Once I began down the slippery slope that is the last hundred years of Popular Mechanics/Science covers, I quickly saw a recurrent theme. (Besides orange.) I don’t know how to phrase this politely. So I’ll just come out and say it. I see a pervasive desire to have a personal flying machine. I see large numbers of grown men wishing they were Peter Pan. They want to think happy thoughts and fly to the Moon. And issue after issue of these magazines have pandered to that peculiar…obsession. From their earliest days (see above), these magazines have been promising that soon — any day now — we will all have personal flying machines. And guys all across America are out in the garage or down in the basement, eyes glazed over, dreaming about this month’s latest incarnation of The Dream That Wouldn’t Die.
Ok, the train isn’t exactly flying, but look, folks: the train is in the sky, okay? We’re going to be seeing a lot of this sort of nonsense, so get used to it. Trains that fly, cars that think they’re boats, planes that dive under the sea… That’s right, boys, just unplug your thinking! Think big! Why drive to work? Why not fly your house there!! Ha ha ha!!
Of course, we here who actually LIVE in the future find these quaint covers amusing. A flying bus (snicker snicker)! Those rubes would buy anything back then! Now, of course, we know that a real flying machine for the Everyman is truly almost here. Really. Like in a month or two. Seriously. What, didn’t you see the latest issue of Popular Mechanics?
I realize that this was not being touted as the next thing in personal flying machinery, but I just want to point out that, once again, we have a train in the sky. This time, there is a caption, and it reads “How Far Can a Locomotive Jump?” I’m beginning to rethink my post. It’s not just an obsession with personal flight. It’s more the idea that Everything Should Be Able To Fly. Some men look at the Grand Canyon and think, Wow, that’s a big hole. Some look at the Grand Canyon and think, Gee, do you think I could jump a motorcycle across that?
Again, this isn’t supposed to be a personal flying machine, BUT it’s likely to become one in a minute. This bozo on the tobaggan is attached to an airplane. Got that? Airplane. They go up in the air. I can’t decide if this guy is brave or just plain stupid.
Now, isn’t this every man’s dream come true? Your own personal flying fishing boat. You haul those babies in while your admiring sweetheart looks on in awe. Those guppies never stood a chance.
Jimmy, those clouds are looking pretty ominous. Jimmy, please come down. Jimmy, those struts are made of metal. I’m getting worried, Jimmy. This isn’t such a good idea. Jimmy??
Ah, those Roaring Twenties. What a carefree time that was. On a nice sunny day, you’d head out to the park with your giant helium balloon, tie on, and away you’d go! Into the stratosphere! Not a care in the world! No way to control the thing! Say, is it just me, or is it getting awfully cold up here? And hard to breathe, too.
Now here’s an eco-friendly personal flyer everyone can get behind. That’s American can-do ingenuity for you. Just hook your bicycle to a star and soar.
By the 1950’s, gasoline power was king. And every guy was puttering around in the home workshop, building his own homemade flycycle. Whee!
Here at last is the flying car we’ve been waiting for. Sure it causes a major dust storm on take-off, but so what? This is the future! Get hip!
Ever wonder if anyone ever actually built an airplane in their garage, as shown here? Somehow I doubt it.
Well, here we are in 1979, and the best we can come up with is a motorized hang glider? And what’s with the WWI markings? You know, guys, personal flying machines were supposed to be CARS that FLY! This is just an embarrassment. I want the future. Now.
Yeah! Now you’re talking. A real flying car, fer cryin’ out loud. I want to drive when I want, and fly when I want. Total freedom! When’s it gonna be here? You guys have been predicting a personal flying car for over one hundred years, and we’re getting sick of waiting. Make with the flying car already.
No no no! I don’t want a stinking paraplane! I want a flying car!! Don’t you get it?
No. N-O. No Sportplane. Car. Flying Car.
Skymobile? Don’t you mean “airplane”? As in, “not a flying car”? Get out of my face.
Well, it’s about time. “Take off from my driveway,” huh? Sounds perfect. Now, where do I buy one of these puppies? Hm? Oh, they’re not for sale, yet, eh? Your credibility is getting mighty thin, PM.
Again with the dopey WWI iron cross crap. You guys just don’t get it.
Looks like we’ve gone through a whole century’s worth of Popular Mechanics and not come up with a real, bona fide personal flying thing. That’s okay. Next time, we’ll take a look at the Popular Science solution to the problem: personal jetpacks!! Man as flying machine. The future is so damned cool.
One last note. Do a quick search on Google for “lawnchair balloon”. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Okay, what did you find? A bunch of hits, right? Apparently, some guys just can’t wait for the future to get here. Like Lawnchair Larry here. All I can say is Folks, the future is coming. Please be patient. Put down the balloons. Thank you.