in ,

The World of Retro-Futurism

Have you ever come across thoughts like these- “How long do I need to wait for flying cars or a transparent smartphone? Will there be fleets of flying robots or a sale on human cybernetic body parts? Will I be able to rent an apartment on Mars; or maybe enjoy a picnic on the Moon?” Many such weirdly interesting suppositions about the future form the idea of retro-futurism, a notion through which the existence of futuristic technology is depicted in an earlier time period.

The earmarks of retro-futurism would be the immaculate and idyllic vision of the future in which creators of all dimensions imagined how space exploration, robotics, or modes of transportation would evolve in the coming decades. In the 1950s and 1960s, iconic magazines such as Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, and Modern Mechanix, informed their readers about the so-called “dream highways“, where flying cars, submarines, and other inventions travelled into space.

Credits: Klaus Bürgle

Retro-futurism investigates the tensions that exist between the past and the future, as well as the alienating and empowering impacts of technology. It is defined by a mix of old-fashioned ‘retro styles‘ with futuristic technology. Retro-futurism, a blend of utopian and dystopian conception, could be defined as follows: Retro-futurism encapsulates humanity’s long history of limitless creativity, solipsistic folly, and forlorn optimism.

This concept gained impetus in the year 1983 when an ad about Bloomingdale’s jewellery got published in the New York Times. The advertisement came under the limelight as it talked about giving “a retro-futuristic appearance”. Later on, the Oxford English Dictionary mentioned this ad as the earliest recorded use of a term related to the idea of retro-future.

Since then, retro-futurism has been a popular concept among designers, artists, filmmakers, and video game developers. Many fictional and real-world events represent retro-futurism in inconceivable ways, whether it’s Marty McFly’s future visit in 1989’s smash hit Back to the Future II or the unveiling of the first iPhone in 2007. In recent years, the notion has come under significant discussion. Niklas Maak, a German architecture critic, has viewed retro-futurism as “an aesthetic feedback loop”, reminiscing the visions of the previous generations in the present. Bruce McCall, a Canadian author and illustrator, calls retro-futurism a “faux nostalgia“—the nostalgia for a future that never came to being.

Many of the general trends are owed to the science fiction classic tome of H. G. Wells, The Time Machine, as well as the Space Race of the 20th century. Depending on which era you start from and what theme you focus on, retro-futurism can be split into several currents.


This genre is frequently explored in video games, comics, and popular movies like Tron, Ghost in the Shell, Blade Runner series, and others, as a dark and dystopian retro-future with all of the modern technology. This retro-futuristic genre is known for its electronic music, eccentric dress designs, and low-key fashion items with a cyberpunk vibe.


The 1950s were a bright and glamorous era, with everything from gleaming Thunderbird cars to stylish oversize glasses. Surprisingly, atompunk enriches the retro-futuristic 1950s with additional fascinating features. The soaring thunderbirds have jet propellers, the factories run on clean nuclear power, and bullet trains make city life faster than ever. The most popular depictions of atom punk may be found in Fantastic Four comic books, Sean Connery’s James Bond flicks, and the classic cartoon show Dexter’s Laboratory.

Alternate History

What if Newton’s name is lost to history? What would our lives be like if the internet didn’t exist? Alternate history has always been a popular genre among writers, especially fiction fans, for answering such concerns. It investigates alternate versions of true historical events and the resulting consequences.


The nineteenth century was a period in which human life was profoundly altered. This was an amazing time when steam engine trains were running at full speed and new industries were sprouting up. Steampunk is a futuristic setting modelled on the nineteenth century, with large steam-powered machines (such as steam aircraft, steam artillery, and so on) at play.

Credits: Pinterest

The easiest approach to comprehend retro-futurism is to realise that it is fascinated with investigating notions about the future that are constantly changing at any one time. After all, who is to say that what we believe as a society will take shape technologically in the future, or even be near to what will happen?

Ambrisha Zubeen is a student pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.

Edited by: Anzal Khan

What do you think?

Written by Ambrisha Zubeen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

GIPHY App Key not set. Please check settings

India: A So-Called Secular State

The Fall of the Titanic: Beyond the Iceberg