Visual Perception of the future in the 1950s: Part I
Welcome to the research references page for "Doppel Diner," a retrofuturistic cooking simulator for bipolar disorder awareness. In addition to promoting mental health research, one of my secondary goals is to transport players to a captivating atompunk universe inspired by the spirit of the 1950s and 1960s visions of the future. So as part of my preliminary research, I analyzed popular American culture artifacts I was able to find online such as comic books, magazines, photos, advertisements, and TV shows that portrayed futuristic visions, with the goal of identifying major aesthetic trends and motifs that defined the era.
By examining these artifacts, I hope to gain insights that will inform the creation of concept art and in-game assets, enabling me to make informed stylistic choices that align with the aesthetic of "Doppel Diner." I hope that this brief research project will help anyone not familiar with an atompunk genre to get a glimpse into the rich history of retrofuturism and its influence on popular culture.
Disclaimer: Please note that all photos included on this page were sourced from open sources on the internet that are listed below each image. If I used your picture and you want it taken down, please contact me!
Drawing inspiration from classic visions of both spaceships and concept cars from the 1950s-60s, the flying car in "Doppel Diner" is a striking red vehicle shaped like a wagon and serving as both a transport to travel the galaxy and a studio to live in. It features a sleek and aerodynamic design juxtaposed with a naïve perception of communication and navigation technologies that didn't exist at that time yet.
The idea of space travel was far away from the technological advancements of the era. Despite this, many individuals and organizations began to work on the development of spaceflight technology. The Collier's magazine series issued between 1952-1954 with a first cover story being "Man Will Conquer Space Soon" was a product of this optimistic outlook, featuring spaceflight plans by Dr. Wernher von Braun and other aerospace engineering experts, as well as science fiction illustrations by Chesley Bonestell, Fred Freeman, and Rolf Klep.
Aviation manufacturers experimented with creating quick-reacting, vertical takeoff planes, such as the Convair XFY-1 "Pogo," which utilized a propeller. Although these planes ultimately proved unsuccessful and the design was scrapped, they provided inspiration for many science fiction creators during that era.
Convair XFY-1 "POGO," 1954 (plane in flight) and 1951 (concept). USN - U.S. Navy Naval Aviation News October 1955.
A collection of science fiction pulp covers for British pulp magazines by an illustrator and comics artist Ron Turner created during the 1950s.
The idea of flying saucers: disc-shaped vehicles that could hover in place and move in any direction became increasingly popular in the public imagination. Various designs emerged, from the sleek and aerodynamic to the clunky and mechanical, but all shared an aesthetic of the unknown possibilities of space travel.
“Earth vs. the Flying Saucers” (1956)
Paul Lindberg "Flying Saucer" Model Kit (1954)
More power to you! Brought to you by America's Independent Electric Light and Power Companies (1959)
Automotive manufacturers and inventors pushed the boundaries of imagination, creating stunning prototypes that showcased the potential of automotive technology. These concept cars represented a fusion of artistry, engineering, and forward-thinking ideas.
Walter C. Jerome, an inventor who attempted to create
the world’s safest car (1958).
While some of the ideas were ahead of their time and faced practical challenges, a visionary approach laid the foundation for the ongoing pursuit of safety in the automotive industry.
(Above) Disneyland, Tomorrowland, July 17, 1955.
Loomis Dean / The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty
(Right) Citroën Prototype C10 (1956) via citroenorigins.com
Some futurist car manufacturers leaned towards longer streamlined shapes of concept cars. Often, they were inspired by the existing United States fighter aircrafts.
Ford FX-Atmos (1954)
Posted on June 21, 2022 in Wikipedia.
Twenty-first Century Traffic Arrest.
Created by Jim Powersin (1956)
"Closer Than We Think. Sunray Sedan, the solar powered automobile of the future” by Arthur Radebaugh (1958)
Spacesuits worn by the characters representing aliens from different constellations embrace the naivety of some of the 1950s imaginations. I tried to capture the whimsy and innocence of that era's space exploration dreams that were not always scientifically accurate or bound by practical considerations. Limited colors, simple design, and the lack of technology aims for a nostalgic retrofuturistic touch.
Prior to the emergence of spacesuit concepts in the 1950s, a predecessor known as the pressure suit had already been developed. Pressure suits were protecting aviators flying at high altitudes, designed to withstand the low air pressure at high altitudes and maintain proper oxygen levels for the wearer. As interest in space exploration grew, the knowledge and technology gained from pressure suits became foundational in the development of spacesuits.
Relying on existing technologies, media creators of the 1950s leaned towards light designs that would allow astronaut characters to conduct scientific experiments, exploration missions, and sometimes even engage in intergalactic conflicts.
Erwin Ziller in high pressure Drager suit
in a Horten IX for the first flight (1945)
In 1955, Disneyland opened its gates featuring "Tomorrowland" as one of its zones. Walt Disney himself had a keen interest in space exploration and technology and collaborated with aerospace experts including Wernher von Braun to embody his dreams and hopes for the future to the park.
Tomorrowland "Spacecouple"at Disneyland Park (1960) Source: Disney Parks Blog by George Savvas (2011)
A Trip Into Space With Ace Brave! (1953)
"Closer Than We Think. Space Mayflowers”
by Arthur Radebaugh (1959)
Filmmakers too were captivated by the ideas of cosmic journeys and the pursuit of uncharted realms, resulting in the creation of several notable space-themed movies that prominently featured spacesuits. "Destination Moon" (1950) directed by Irving Pichel is an example of a pioneering science fiction film depicting spacesuits for a lunar mission. The spacesuits in another media, a TV series and comic book "Tom Corbett, Space Cadet" were envisioned in a solar system travels.
Frankie Thomas as Tom Corbett. By Macfadden Publications - Radio-TV Mirror, page 53 (1951). In Wikipedia (2023)
(Left) Vintage "Tom Corbett" costume (1950). (Right) "Tom Corbett" space suit with helmet. (CBS, 1950-1955). Imaged by Heritage Auction Archives, HA.com.
“Space Patrol” by Dik Darley (1950).
"Lost Planet Airmen" by Fred C. Brannon (1951)
Source: James Vaughan in flickr.com (2011)
Anne Francis for "Forbidden Planet" by
Fred M. Wilcox (1956). Source: Silver Screen Collection, via Getty Images
John Archer and Warner Anderson on set of "Destination Moon" by Irving Pichel (1950). Photo by Allan Grant.
In addition to the body of a spacesuit, it is worth noting some specific gear that, while not achieving widespread use in the future, still defined the era's futuristic aspirations, including the ultimate dream of personal flight. During the peak of the space age in the 1950s, jetpacks garnered significant attention as symbols of futuristic technology. For instance, "Bell Rocket Belt" developed by engineer Wendell Moore used hydrogen peroxide rockets to propel the wearer into the air: similar designs are featured in Disney's "Tomorrowland" spacecouple costumes and Tit-Bits Science Fiction Comics.
“Rocket Belt” demonstrated by Harold Graham at Fort Bragg (1961). Source:
Ed Clark The LIFE Picture Collection
Tomorrowland "Spacecouple"at Disneyland Park (1967). Source: davelandweb.com (2013)
Tit-Bits Science Fiction Comics 01 "The Dome Of Survival" (1953).
Source: comicbookplus.com (2012)
Another embodiment of personal air travel was inventions like flying platforms and gas shoes that didn't progress beyond experimental stages. Although the practical applications of both, they represented bold attempts to conquer the skies and push the boundaries of human capabilities.
Flying Platform: Hiller's Model 1031 (1956)
Source: Nat Farbman The LIFE Picture Collection
Gas powered shoes (1952). Source: vintagegeekculture via tumblr.com
Diner of the Future
An environmental art aiming to reference a piece of the household setting that converges technologies of the future with the classic 1950s charm. "Doppel Diner" is located on the orbit in the outer space and accessible to anyone in the galaxy via flying cars. Inside you will find smart order jukeboxes offering guests to place a meal selections, automatic refill stations, and the flying platforms with food.
The Monsanto House of the Future was a unique exhibit showcasing a vision of living in 1986 located in Tomorrowland at Disneyland . The house featured a range of futuristic inventions including electronic appliances that are now commonly used, such as electric toothbrush, microwave, and dishwashing machine. The house, along with the majority of the furniture, was made out of plastic to showcase the potential of this material.
During that time, many other concepts shared a similar atmosphere, emphasizing self-sufficiency and insulation from external factors, which would prove useful in scenarios such as life on other planets.
The Monsanto House of the Future in "Plastic Fantastic Living" by Dave Weinstein, in eichlernetwork.com
"Closer Than We Think. Follow-The-Sun-House”
by Arthur Radebaugh (1959)
Charles Schridde "House of
the Future" for Motorola (1963)
The Push Button Manor in Jackson, Michigan stands as the very first original smart home. Inside, the inventor Emil Mathias designed features such as remote-controlled curtains, automatically closing windows and locking doors, and timed appliances activation.
Push-button home, December issue of "Popular Mechanics" (1950)
"House of the future" by Fred McNabb (1956). Source: plan59.com
During the 1950s period, there was an extraordinary surge of interest and enthusiasm surrounding the concept of robots and their potential impact on society. Although the vision of household robots in the 1950s may have exceeded the technological possibilities of the era, it reflected a collective desire for a future where mundane chores could be delegated to these intelligent machines, freeing up time and enhancing the overall quality of life.
“Roomba of 1959” displayed at the American National Exhibition in Moscow, Russia (1959)
"Closer Than We Think. Robot Housemaid” by Arthur Radebaugh (1959)
In popular culture, robots were often portrayed as humanoid figures equipped with advanced capabilities. They were envisioned to take on a range of household tasks from cooking and cleaning to protecting their owners during the intergalactic adventures.
“The Super-Perfect Servant” - Strange Adventures #47, written by Sid Gerson. (1954). Source: darkworldsquarterly.gwthomas.org
“What Happened On the Moon?” - Strange Tales #22, written by Burt Frohman (1953). Source: darkworldsquarterly.gwthomas.org
During the 1950s, a significant shift occurred between the golden age of radio and the widespread adoption of television sets in American households. This fueled the collective imagination, igniting dreams of futuristic possibilities such as distant communication, interactive education, and portable experiences.
"Closer Than We Think. One-World Job Market” & "Wrist Watch TV" by Arthur Radebaugh (1959, 1960)
Gas powered shoes (1952). Source: vintagegeekculture via tumblr.com
Moving forward, I recognize the importance of incorporating original source materials and archives to create a truly authentic atompunk universe that resonates with players and contributes to the retrofuturistic genre. With this in mind, I am excited to announce that I have a unique opportunity this summer to access the archives at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) Libraries for the second phase of my research.
By leveraging these original sources, I hope to gain new insights that will help me build a more genuine and compelling world for "Doppel Diner" that captures the spirit of retrofuturism in a unique and impactful way. Stay tuned for updates on my progress, as I continue to explore and draw inspiration from the rich history of the atompunk genre.