Rocket-powered backpacks and 10 other wild predictions of Scouting in 2000

Scouting-Feb1960-coverAt Boy Scout camps in the year 2000, milk doesn’t spoil, knots are rarely used and backpacks have been replaced by rockets that deliver camping gear in “near-zero time.”

That’s according to the 1960 predictions of Nostradamus, at least.

In the February 1960 issue of Scouting magazine, there’s a fun, tongue-in-cheek article that channels the prognosticating ability of that 16th-century French seer to predict what the world — and Scouting — will be like in 2000. Suffice it to say there are a few hits and many, many misses.

Now that we’re more than a decade past the year 2000, it’s fun to see what Nostradamus (aka the writers at Scouting magazine) got right and what they got horribly wrong. Follow the jump for 11 predictions and my assessment of how close they were to reality. 

11. Committee meetings by video phone

1960 prediction: “Scouters will hail the boon of videophone. With it, they can sit in comfort at home but see and hear the rest of the committee for a meeting. There’s danger troops may want to use it to supplant troop meetings.”

Verdict: Possible, but not happening. Today’s Scouters still prefer the old-fashioned face-to-face meeting, though 2000 technology did make it possible for those who couldn’t attend to virtually be there.

10. No more “old-fashioned tedious” hiking

1960 prediction: Scouts in 2000 no longer must hike to get from Point A to Point B. “There’s no old-fashioned tedious walking,” Nostradamus writes. “… the choice of Scouts is the bicycopter, with rotor blades powered by the atomnode each boy carries in his pocket.”

Verdict: Nope. Thankfully for fans of Philmont and other great hiking destinations, hiking is still alive and well. Though by Day 8 of hiking with a 40-pound pack, I’d be willing to give the bicycopter a try.

9. Cooking has gotten much easier

1960 prediction“On the menu: milk that won’t sour and meat that won’t spoil. No rubbing sticks together to start a fire — no fire. A palm-size gadget cooks everything in a flash, like mom does it at home.”

Verdict: False. If true, these predictions wouldn’t just solve Scout hunger, they’d solve world hunger. Besides, there’s no way s’mores would taste any good from a palm-size cooker.

8. So has cleaning dishes

1960 prediction“Air waves clean and sterilize dishes in a jiffy by ultrasonics.”

Verdict: Unfortunately, no. In 2000 (and 2013), KP duty is still a reality. Now which patrol was supposed to do dishes tonight?

7. America’s population will grow

1960 prediction“America’s population will grow to 210,000,000 by 1970, and 300,000,000 by the year 2000, most of it jammed into already crowded urban centers.”

Verdict: This prediction not specific to Scouting was pretty close. Though figuring out that population would grow isn’t exactly rocket science. The 1970 Census put the U.S. population at 203 million, while the 2000 Census recorded 281 million Americans.

6. Scouters will have more time to volunteer

1960 prediction“More volunteers will have more leisure time to help lead more boys.”

Verdict: If only. In fact, most of today’s Scouters work two full-time jobs: their real one and their Scouting one.

5. Tents will give way to “air-jet shields”

1960 prediction“Air-jet shields — light, dry, insect-proof, weightless, instantly adjustable — replace tents. Air-jet streams provide 100 per cent pure air mattresses.”

Verdict: Well, they got the light and insect-proof part right. Modern tents, though, are still tents. I will say that air-jet shield sounds mighty nice, albeit technologically far-fetched.

4. No more gear to carry, thanks to “radar-rockets”

1960 prediction“No gear, no pack, no duffel bag to carry. Radar-rockets deliver anything needed in near-zero time.”

Verdict: OK, let me get this straight. The bicycopter means we don’t have to hike, the air-jet shield means we don’t need a heavy tent and now radar-rockets mean we don’t have to carry gear. So, um, what’s the point of going at all? Still, though, if radar-rockets meant we could get heavy Dutch ovens into the backcountry on backpacking trips, I’d be all for them.

3. Communication by pocket-size devices

1960 prediction: “Communication by pocket-size transmitter-receiver is instantaneous. The same device gives remote control of all machines and gadgets.”

Verdict: True now but less true in 2000. Pocket-size phones in 2000 offered instant communication, but 2013’s smartphones can indeed control countless other machines and gadgets — garage doors, door locks, TVs, cars, lights and more.

2. The new face of Scoutcraft (no more compass or knots)

1960 prediction“Scoutcraft has a new face. A compass is a curiosity; signaling is obsolete. Knots are little used. The axe is a museum piece. … There’s a host of new merit badges.”

Verdict: Partly true. For better or worse, compasses aren’t used as much these days as they were in 1960. And signaling is nearly obsolete. Knots and axes, however, are still alive and well. And new merit badges? You better believe it.

1. The best is yet to come

1960 prediction“Scouting’s heyday lies ahead. Scouting changes with the times; it’s a good thing.”

Verdict: True.

Nostradamus’ postscript

“You doubt my prophesies? Then make your own,” he writes. “Or take comfort that some of my earlier prognostications haven’t happened — yet.”

In other words, the future of Scouting is in your hands. Where will you take it?

The original article (click to enlarge)
Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Explore the Scouting archives yourself

Find this and many more fun back issues of Scouting for free online at our archives page.

Top photo from Flickr: Some rights reserved by tunnelarmr

18 thoughts on “Rocket-powered backpacks and 10 other wild predictions of Scouting in 2000

  1. In 2060, no more ‘patches’ as a handheld device scanned over a section of a uniform alters the material to make and remove insignias. One moment a Quartermaster, a quick scan and now you’re the SPL. Nice Klondike Patch, but I want to wear the patch from summer camp, 10 seconds later, done! Eagle medals still have pins (can never replace a mom’s duty and pleasure).

  2. I’d say number 9 is true. We have all that, just look the MRE’s that are available. Self heating. Irradiated milk is a common item. We may not need them for a tailgate trip but they make a week on the trail a whole lot better.
    As for number 1, I hope so but… cost up, numbers down… Troops with 40 on the charter and 10 on a camp out. I hope there is another “heyday” is coming but this isn’t it.

  3. Palm-sized cookers? Sort of – things like the dragonfly stove are quite tiny (not including the fuel canister). Multiple fire-starting not requiring friction-starting methods abound (ferro rods, lighters, piezo ignition, etc.)… I would give #9 a “Yes”

  4. I buy milk in a small box with a long shelf life for a program that feeds hungry kids. No need for refrigeration.

    #5 is funny. There are “inflatable” tents from various manufacturers. There are lots of large inflatable shelters. For scouts, they could use the Kelty Mach or the Heimplanet Wedge. They are not quite an “air shield”, but they do offer more privacy than the “air shield” 🙂 (BTW, there are quite a few patents for inflatable tents/sleeping bags/air mattress combinations)

  5. Committee Meetings by Video Phones -“not happening”, you say?? Here in Western Washington we certainly do! Traffic is awful! It is much easier to conference call and video conference – We do it all the time! District Committees, OA, Council Groups, Archdiocese Scouting Committee…just to name a few!

  6. One thing that seems to be omitted … the profusion of coffee making devices. Backpacking and rock climbing becomes the only means to have your espresso in a more scenic location without WIFI.

  7. Well, let’s see… Back in 1960ish, we had freeze dried food, non-fat freeze dry milk (no need for “fresh” milk if made right), Tang (!), super light weight tents (my troop made plastic tarp tents, about 1/2 lb each), and Mr. Kelty had just invented his hip belt aluminum pack frame. Now, we have Skype conference calls, pocket cell phones, miniature battery powered forced draft stoves that burn ‘pret near anything, still have to walk (from the car to the tent site). Now, we are too scared of mosquitoes to allow tarp tenting, and we MUST refigerate EGGS (God help us) if we keep’em out of the ‘fridge more than an hour. Do self-inflating air matresses count in this discussion? When I worked for the Census back in 2010, the GPS function on our mapping computer was deemed unreliable, so we had to re-up every entry by hand. I was one of the only people in my crew who could read a topo map first time out. Taught the rest of the crew.
    Without Tom Edison’s lightbulb, we’d all have to watch TV by candle, I guess.

  8. Reblogged this on BSA Troop 45 and commented:
    This is a fun article on what boys in the ’60s thought life would be like today. What do you think Scouting will be like in another 50 years? I’m hoping #8 comes true, really soon!

  9. This is a really cool article. It’s interesting to see what people thought of back then. It’s a shame that most haven’t been put into practice/ aren’t fees-able.

  10. I’m guilty of #11, have even done the committee meeting from airports, and once while driving (phone on speaker phone) It happens, may not be the norm, but it’s there. It also makes impromptu emergency planning sessions a snap, start a Google+ chat room and you can meet whenever, where ever, with who ever.

    #3, yeah those pocket devices have 10 times the computing power of the supercomputers that existed in the writing of this article. and those things took up an entire room.

    #5 if you count inflatable tents, sure…. and me I have one of those tent cots, they would have loved these things back then set up in under 5 minutes and be off the ground just about anywhere… yeah.

    #9 will have to disagree with you as well, give it a partial, food processing science has come a long long way, and if you really want it you can get the NASA food in a tube stuff, nasty, but fits the bill of no cook, no refridge, no mess food, just open and squeeze and try to swallow

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