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Atomic age

Related: 1950s - space age

Preceded by: streamline moderne

Atomium (1958) - Brussels World Fair


The Atomic Age was a phrase used for a time in the 1950s in which it was believed that all power sources in the future would be atomic in nature. The atomic bomb ("A-bomb") would render all conventional explosives redundant and nuclear power plants would do the same for power sources such as coal and oil. There was a general feeling that everything would use a nuclear power source of some sort. This even included cars, leading Ford to display the Ford Nucleon concept car to the public in 1958.

In the 1960s, the term was less common, but the concept remained. In the Thunderbirds TV series, a set of vehicles was presented that were imagined to be completely nuclear, as shown in cutaways presented in their comic-books. In 2001: A Space Odyssey, there was even an atomic ballpoint pen. Normally reputable experts predicted that thanks to the giant nuclear power stations of the near future electricity would soon become as cheap as water, or even cheaper, and that electricity meters would be removed.

Lew Kowarski, a former director of CERN, even recalled such references as Atomic cocktail waitresses.

The term was initially used in a positive, futuristic sense, but by the 1960s the threats posed by nuclear weapons had begun to edge out nuclear power as the dominant motif of the atom. In the late 1970s, nuclear power was faced with economic difficulties and widespread public unease, coming to a head in the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, which effectively killed the nuclear power industry for decades to come. As such, the label of the "Atomic Age" now connotes either a sense of nostalgia or naïveté, depending on whom you ask. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_Age [Feb 2006]

The 1958 Ford Nucleon concept car

The 1958 Ford Nucleon concept car

The Ford Nucleon was a nuclear-powered concept car developed by Ford Motor Company in 1958. The car did not have an internal-combustion engine, rather, it was powered by a small nuclear reactor in the trunk of the car. The nuclear reactor used fuel that could be swapped out, and one load of nuclear fuel could purportedly power the car for 5000 miles. The car was never built and never went into production, but it remains an icon of the Atomic Age in the 1950s.

The nuclear reactor in the back of the modified De Lorean sports car used in the movie Back to the Future bears at least a passing resemblance to one in the Nucleon. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Nucleon [Feb 2005]

See also: futurism - concept car - space age - 1958

George Nelson's ball clock

In search of the atomic age

Current model of George Nelson's ball clock
Originaly designed by George Nelson and Irving Harper in c.1947, produced c. 1950 by Howard Miller and re-issued by Vitra since 2000.

George Nelson (1908 – 1986) was an American designer central to modern design. He had a long history with the Herman Miller company. In 1946, Nelson became director of design at Herman Miller, a position he held until 1972. While there, Nelson recruited other seminal modern designers including Charles Eames, Paul Laszlo, and Isamu Noguchi. He also developed his own designs, including the Marshmallow sofa, the Coconut chair, the Nelson platform bench and the first L-shaped desk, a precursor to the present-day workstation. He also created a series of boldly graphic wall clocks, a series of bubble lamps made of self-webbing plastic. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Nelson_(designer) [Feb 2006]

See also: futurism - space age

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