Unless you're from another planet you surely must have heard of Doctor Who, the time travelling Time Lord from British television company the BBC.
The Doctor has been delighting and scaring kids (and grown ups) since 1963. apart from the questionable fashion sense, the Tardis time machine, and the attractive female assistants, the eight different incarnations of the Doctor have one thing in common, the sonic screwdriver!
Admittedly the device may not have always been referred to as the sonic screwdriver, the credit for that it seems should be given to Victor Pemberton who wrote "The Fury from the Deep" episodes. Though I believe he complained about never having any official recognition for creating or naming the device. but it seems earlier Doctors did have a device of some sort.
Dr Who's Sonic Screwdriver
After it's first recognised appearance the various Doctors made great use of the sonic screwdriver for various tasks apart from the obvious one of unscrewing or screwing screws.
It seems the early versions of the screwdriver only had a sound effect to indicate they were being used, whereas in the newer series it also has a blue light at the business end.
Over the lifetime of the series the screwdriver seems to have gained much in functionality, it can now apparently scan objects, detect radiation, cut metal, amplify sounds, set fire to things and even operate as a remote control for the Tardis.
Sonic screwdriver saves the day
Some producers of the Doctor Who series seem to have regarded the Sonic Screwdriver as a sort of "get out of jail free" card. Meaning that whatever peril the doctor is in he can wield the trusty screwdriver and achieve a "with one bound he was free" effect, not unlike the early movies where the hero could always escape from certain death with no regard for continuity or reasonable explanation.
So it was that Barry Letts producer during the time of the third Doctor played by John Pertwee, restricted the scriptwriters use of the device. It was still used and underwent various design changes and range of available functions, possibly being used to detect radiation for the first time in "the Three doctors" story.
When Graham Williams became series producer in 1977 the Sonic screwdriver became once again a trusted tool of the Doctor and was put to good use on many occasions though the fourth Doctor tom baker was in one episode heard to say "not even the sonic screwdriver can get me out of this one."
steampunk sonic screwdriver
The sonic scredriver, back to the future.
The sonic screwdriver continued to fall in and out of favour over the years and to continue to evolve in design. In the time of the fourth Doctor Tom Baker his companion Romana the "Time Lady" actually constructs her own sonic screwdriver, a more ladylike device in being somewhat more compact and streamlined, the doctor even tries to swap it for his own to no avail.
There have been many versions of the sonic screwdriver offered for sale over the years, many from toy companies. Some incorporated pens, I don't know if they could help with homework.
Some companies and individuals have offered various limited edition sonic screwdrivers to satisfy the needs of avid collectors.
Some craftsmen offer on of a kind creations based on the idea of a sonic screwdriver rather than copied from any of the "official" designs. It seems fitting that as the latest version of the Tardis interior seems somewhat "steampunk" in design there are people making steampunk sonic screwdrivers to delight those of us who are both fans of the intrepid doctor and also enthusiast of the steampunk genre of design.
The steampunk sonic screwdriver in the accompanying photograph is by one of my fellow steampunks "Steelhips" you can see more of their work here, and you can even buy some unique and fabulous gifts.