I Couldn't Wait For The Future After Watching Beyond 2000 As A Kid
With a hint of mystery, the show explored how technology would change our lives for the better. It's a remnant of a far more optimistic time.
There probably hasn't been a better time than now to escape within our own minds to simpler and frankly more optimistic times. Thinking of all the pop culture influences that were impressed upon me growing up, one weekly science magazine show was absolutely must-watch TV for me. It had a sense of mystery and cutting-edge intrigue about it, and the presenters and production were really fantastic, pulling in various personalities from around the tech world to showcase different technologies that could become staples in the millennium to come. It felt like truly an international affair. And that opening theme and sequence—unforgettable. It made you want to warp into a future that simply couldn't come fast enough. That show was Beyond 2000.
From what I understand, the show, which originated from Australia, had a remarkably long run under various monikers. It started off in 1981 as Towards 2000, then became Beyond 2000 in the mid-1980s. It ran under that name with one multi-year hiatus until it was canceled in—you guessed it—1999. Apparently, it came back again in 2005 under the name Beyond Tomorrow, but I don't remember it.
And yeah, once again, that opening and soundtrack. It stuck with you! It's amazing how something like that still lingers in your head after all these years. I remember clicking on to Discovery channel as a kid and seeing two versions, an earlier one that had more live-action scenes and a later one that relied heavily on CGI, which looked pretty damn slick for television of the time period.
The hour-long show covered all types of future-tech topics, with a heavy dose of transportation-related segments. Everything from maglev trains to virtual reality to renewable energy to advanced robotics to cutting-edge defense tech was featured. The quality of the segments was great and included on-location, in-depth looks at what were mostly experimental technologies, some of which have come to fruition in the two decades since the original run of the show ended. In fact, for all the Popular Science hyperbole of the pre-internet age, Beyond 2000 was remarkably grounded and well-curated.
Memories can be a generalizing enigma, but what I remember most is watching a smart dude with a mustache and an Australian tech reporter lady showing me all the fantastic stuff that was just around the corner. In an age when everything wasn't available at our fingertips via a robust internet, this was heady content. The show was one part dreamer's toybox and one part hard science reporting on the coolest topics around. For the techie, this was appointment television—if you missed it, there was no on-demand option, and good luck hitting the right episode on reruns.
Looking back, it's so interesting to think how much power even a syndicated cable show like this actually had at shaping technological expectations. How many young people were influenced by one of its segments? I think plenty.
Some of those segments that have survived online make you realize just how long it takes to realize a technological dream. Decades have passed between when some of these concepts were presented in a developmental state and they have just now matured into a usable consumer state. Then there are some ideas that were just a bit too ambitious for the tech and marketplace realities of the time.
Failure is the mother of innovation as they say.
Regardless of where many of the ideas presented on Beyond 2000 ended up, this show, and others like it, certainly gave us great hope and excitement for the future. Today, we are maybe a bit too well informed to buy into some of the most overtly wide-eye concepts floating around. While that may be a good thing overall, it certainly doesn't help with coalescing an optimistic view of technology like we once had, for better or worse.
I would argue that every day is something like a Beyond 2000 episode for all of us now, but often in a darker sense. Things are moving so fast now and technology is so deeply integrated into our everyday lives that what is just around the corner often seems like not such a great thing. This is especially true in a brave new era where the discussion is turning to the possibility that the intelligent machines will destroy their makers in the end.
As such, looking back and reviewing clips from Beyond 2000 is welcomingly reminiscent of a more innocent and optimistic time when it came to mankind's relationship with technology and the possibilities that it would usher in a grand new millennium.
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com