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10 Things from the Past that Were Ahead of their Time

6. The 1990 Mazda Cosmo was pretty advanced for a car manufactured in 1990. This 4th-generation Cosmo offered a CRT touch-screen, cruise control, optional car phone, NTSC TV, GPS navigation, radio, and CD player.

Mazda Cosmo
Image credit: Will Wilson/Youtube

The Mazda Cosmo of 1990 was a car that spoke future, especially the fourth-generation Cosmo manufactured in 1990. This version was known as the “Eunos Cosmo,” and its design was based on a concept car of 1985. The Eunos was the only Mazda to have used a triple-rotor engine. The car was loaded with powerful amenities and was a top-of-the-line luxury vehicle.

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The Eunos had many firsts in the automotive world. It was the first mass-produced car to have a built-in GPS system. Also, the engines used were one of the first Japanese engines in the history of automobiles. Major futuristic incorporation on the Eunos Cosmos was the touch-screen car-control system. Many people believe it to be more responsive than the touch systems that we have today. The car was able to reach speeds as high as 158 miles per hour. It also provided NTSC TV, CD player, radio, and calling facilities.

The only problem was that the Mazda series was expensive, even when compared to today’s vehicles. The fuel consumption was too high, and the high speeds were not enough to compensate for that. The production of the Eunos continued until 1995, and around 8,875 units were sold (source

7. Way before online live gaming, there was a video-game streaming service in the 1990s known as “Sega Channel” that allowed users to play against each other via Cable TV.

Sega Channel
Image credit: u/jordan_chez(Reddit)

Online gaming is an accepted part of life in today’s modern world. Although the online, live-streaming gaming service became popular around the mid-2010s, long before that there was another way by which people played against each other. Known as “Sega Channel,” this video game service was way ahead of its time.

Sega was a play-to-play video game service that launched in 1994. The service allowed gamers to play against each other through their cable network! Gamers received an adapter once they purchased the service and paid the activation fee. The adapter had to be inserted into the cartridge slot provided on the console. This would then be connected to the TV’s wire. Activating the console would load the main menu on the TV from which gamers could select the games of their choice and even download them onto the system. Gamers had the option to choose from more than 70 games.

The Sega Channel officially shut down in 1998. One of the main reasons for the shut down was that people considered the monthly subscription price of $14.99 to be quite expensive. Nevertheless, Sega was years before Playstation and Xbox even came into existence. (source)

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8. In 1987, Soviet engineers created a sleek, futuristic system that consisted of a laptop-like computer with a phone, speakers, headphones, and a mini-tower with three memory blocks, and their own floppies, plus remote control.

SPHINX
Image credit: Technical Aesthetics magazine, 1987 via

Soviet engineers were way ahead of their time. In 1987, they were visualizing smart-home concepts which even today feel futuristic. Known as the “Sphinx Station,” the Soviets designed a revolutionary computer under the leadership of Dmitry Azrikan, an industrial designer.

What Azrikan wanted to create was a home-automation system that would replace all the home accessories such as remotes, home recorders, phones, watches, TVs, etc. He wanted to create a smart home as we know today. There were also plans to include advanced features such as informative service, home-control system, and even medical diagnostics!

SPHINX system prototype
Image credit: Moscow Design Museum via

Apart from the usual screen and keyboard that are part of a computer system, the Sphinx came with spherical speakers, a remote, a monitor that was detachable, and a processor with memory blocks. The system came with three memory blocks, but there was provision for unlimited blocks to be attached. This meant that several members of the same family can activate the same or different programs at the same time.

The engineers planned to bring this system to Russian homes by 2000, but with the economic downfall of 1991, the project didn’t take off as expected. It just remained a prototype. (source)

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9. The radio-controlled lawnmower was designed in the 1950s that allowed users to control mowers via a remote while sitting comfortably away from it.

The advertisement for the radio-controlled lawnmower called it “The Thing.” Considering that this lawnmower was launched in the 1950s, calling it “The Thing,” justifies it. The advertisement shows the inventor, Jim Walker, sitting comfortably on a chair and mowing his lawn with the remote-controlled lawnmower.

Jim Walker is known for his many inventions, and he invented the remote-controlled lawn mower in 1948. He showcased his invention in front of the crowd at Chicago’s Sportsman’s Pier. (1, 2)

10. In 1936, Hamblin glasses were launched for reading in bed that allowed wearers to lie flat on their back without having to strain their neck to see a page in front of them. They didn’t even need to raise their hand to lift the book to their line of sight!

Hamblin glasses
Image source: Nationaal Archief/Flickr

Reading a book while lying down in bed is a bit stressful. The book needs to be held high so that it’s directly in the line of sight. But people in the 1930s had a solution for this. Known as “Hamblin glasses,” these glasses were invented in 1936 and were designed to solve that particular problem. The glasses used to work like periscopes with mirrors that bounced light from one place to another, enabling the wearer to see in unnatural directions. In layman’s terms, you could read the book kept on your tummy by looking straight upwards, like in the picture above.

In 2013, similar glasses were brought back into the market to help people watch TV while lying flat on their back. The glasses sold for £10. (source)

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