales Of Tomorrow: The Search For The Flying Saucer

Tales Of TomorrowThe 11th episode of ABC’s science fiction anthology series, Tales Of Tomorrow, airs on ABC, with each episode’s opening titles proclaiming that the series is produced “in cooperation with the Science-Fiction League of America”, a collective of sci-fi writers including Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon among its members. This episode stars Jack Carter and Olive Deering.

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Tales Of Tomorrow: Enemy Unknown

Tales Of TomorrowThe 12th episode of ABC’s science fiction anthology series, Tales Of Tomorrow, airs on ABC, with each episode’s opening titles proclaiming that the series is produced “in cooperation with the Science-Fiction League of America”, a collective of sci-fi writers including Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon among its members. This episode, based on a Sturgeon short story, is no longer in the archives and may be lost.

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Tales Of Tomorrow: Sneak Attack

Tales Of TomorrowThe 13th episode of ABC’s science fiction anthology series, Tales Of Tomorrow, airs on ABC, with each episode’s opening titles proclaiming that the series is produced “in cooperation with the Science-Fiction League of America”, a collective of sci-fi writers including Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon among its members. This episode stars Zachary Scott and Barbara Joyce.

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CONELRAD

CONELRADAs a response to early Soviet atomic weapon tests, President Truman orders the initiation of the nationwide CONELRAD (Control of Electromagnetic Radiation) system, designed to limit the number of actively broadcasting radio stations whose signals could be used by enemy bombers to home in on and attack population centers. Designated AM radio stations would pass along emergency signals to smaller stations downstream, which would then begin a complex cycle of broadcasting emergency information to the public and then shutting down to allow another station to broadcast the same information; it is hoped that the rapidly shifting radio signals will prevent an invading enemy from finding viable targets. With its operating strategy assuming nuclear-armed Soviet bombers, CONELRAD will be rendered obsolete by the rise of the intercontinental ballistic missile by the end of the decade, and will be replaced by the Emergency Broadcast system in 1963.

Tales Of Tomorrow: The Invader

Tales Of TomorrowThe 14th episode of ABC’s science fiction anthology series, Tales Of Tomorrow, airs on ABC, with each episode’s opening titles proclaiming that the series is produced “in cooperation with the Science-Fiction League of America”, a collective of sci-fi writers including Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon among its members. This episode stars Eva Gabor, and sees the series returning to a weekly schedule after the end of Versatile Varieties’ run on ABC.

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1952

Tales Of Tomorrow: The Dune Roller

Tales Of TomorrowThe 15th episode of ABC’s science fiction anthology series, Tales Of Tomorrow, airs on ABC, with each episode’s opening titles proclaiming that the series is produced “in cooperation with the Science-Fiction League of America”, a collective of sci-fi writers including Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon among its members. This episode stars Bruce Cabot and Nancy Coleman.

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Tales Of Tomorrow: Frankenstein

Tales Of TomorrowThe 16th episode of ABC’s science fiction anthology series, Tales Of Tomorrow, airs on ABC, with each episode’s opening titles proclaiming that the series is produced “in cooperation with the Science-Fiction League of America”, a collective of sci-fi writers including Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon among its members. This episode, a half-hour adaptation of Mary Shelley’s story, stars Lon Chaney Jr. as the monster and John Newland as Dr. Frankenstein; Chaney infamously mistakes the live broadcast for a rehearsal, resulting in some infamous miscues.

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Tales Of Tomorrow: 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Part 1 – The Chase

Tales Of TomorrowThe 17th episode of ABC’s science fiction anthology series, Tales Of Tomorrow, airs on ABC, with each episode’s opening titles proclaiming that the series is produced “in cooperation with the Science-Fiction League of America”, a collective of sci-fi writers including Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon among its members. This episode, the first part of a two-part adaptation of Jules Verne’s story, stars Thomas Mitchell as Captain Nemo and Leslie Nielsen as Farragut.

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Tales Of Tomorrow: 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Part 2 – The Escape

Tales Of TomorrowThe 18th episode of ABC’s science fiction anthology series, Tales Of Tomorrow, airs on ABC, with each episode’s opening titles proclaiming that the series is produced “in cooperation with the Science-Fiction League of America”, a collective of sci-fi writers including Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon among its members. This episode, the second part of a two-part adaptation of Jules Verne’s story, stars Thomas Mitchell, Leslie Nielsen, and Brian Keith.

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Tales Of Tomorrow: What You Need

Tales Of TomorrowThe 19th episode of ABC’s science fiction anthology series, Tales Of Tomorrow, airs on ABC, with each episode’s opening titles proclaiming that the series is produced “in cooperation with the Science-Fiction League of America”, a collective of sci-fi writers including Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon among its members. This episode, based on a story which will later be adapted for an episode of The Twilight Zone, stars William Redfield.

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Tales Of Tomorrow: Age Of Peril

Tales Of TomorrowThe 20th episode of ABC’s science fiction anthology series, Tales Of Tomorrow, airs on ABC, with each episode’s opening titles proclaiming that the series is produced “in cooperation with the Science-Fiction League of America”, a collective of sci-fi writers including Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon among its members. This episode, based on a story by Frederic Brown, stars Phyllis Kirk.

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Tales Of Tomorrow: Memento

Tales Of TomorrowThe 21st episode of ABC’s science fiction anthology series, Tales Of Tomorrow, airs on ABC, with each episode’s opening titles proclaiming that the series is produced “in cooperation with the Science-Fiction League of America”, a collective of sci-fi writers including Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon among its members. This episode stars Boris Karloff and Barbara Joyce.

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Tales Of Tomorrow: The Children’s Room

Tales Of TomorrowThe 22nd episode of ABC’s science fiction anthology series, Tales Of Tomorrow, airs on ABC, with each episode’s opening titles proclaiming that the series is produced “in cooperation with the Science-Fiction League of America”, a collective of sci-fi writers including Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon among its members. This episode stars Claire Luce and Una O’Connor.

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Tales Of Tomorrow: Bound Together

Tales Of TomorrowThe 23rd episode of ABC’s science fiction anthology series, Tales Of Tomorrow, airs on ABC, with each episode’s opening titles proclaiming that the series is produced “in cooperation with the Science-Fiction League of America”, a collective of sci-fi writers including Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon among its members. This episode, starring Nina Foch and Russell Hardie, is no longer in the archives and may be lost.

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Weather Bulletin!

Weather BulletinThe U.S. Weather Bureau (forerunner of the National Weather Service) inaugurates the Severe Weather Unit at the WBAN (Weather Bureau-Army-Navy) Analysis Center in Washington D.C. Armed with recent research and decades of past research into the formation and behavior of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, this is the first attempt to offer the military’s growing severe weather prediction capability to the American public. In these early days, before the adoption of specific types of weather watches, the WBAN Severe Weather Unit issues weather bulletins for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms alike; by early 1953, the Severe Weather Unit also issues “outlooks” with more general predictions about the probability of severe storms.

Douglas Adams, galactic hitchhiker, born

Douglas AdamsFuture Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy writer/creator Douglas Adams is born in England. Demonstrating an early ability to write short stories with a hint of the absurd, Adams would find himself a member of the renowned Cambridge Footlights theatrical comedy group in the early 1970s, leading to his “discovery” by Monty Python’s Graham Chapman. (Adams would become one of only two people outside of the core six-man Python troupe to contribute any scripted material to Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and made a few appearances as a guest cast member.) He would go on to contribute radio comedy sketches to various BBC Radio shows through the 1970s, until the premiere of his own project, the science fiction comedy The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, put him on the map.

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Tales Of Tomorrow: The Diamond Lens

Tales Of TomorrowThe 24th episode of ABC’s science fiction anthology series, Tales Of Tomorrow, airs on ABC, with each episode’s opening titles proclaiming that the series is produced “in cooperation with the Science-Fiction League of America”, a collective of sci-fi writers including Isaac Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon among its members. This episode is no longer in the archives and may be lost.

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Baptism by fire…and wind

Weather BulletinThe newly formed Weather Bureau-Army-Navy Severe Weather Unit hits the ground running with its first tornado bulletin issued to the general public for portions of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. This forerunner of the modern tornado watch is a misfire, however: the only two confirmed tornadoes occur, both outside the area covered in the bulletin. Critics within the Weather Bureau express doubt that such bulletins will ever be of use to the public, and may instead spark panic among the public; this attitude will all but disappear within three years.