Monitor: Pre-millennial cynicism as shown in the world's newspapers

KEYS, WHICH symbolised the high-consumption and security-conscious century, will not make it far into the next. Nor will the typewriter, the fountain pen, light switches or the transistor. The garages of the 21st century will be full of record collections, tinned foods, Happy Meal toys, floppy disks, aprons, CD radios, useless kitchen appliances, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus books, can openers and posters of Che Guevara.

- Sydney Morning Post

ALL OF us can turn, as you know we will, to drawing up lists of "the tops" from the old millennium. On and on it will go, though you may want to be suspicious of any lineup that leaves out Heat Wave by Martha and the Vandellas as best rock song. Of course, there will be a cascade of "predictions for the next millennium", which two New Yorkers, David Kristof and Todd W Nickerson, have compiled in a book by that very name. In it, some 250 prominent figures forecast everything from a planet at peace to global nuclear holocaust. Arthur C Clarke, the writer of 2001 fame, predicts "proof of intelligent life elsewhere" will be discovered. That's encouraging. It presupposes that, prattle about the millennium notwithstanding, intelligent life has been found here.

- New York Times

THE CONFIDENT prophecies offered by the Ladies' Home Journal in December 1900 [included] an American-ruled population of between 350 million and 500 million including much of Latin America, all of which would be eating "strawberries as large as apples". What's interesting about these two forecasts is not so much their inaccuracy, but the apparently delighted spirit in which they were offered. We're an awfully loud life form, but as we embark on another thousand trips around the sun, we wouldn't be hurt by one season of retrospection and "kwiet", which is how the Ladies' Home Journal, in a brave q-less world, predicted we'd be spelling it by now.

- Washington Post

THE MILLENNIUM has long proved irresistible to TV pseudo-science programmes. Since the early Sixties, their presenters have been telling us, authoritatively, what to expect in 2000. Futuristic transport provision has been a hot topic. A young James Burke predicted Londoners would get to work via the River Thames, safely tucked inside inflated plastic bags, and remote control cars were predicted for the Eighties. There were walking bikes with artificial feet, cars on stilts, and one that looked like a slug on wheels, run by computer-aided navigation. Just to show that nothing much has changed, Crystal Balls [an upcoming BBC TV programme] reports the predictions of Dr Ian Pearson, a "futurologist" employed by BT. He says that, in 2020, there will be talking shirts, cars that run on grass and, surprise, surprise, people living on pills.

- Evening Standard

INSIDERS ALREADY agree that Star Wars: Episode I, The Phantom Menace will create mega-hype-mania [in 1999]. Every magazine cover for two months is going to be Star Wars, predicted Harry Knowles, who delivers movie industry scuttlebutt via his Ain't It Cool web site. "Every Pepsi can, every Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut meal that you see is going to be a Star Wars product. It'll make even a Disney film's hype look like nothing. This is the film that a whole generation of people have been waiting 15, 20 years to see."

- Toronto Globe and Mail

Compiled by Sophie Harrison