For many people over the last 18 months, remote has been the new in-person – larger numbers of people than ever have worked, gone to school, and seen their doctors online.

I for one never saw it coming, but here’s the story of a guy who did: Hugo Gernsback, who foresaw telemedicine a century ago.


As Smithsonian reported, Gernsback was a radio innovator in the very earliest days of the medium.

He created the first home radio kit for fellow enthusiasts, and founded the first radio magazine, called Modern Electronics.

(Science fiction fans will also recognize his name from the Hugo Awards, given out for great science fiction.)

Another Gernsback magazine, Electrical Experimenter, saw radio as really the tip of the iceberg for what we could do remotely.

In one issue in 1925, Gernsback predicted that in fifty years’ time, people would see their doctors from a distance, using viewscreens powered by radio waves.

But there was more.

The article said a doctor could use a device called a “tele-dactyl” to remotely examine the patient.

They’d use remote robot arms to virtually touch the patient, and the device would simulate the physical resistance the doctor would feel during an in-person exam.

That isn’t exactly how telemedicine works today, of course, but Gernsback did get the basic idea right.

Just as we can speak remotely through a phone, or get news and entertainment from a far-off source, patients can get medical treatment from a practitioner, even if that practitioner isn’t in the room.

And with so many people using telemedicine, maybe those robot arms will show up after all.

There have been a lot of difficult stories out of the areas in Louisiana hit hard by Hurricane Ida, but there is at least this: before the storm, a Domino’s Pizza employee prepared for the coming outages by dumping some prepared pizza dough into a dumpster.

Resident Nicole Amstutz started posting photo updates of the big blob on social media – and, if you’re wondering, it did eventually spill over the sides of the dumpster.

And yet I’m still in the mood for pizza!

Telemedicine Predicted in 1925 (Smithsonian)

North shore pizza dough blob grows to enormous proportions, overtakes dumpster post-Ida (New Orleans Times-Picayune)

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Photo by Thomas Quine, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons