In the late 1970’s, before personal computers… well before mobile phones… and some 35 years before the Apple Watch, a small team of forward thinking writers and illustrators in the UK, were hard at work writing a children’s book about the future.

From their central London office, they conceived of a watch that would feature a built-in mobile phone, offer electronic mail, allow you to notify people if you were running late, provide online voting, and would direct you home if you got lost. A panic feature would alert people if you needed help.

If that sounds something like an Apple Watch, well it’s not very far off…

These prescient writers and illustrators created their book – The Usborne Book of the Future – at a time when excitement about the future was at fever pitch. Star Wars had recently come out, and an entire generation of kids grew up envisioning a future of cutting edge tech. I was a kid when the book came out, and this image of the watch (the Risto – as they called it) complete with its built-in phone, pop-out aerials, microphone and speaker, stuck with me for years.

Recently I tracked down a copy of the book, which is quite rare now, and goes for $150-200 on Amazon. The futuristic Apple Watch-like watch is just one of an entire book of futuristic ideas and concepts. I highly recommend it if you like collecting old books, especially books about technology.

The original 'Apple Watch' first appeared in this book

 

 

The book is as well conceived and illustrated as I remember it…

Here’s one idea they had for the watch of the future…

“If you were late for an appointment it would be easy to let other people know… The risto doubles as a watch, continuously corrected by a time pulse from the satellite overhead. There would be few excuses for being late!”

Or how about this one…

“A lone survivor presses her panic button before passing into unconsciousness. A continuous search-and-rescue signal comes from the waterproof risto. Helicopters, based on the floating sea-city, can home-in on the signal.”

It’s taken a long time for some of the ideas in the book to become a reality and of course some aspects are a little off. They predict for example that the ‘Apple Watch’ would sell for the same price as a pocket calculator. Things have got cheaper over the years, but I don’t see the Apple Watch selling for $10 anytime soon.

I imagine too that the writers in question must be thinking back around now, on the eve of the Apple Watch launch, to when they first had the idea. Were they the first to invent the Apple Watch (or a smart watch)? The idea of a 2-way wrist radio was actually conceived way back in 1946, for the Dick Tracy comic book character, and this would certainly have been inspiration.

dick-tracy

 

If you’d like to experience the ‘original Apple Watch’ and decide for yourself, click here

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