1954 Home Computer Hoax Image on Laptop
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1954 Home Computer Hoax

by Brett M. Christensen

This story was first published in May 2005

The caption accompanying this long circulated image claims that it depicts how scientists in 1954 imagined a home computer might look like in 2004.

1954 Home Computer Hoax

The image has now been circulating for more than 15 years,  first via email and forum posts, and, in later years, via social media websites. Some versions assert that the image was included in a 1954 edition of “Popular Mechanics”.

The text below the image states:

Scientists from the RAND corporation have created this model to illustrate how a “Home Computer” could look like in the year 2004. However, the needed technology will not be economically feasible for the average home. Also the scientists readily admit that the computer will require not yet invented technology to actually work, but 50 years from now scientific progress is expected to solve these problems. With teletype interface and the FORTRAN language, the computer will be easy to use.

In fact, no such “Home Computer” model was ever created. Nor was the image published in any 1954 edition of “Popular Mechanics”. The image is the end result of some clever manipulation of a real photograph that depicts a full-scale mock-up of a typical nuclear-powered submarine’s maneuvering room:

1954 Home Computer Hoax Source Image

The mock-up was part of a Smithsonian exhibit and carried the following explanation:

Washington, D.C., Apr. 10, 2000 — A full-scale mock-up of a typical nuclear-powered submarine’s maneuvering room in which the ship’s engineers control the power plant and electrical and steam systems. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Tim Altevogt.

The manipulated “home computer” image was an entry in a Photoshop competition organised by Fark.com. The entry was submitted by a Fark user posting under the name lukket.

The image has been accepted as legitimate by many people and has generated a lot of sometimes amusing debate. Some have postulated that the large wheel in the picture was intended to fulfil the function of the modern-day mouse. Others have pondered if a FORTRAN based system with a teletype interface would really be that “easy to use”.

Editor’s note:
The images entered in the old Fark competition discussed in this article are no longer available on the site. The competition was launched back in 2004 and, not surprisingly, many of the entries posted are now listed on the site as “too old to be available”. 

Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,