The house of the future is here today
January 3, 2000
From Correspondent David George
(CNN) -- Bill Gates' house near Seattle was being hailed as the "house of the future" even before it was finished.
A CD-ROM accompanying the Microsoft founder's 1995 book about the future, "The Road Ahead," said there would be technology at every turn. "Once inside, you'll wear a special pin that uniquely identifies you and connects you to the home's electronic services ..."
Lights would automatically come on when you came home. Speakers would be hidden beneath the wallpaper to allow music to follow you from room to room.
Portable touch pads would control everything from the TV sets to the temperature and the lights, which would brighten or dim to fit the occasion or to match the outdoor light.
Houses crammed with technology
That is about what you'd expect in a $53 million house fit for the king of software.
But new homeowners can have a very nice house crammed with technology and costing nowhere near what it takes to live in Bill Gates' financial neighborhood.
Right now, houses in a relatively modest subdivision in Georgia -- where prices start around $150,000 -- come wired for the new century. "This includes wire for video, which is the coax wire, and that runs the cable television on it. (And) a data line, which runs data to the upstairs as well as the telephone," home technology consultant George Ide said.
Homeowners choose how much technology they want.
A basic house might have a simple intercom at the front door; a more expensive house might have a front-door camera with the intercom linked to the telephone.
Homeowner William Wrigley explains: "Well, the way it works, if you ring the doorbell, I just dial 'star-star' and I'm talking to you at the front door and I can see who it is. I can see on any TV in the house."
British suburb boasts 'Internet home'
In the London suburb of Watford, British home builder Laing Homes has joined with cutting-edge technology giant Cisco to construct a showcase residence they're calling the "Internet Home."
It's packed with technology, including video conferencing; TV sets that double as Internet dataports; a kitchen computer that keeps track of what's in the refrigerator; multiple security cameras -- even a system for starting the coffeepot from any room in the house.
But what makes the Internet Home unique is, well, the Internet.
The house has its own Web site -- which the homeowner can access from anywhere in the world. Using the site, the owner can control the lights, adjust the temperature, check the security cameras, even turn on the garden sprinkler.
Houses get bigger, lots get smaller
How the fields of architecture and design have changed since the 1950s when television's "March of Time" documented Levittown, the planned communities that made the American Dream accessible to a generation in the wake of World War II.
The Levitt brothers built tens of thousands of homes in three states and Puerto Rico. The homes featured two bedrooms, one bathroom, and were 850 square feet for about $10,000.
Today's average new home is more than 2,000 square feet at an average price of $175,000.
While families have gotten smaller since the '50s, houses have gotten bigger.
And with land prices higher, typical lot size is smaller, Virginia Polytechnic and State University's Rosemary Goss said. "Lots of people say well, I can't have both, so I will choose to have the large house on the small lot."
Goss said the cost of energy will make us rethink the way we build our houses. "We're going to continue to see our homes become more and more energy efficient," she said.
Technology will arrive in lower-priced homes
Back in 1957, Monsanto Corporation offered its version of the house of the future at California's Disneyland.
In Monsanto's view, the future was all about easy living. "Convenience is right at your fingertips here" went the slogan.
Four decades later, the "house of the future" looks a lot like the house next door. It's the technology under the roof that makes the difference.
The prediction is that in the future, technology currently found mostly at the upper end of the housing market will work its way down the line.
And one day homeowners will look around at all the technology in their homes and wonder how they ever got along without it.
Special Event: Millennium 2000: Gadgets
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