In 1997, we used the internet primarily for email and for the novelty of being able to look things up on the "worldwide web." The internet as we know it wasn't even 10 years old and was a tiny fraction of one percent the size it is now. Speeds that seemed fast then would make us throw our laptops at the wall now. There was no Google, no social media, no Zoom. This is what the top search engine looked like:
We knew the internet had some potential, but we had no idea how reliant we would become on it for pretty much everything. Our vision of what the future might hold still looked like the Jetsons in many ways. Flying cars. Bulbous architecture. Inexplicably pointy clothing. Some kind of cool communication devices that would allow us to see one another's faces in real-time.
And yet, Archie Comics got one thing eerily right in a 1997 Betty comic titled "High School 20201 A.D." Virtual, online school.
Of course, it wasn't happening due to a pandemic, but was simply the way school happens in their imagined future.
"Kids today are SO lucky! They're able to go to school in their own home!" says Betty's Dad. "They never have to carry books to school...and they never have to worry about the weather!"
Flashback to this winter, when schools contemplated whether or not to have "snow days" for kids doing school at home.
"'Scue me, folks!" says Betty. "Class is about to begin!" She sits in front a definitely-not-2021-accurate computer with a hilariously huge camera atop it, but the basic gist is spot on. Especially when we see the sign on the wall that reads "VIDEO MONITOR MUST REMAIN UNCOVERED AT ALL TIMES."
Kids turning off their cameras was one of the hundreds of challenges teachers have had to deal with through the 2020-2021 school year. Phew.
Screenshots of the first page of the comic have gone viral on social media as people point out how bonkers it is that the comic pinpointed this year for their online, at-home schooling idea. Snopes had to do a fact-check as people asked if it was real, and Archie Comics themselves wrote up a page on their site about the prescient comic.
"The 6-page story, originally titled 'Betty in High School 2021 A.D.' was written by George Gladir, with art by Stan Goldberg, Mike Esposito, Bill Yoshida, and Barry Grossman. In this story we find Betty and her friends in Riverdale dealing with the struggles of virtual home schooling!
When this story was reprinted in 2015, the year in the title was changed to '2104 AD' (probably because we didn't have flying cars yet) but rest assured, the original story was published in 1997 and eerily predicted elements of virtual home schooling now commonly found across the world!"
Archie Comics went ahead and shared the rest of the comic on Facebook, and it's fun to see what was eerily accurate and what was hilariously not.
"My video phone is flashing!" Betty thinks, as her pink magic-mirror-looking phone rings. Remember, most people didn't have cell phones at this point, and smartphones with cameras were a more futuristic idea than flying cars, oddly enough.
And as bizarre a year as it's been, I don't think any schools have instituted "closet detention" for at-home schoolers.
Betty's friends' "special video screen" she puts behind her to make her feel like she's not alone in class is pretty funny, and not terribly unlike the Zoom backgrounds we can virtually put behind ourselves.
They actually overshot a little with the super short skirts, as the micro-mini actually made a comeback in the early 2000s.
And yep, there's the good ol' futuristic flying car. Is there anything we've been more wrong about than the likelihood of flying around in cars by now? I don't think so.
The rest of the comic is the teens checking out the old high school museum, where they could see the cafeteria and bulletin board and "an actual classroom."
And Betty ultimately saying she wished she could "go back to the days of our old and obsolete high school."
Yep. That part's accurate for a lot of actual 2021 students as well.
Virtual schooling has been a mixed bag, with some kids thriving at home without the pressures and social drama of in-person school, while others have struggled without the structure and social stimulation of it. But no one was prepared for the sudden shift to online learning. The past year has been one long stretch of trial and error, forced flexibility, and constant adaptation. And it definitely wasn't the future—or present—any of us had hoped for.
Hopefully, we'll get those flying cars one of these days. In the meantime, we'll settle for basic in-person schooling and some semblance of normalcy.
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