Star Trek is one of the most famous television shows and media franchises in the world today, and while many love the storylines of the original show, along with its spinoffs and movies, we may not fully realize the impact the show has had on our lives. No, we are not talking about pop culture impacts, but what Star Trek envisioned for technology, which then inspired many scientists to make those visions a reality. In many ways, that little show from the 1960s has essentially invented the future as we know it.
So, what are some of the things we have now that Star Trek invented?
1. Personal Computing
When Star Trek debuted in 1966, computers were very large, very expensive and very slow compared with what we have today. That didn’t stop Gene Roddenberry from envisioning a future where small computers were in every meeting room and wherever people needed them. The computers in the original series were larger than what we have today, but they were personal computers nonetheless.
Roughly five years after Star Trek left the air waves, the Altair 8800 was built by Ed Roberts, who just happened to name the computer after a galaxy mentioned in Star Trek. This build-it-yourself personal computer was pretty basic, but it would inspire two guys named Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak to improve upon the model and usher in the age of the personal computer.
On that same note, the Tablet PC also appeared in the original Star Trek, with Captain Kirk using a tablet and stylus to sign off on important matters. Everyone who uses an iPad now can thank Star Trek for showing us what a tablet PC could do in the 1960s. Oh, and what was the name of the tablet PC used in Star Trek? The PADD….
2. Portable Computer Memory
From the old floppy disks, to the small hard disks, over to our memory sticks with their huge capacities, all this portable memory could be found in the 1960s, in Star Trek. Star Trek used square disks that were three inches by three inches and only a quarter of an inch thick. To use them, they were inserted in computers where they would display the information contained on them, sound familiar?
3. Wireless Ear-Piece
Drive down the road in the city and you will probably see quite a few people using Bluetooth headsets to talk to people without having to hold a cell phone to their ear. Well, roughly 30 years before cell phones became mainstream, Star Trek was already using wireless earpieces for communication. That is not too bad considering that Star Trek envisioned wireless earpieces 300 years from now.
No, we do not have transporters, although scientists have been able to transport individual light particles for a couple years now, but we do have GPS. Back in Star Trek: The Original Series, the transporter system could lock onto someone and transport them from where they were to some place else. Locators on the communicators were used to find where individuals were in the show, kind of like how we have GPS in our phones now that show where we are.
It was only four years after the end of the original Star Trek that the Department of Defense began to develop GPS. By launching satellites they were able to refine the system over time and after 1983 it became available to the public. By 2000, it was possible to find someone within 20 meters of their location. Now with things like OnStar in our cars and GPS in our phones, even emergency personnel can find us without us saying where we are.