Try explaining to Leonardo DaVinci that one day people would create art without a canvas, paints or brushes. How do you comprehensively detail to people in the 1930s that you can put food in a metal box, and it will be hot within two minutes — without coming across as a lunatic? To people from the previous century, our rudimentary technology today will seem like magic. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t have fanciful dreams of what the future would be like. On the contrary, many inventors and artists rendered visions of what they perceived would be future technology. Let’s look at 15 such drawings, and you can decide if it was spot-on or just outlandish. Tap or click here to take a look inside Toyota’s smart city of the future. More images of predictions from the past can be found at Bored Panda.

1. Future FaceTime?

Described in a 1930’s German publication as “Wireless private telephone and Window,” it sure looks a lot like an early version of Apple’s FaceTime or video calling. Our verdict: We think this one is a hit. Even if the flying car is a little bit suspect.  

2. Bakery Bus, or UberBread?

While the mode of transport is vastly different from what is being used today, it is rather impressive. Who knew that that food delivery service was dreamt up so long ago? The windows make it easy to see what’s being baked, but we’re not sure how safe that would be. Our verdict: Definitely a hit. Who wouldn’t want to buy bread from there?

3. Straight Outta Inception

This image from 1908 can easily be mistaken for a promotional shot from the mind-bending film Inception. Or what a city would look like if designed by the Hogwarts architect. Our verdict: That’s a miss from us. It’s drab, congested and people don’t obey the rules of the road. Kind of like today.

4. Is that a future Cartman?

Canadian author and illustrator Bruce McCall created this futuristic look at a family road trip. There is so much here to take in, but one thing has us perplexed. Is that South Park’s Cartman on the laptop screen? And why is the boy watching two television screens while wearing a helmet?

5. Shopping through your television

The general idea of online shopping is spot on. But it (thankfully) never really reached the level depicted in the image. Come to think of it, it’s strikingly like buying something from an infomercial. Whether she is talking to the person on the monitor is unclear, though. Our verdict: The artist was definitely on the right path. We like it!

6. Fashion from the future is fickle

Dressed in their weird attire, the image had us confused at first. Is it a rendition of people from the 1950s looking back at fashion from 1914? Or is it a couple from 1914 looking at an illustration of what people will be wearing in the 1950s? Either way, it’s a bit weird. And why is he wearing a loincloth?   Our verdict: Gianni Versace definitely wouldn’t approve. And neither do we.

7. Intergalactic, planetary

We’re sure that this isn’t what Beastie Boys had in mind while rapping about another dimension on their 1998 hit Intergalactic. Unfortunately, it seems like we will wait for a long time before intergalactic cities will be commonplace. Our verdict: An eco-friendly city in space? It gets out vote!

8. Uncomfortable and awkward

This isn’t an artist’s depiction of what spacesuits in the future will look like. It’s worse. It’s an actual design that Grumman Aircraft Corporation tried to sell to NASA in 1962. Yikes. Our verdict: Nope. We’ll take the bus, thanks.

9. Walking on water

We don’t know what they put in German chocolates from 1900, but it made everybody do crazy things. It’s one of those images where the longer you look, the weirder it gets. The water bicycle has no pedals. Everyone (including the child) has impeccable centers of gravity to be able to walk on skies. And what is the horse in the back doing? Our verdict: probably the biggest miss on our list.

10. Smartwatch, yet so dumb

This is a Seiko UC-2100, and we have no words. It was designed in 1984 as a precursor to what would become actual smartwatches 20 years later. Imagine having to type on that while updating a spreadsheet on the bus? It’s not all bad, though, as the keyboard undocks from the watch. Our verdict: It would kind of be cool to have one of those today. Retro-chic is back in.

11. Ticker texts, or ecological nightmare?

Staying with watches, this one comes from the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me. Again, so many technological questions. How is the message printed? What do you do if you run out of ticker material? Does the tape self-destruct, or would millions of people discard their texts in the trash? Our verdict: Some things are better left to the imagination of set designers.

12. Jungle in the city

While a vast array of foliage is always a great thing, the proximity of houses to each other makes us recoil from lockdown and social distancing flashbacks.  Our verdict: No fences or an elevator? We’ll stick to the ground floor on this one.

13. We don’t need no education

Of all the things that didn’t materialize in the future, we can’t be more thankful that we didn’t grow up in this classroom. It would have been a nightmare, as this 1969 vision predicted that children would be whacked on the head by a robot for incorrect answers. Our verdict: No thanks, we’ll pass.

14. Solitary scooter for social distancing

Safety hazards aside, Italian artist Walter Molino conceived the notion that everybody in 2022 would have glass scooters to zip around in. Even though the image was painted in 1962, it would have come in handy during the pandemic. Our verdict: Stylish and in a variety of colors, we wouldn’t mind cruising down the boulevard in one of these bad boys.

15. Telenews? Papervision?

As part of Scoops magazine’s Invention Series from 1934, the publication pondered when newspapers will be made available on television screens. At least they had the forethought to ask “when” and not “if.” Our verdict: While not the same in design, the concept is accurate to how we consume news on computer and mobile phone screens.

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