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Star Trek's Influence On Technology

Updated on February 18, 2015

Science Fiction Becomes Reality

Many followers of the Star Trek franchise are well aware of the technologies introduced throughout the Original Series and its spin-offs and feature films. Some of those technologies are already in existence today with more of them on the way. There are two such technologies that people use in everyday life. One is the cell phone and the other is the personal desktop computer.

The telephone and the computer were large beasts in their infancy.  Telephones used to take as much space as a standard photo frame.  Computers used to fill entire rooms.   Mobile phones were actually installed in automobiles and generally limited to the very wealthy.  Today, mobile phones and computers are small enough to carry anywhere.  Mobile phones are not just for the wealthy anymore.  More people choose to use cell phone service as their main phone service, discontinuing what is now known as a landline.

The cell phone and personal computer are discussed in more detail here.

Motorola Razr flip phone reminds me of a Star Trek communicators
Motorola Razr flip phone reminds me of a Star Trek communicators

The Cell Phone

The first such technology discussed is the cellular telephone.

Cell phone inventor Martin Cooper demonstrated his newly invented device on April 3, 1973. His device used on that day was a squared box-like unit weighing a hefty 30 ounces. He has been interviewed by several websites, news organizations and other media outlets. He has stated that he got the idea for a portable communications device from watching Star Trek on television. He made several mobile calls during that demonstration showing the portabiliy and flexibility of his new device. Mr. Cooper spent the next ten years attempting to market his new device. Success came in 1983 when Motorola introduced the "DynaTAC" device weighing in at a modest 16 ounces.

Today, cellular telephones can weigh as little as three ounces.

The Personal Desktop Computer

The second such technology brought to the public as an indirect result of Star Trek is the personal desktop computer.

During several episodes of the Star Trek series franchise, one of the main characters is seen utilizing a small screen mounted on a tabletop. Those units were voice-activated or very user-friendly. Today, many personal computers, including laptops and tablet pc's, have the voice-activated and touchscreen user interface.

On Star Trek, the desktop units were linked to the Enterprise's central computer. The internet and most major corporations utilize the same basic system of linking individual computers to a master central computer.

Even Palm-One, Inc. product design architect, Rob Haitani has been quoted as saying, "When I designed the UI (User Interface) for the Palm OS back in '93, my first sketches were influenced by the UI of the Enterprise bridge panels."

Other Star Trek Technology

The scanner Mr. Spock would use to locate life on the planet below the orbiting Enterprise is much like the GPS devices we use today. Both devices give specific details about an individual's exact location anywhere on the planet's surface.

The tricorder Dr. McCoy would use to scan patients for diagnoses is very much like the MRI and CAT scan devices physicians use today. Both devices scan the individual from outside the body and display results on a computer screen.

© 2010 Tammy L

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    • Tammy L profile image
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      Tammy L 6 years ago from Jacksonville, Texas

      Thank you, jtyler. I do watch more than just the Original Series. Yes, there can be a whole series of hubs on this topic. I seem to remember hearing (or reading) somewhere that George Lucas came up with his ideas for Star Wars by watching the old Star Trek series. There will always be a debate over Star Wars and Star Trek. Truth be known: they are both great in their own ways.

    • jtyler profile image

      jtyler 6 years ago

      A lot of things were taken from Star Wars as well. Nice hub, but I believe that you should watch a few episodes of each Star Trek series; there are a lot of things from the show that may have inspired real world inventions (such as touchscreen controls starting with Next Generation).

    • Tammy L profile image
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      Tammy L 6 years ago from Jacksonville, Texas

      Orange Austen, Either way, the technology is here and getting more progressive as time goes by. Thank you for your comments.

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      Orange Austen 6 years ago

      It is amazing how ideas in science fiction shows and literature are often incorporated into society over time. The chicken and the egg dilemma comes into play with it, some say the ideas were becoming feasible when it was written or produced and others say it encouraged focus on such technological developments.

    • Tammy L profile image
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      Tammy L 6 years ago from Jacksonville, Texas

      Oh yeah. I even think about the scene in the latest Star Trek film when the young Kirk steals his uncle's Corvette and he gets a call through the car speakers whenever I use my Microsoft Sync on my car. LOL

    • bcatgray profile image

      bcatgray 6 years ago from United States of America

      Wooooow! I never thought about it until now. This is so true. Now I'm going to have to go back and REWATCH the episodes so I can see if I can compare some of their gadgets to ours. Thanks Tammy! LOL :-)

    • Tammy L profile image
      Author

      Tammy L 6 years ago from Jacksonville, Texas

      Thank you very much, Rebecca E. I value your input and appreciate your honesty.

    • Rebecca E. profile image

      Rebecca E. 6 years ago from Canada

      Tammy- this looks very well done, just give it time, and keep on commenting on other hubs of teh same nature. It will help. Great work. Patience is teh key here.