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I didn’t realize that Chris Wild’s Retronaut, hands down the best running retrospective of yesteryear on the Internet, has moved to Mashable, but apparently that’s the case. Its archives to date can still be seen at retronaut.com, but Wild is now a part of the Mashable editorial team, and henceforth will be posting unearthed time capsules like the one below, a late-19th Century vision of what it would be like to leave the opera in the year 2000, exclusively to that site.
This engraving is the work of French illustrator and writer Albert Robida; I find it completely captivating. It’s rendered with a wonderful, delicately colored palette that I would like to ape for a design project of my own. And its ornate, art nouveau-inflected conception of how technology would evolve is charmingly naïve (but also strikingly accurate in its prediction of the way 21st Century pop culture would think about the hybridization of history, culture and science fiction; this image could pass for a modern day example of Continental steampunk). It shows that when people think about the future, they usually just imagine how the world will change around them, and not so much how they will change themselves. In that way, it perfectly demonstrates Christopher Frayling’s axiom that “All science fiction is about the year that it’s written.”
Wild calls out many details from it in this article.+