By Christina B. Farnsworth.

2002 Walk-Through

Some forecasters were right on the mark and some were way off the mark and simply very, very wrong. Here are some past predictions that came true and others that, blessedly, did not.

"Boomers will strike blow after blow against tobacco--taxing, restricting, and humiliating anyone involved in its farming, manufacture and use." --From Generations, the 1991 book by Bill Strauss and Neil Howe, partners and co-founders of the consulting firm LifeCourse

Indeed, cigarette taxes keep rising, many were on Nov. 5 ballots across the country; states have received settlements. Consumers, many aging boomers, continue to sue.

"Technology does not drive change at all. Technology merely enables change. It's our collective cultural response to the options and opportunities presented by technology that drives change." --Paul Saffo of the Institute for the Future, Menlo Park, Calif.

Take the Internet or the microwave oven, both were around for a decade, before consumers saw a real need and ways to use them.

"This isn't your father's recession--it's your grandfather's recession. That is, it isn't your standard postwar recession, engineered by the Federal Reserve to fight inflation and easily reversed when the Fed loosens the reins. It's a classic over-investment slump, of a kind that was normal before World War II." --October 2002 in The New York Times, Paul Krugman, editorial columnist and professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University

If Krugman's right, this one is far more on a par with the recession of the early '30s, and it will also be harder to fix.

"Retirement age will rise, wealth will fall, and there may be a demise of 'retirement' communities per se." --Generations, the 1991 book by Bill Strauss and Neil Howe, partners and co-founders of the consulting firm LifeCourse

Retirement age is rising, and though active adult communities still thrive as communities of choice for the WWII and Silent generations, many suspect that boomers and the generations beyond may well want something different.

"If we couldn't predict the World Wide Web, what good are we? "We've screwed up so many times and gone totally bankrupt by trying to do this. Starting with the Picturephone, ISDN, home information systems, and video-on-demand, every vision of the future that has compelled the industry has been wrong. A butterfly flaps his wings in Brazil and you get a web--or not." --Bob Lucky, then vice president of Belcore, said in 1995

Sometimes it is the unobserved opportunities that sneak up on prognosticators. And failed predictions are legion.

"While the move to higher density housing initially will be more from necessity than desire, many buyers will discover they actually prefer the easy-care lifestyle provided by attached homes and planned unit developments." --columnist George Fulton in a 1979 story.

The industry is still grappling with this as planners push density.

Paul Ehlich, a Stanford University biology professor and author of the 1968 book, The Population Bomb, predicted that the oceans would be dead from DDT and devoid of fish by 1979. He expected "smog disasters" to kill 200,000 people in New York and Los Angeles in 1973 and that life expectancy would to drop to 42 years by 1980 because of pesticide- induced cancers.

Aren't we glad we dodged all that?

"The widening gap between haves and have-nots will be increasingly recognized as a problem." --Generations, the 1991 book by Bill Strauss and Neil Howe, partners and co-founders of the consulting firm LifeCourse.

Yes, it has been recognized but not really acted upon.

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." --Ken Olsen, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp. predicted in 1977

Oh, really?