Science fiction has often been credited with giving inspiration to earth’s real inventors: Robert H. Goddard, who built the first liquid-fueled rocket, was inspired by H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds; Simon Lake, father of the modern submarine, and Igor Sikorsky, inventor of the modern helicopter, were inspired by Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Clipper of the Clouds, respectively; Steve Perlman, an Apple scientist, got the idea for QuickTime from Star Trek...the list goes on.
We often forget that the first step in creating something truly groundbreaking is to imagine it.
Gene Roddenberry, the visionary creator of Star Trek, brought to life a franchise in the '60s that offered fans a peaceful and utopian vision of the future. And with it, a vision of a lot of amazing and at the time unbelievable gadgets that many of the series’s fans actually lived to own. Here are 5 Star Trek-inspired gadgets you probably own.
1. Voice-Activated Computer
On the Enterprise, computers respond to voices and can, in some way, “talk” with the crew members to give them information they’re looking for. Nifty. In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, the crew goes back in time to the then-modern 80s and Scotty attempts to activate a computer with his voice. It doesn’t work out. But today, we have Siri for Apple and Cortana for Windows to look up stuff for us on Google and tell us jokes.
2. Communicator: Cell Phone
The Stark Trek crew’s "communicators" look like Walkie-Talkies with a flip top. In fact, the director of research and development at Motorola, Martin Cooper, said it inspired his design of the first mobile phone; consequently, Motorola called the first flip phone ever "StarTAC." Although we’ve largely replaced the flip phone with the smartphone, communicators were part of our journey to modern mobiles.
3. Earpiece: Bluetooth Headset
Famously worn by Lieutenant Uhura while acting as the Enterprise’s Communications officer, the giant silver earpiece is reminiscent of our modern Bluetooth headsets! Thankfully, ours have progressed to be smaller and, I’m guessing here, way more comfortable.
4. Viewscreen: Flat Screen TV
The "viewscreen" was a big screen or window on the bridge of the Starship, present even in the original Star Trek of the 1960s! A lot of Trekkies grew up watching TV on those big cathode ray tube sets, but now most of us have flat screens of our very own in our homes.
5. Tablet Computer: iPad/ Tablet
In Star Trek: The Next Generation, crew members often used tablet-like devices called PADDs (personal access display devices) that resemble modern aesthetically minimal iPads and tablets! What’s ironic is that the simplicity of device was partly due to a limited budget; that is, because the device was flat, no extra knobs needed to be built. But now most of us own these very portable and minimalist tablets for use in our everyday lives.
Science fiction will continue to be a fountain of inspiration for the gadgets of the future. Even if the Transporter never never actually *cough* materializes *cough*, there is a ton of other cool stuff left to develop!
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