There’s a new Star Trek movie coming out today and it got me thinking – what has Star Trek contributed to the modern-day universe? Could it be possible we owe some modern day conveniences to this long-running series of fictional TV shows and movies?
The Communicator: AKA Cell Phones
Crewmembers on a planet would whip out one of these pocket-sized devices, flip it open and magically be able to communicate with the ship. Sounds a bit like a flip-style cellular telephone, does it not? Dr. Martin Cooper, who is considered the “father of the modern cell phone,” has actually stated the similarities between the Trek Communicator technology and the modern cell phone. Check it out here.
Trek Badge and Earpieces: AKA WiFi Communication and Bluetooth
In addition, the Vocera Communication Badge is a wireless communication device that uses your WiFi network to call people, complete with voice command. This is very similar to the modern Trek series badges that characters would ‘tap’ and use to call other crewmembers with. If that doesn’t float your boat, how about Uhura’s earpiece used for interstellar communication? Bluetooth device, anyone?
Another sci-fi technology seen in Star Trek that seems to have come to light in today’s age is the idea of portable mass-storage. Floppy discs, flash-drives and memory cards come to mind. Crew members in all of the Star Trek series eventually find themselves putting some sort of small credit-card looking device that stores information into a slot which reads that information. That sounds an awful lot like a floppy drive or flash drive to me.
Speaking of devices that all crew members seem to find themselves using in Star Trek… how about the touch screen interface? Or that small laptop-looking device on Jean-Luc Picard’s ready-room desk? Laptops and touch-screen computing is a reality today.
If you have had the unfortunate experience of a hospital stay you will have noticed that your vitals are all displayed on a machine at your bedside. Or perhaps you were stuck in a MRI tube or CAT scan machine? In Star Trek, all medical beds had vital statistic readouts. The modern Trek series also had scanning machines similar to MRI/CAT scans of today.
A feature on modern-day computers that has come to all of us in Windows Vista is voice-recognition. Voice recognition has been around a lot longer, but it’s actually usable in Vista.
In the Star Trek universe, crewmembers could query the computer and command it with nothing but their voice. “Computer, play Bach’s Violin Sonata 1” resulted in instant compliance and pleasing music. And now, voice recognition is finally THAT good here in 2009. Higher-security commercial applications can also include unique voiceprint and other biometric measures which were seen in Star Trek long ago.
A few other ones: Tablet PCs, references to a “Dark Hole” (black holes, before they were named black holes), video conferencing and automatic opening doors. All of these technologies were on some script for Star Trek long before they were a reality today.
If you stop and take a look for a minute, even if you are not a Trekkie, you have to admit that many of today’s devices are awfully close to gadgets that were in Trek episodes of yesteryear. So what will tomorrow bring? Handheld phasers? Warp drive? Subspace communication??? A Federation of Planets? We can only hope! (And in the meantime, check out Agent Meister’s post about Star Trek technologies we haven’t seen yet.)
(Double Agent Plath would like to thank Double Agent John-Erik Christensen for contributing several excellent ideas essential to the authoring of this blog. Live long and prosper, Agent Christensen!)