If you thought the original "Star Trek" was innovative, wait until you hear what "The Next Generation" came up with!
There is so much cool stuff about the influence of Star Trek that I couldn’t possibly contain it in one article. So here’s Part Two!
Star Trek: The Next Generation aired from 1987 to 1994, during the infancy of the internet (and my early childhood). The 1990s was quite the decade for technological innovation, since personal computers were becoming more popular and having the latest tech gadgets was seen as a status symbol (remember Zach Morris’s brick phone in Saved By the Bell?).
With all this new technology came new ideas for how it would evolve. Several devices used aboard the new Enterprise inspired many a cool new toy. For example:
1. Tablets and Laptops
If you remember the show, you’ll likely recognize some of the devices used by the crew when they were analyzing data, or when Dr. Crusher was reading a patient’s medical history.
Here is Captain Picard reading a report:
Courtesy of city-data.com
The resemblance is uncanny, I tell you! It definitely looks like he’s holding an iPad. The first tablet wasn’t invented until around 2008, and the first Apple iPad came out in 2010 (it’s only 10 YEARS OLD!). However, Bill Gates introduced the idea of tablet computers way back in 2001. Just seven years after Next Generation ended, the real world produced a gadget found in the show.
It’s pretty remarkable how quickly technology has advanced in just the past 30 years! (And I admit it makes me feel a bit old—is 30 old? In tech terms I guess it is…..)
Another feature of the Enterprise computers was their size. One other tech advancement seen in the '90s was the rise of the personal computer, and that in turn led to the rise of the laptop.
Courtesy of urbanhonking.com
Goodness, look at all those gadgets! Raise your hand if your desk looks like this.
2. 3D Printing
One of the parts about the updated Enterprise that I always enjoyed was the replicator. It made pretty much anything, from copies of objects to food and drink. Nowadays, we have the next best thing: 3D printing.
While the first-ever 3D printer was technically invented in 1984, it only rose in popularity among the masses in recent years. Also, the first thing to ever be 3D printed was really boring: a tiny cup.
Some more recent things to be 3D-printed include prosthetic limbs, food, and even human organs! This certainly occurred in The Next Generation: in one episode, the character of Worf got a serious injury that would have left him paralyzed. A visiting doctor to the Enterprise introduces an experimental procedure to cure him. This involved replicating and transplanting his entire spinal column. We, of course, have not reached this level in the real world, but we are getting closer.
Courtesy of mythcreants.com
Klingon’s gotta eat!
3. Virtual Reality
My absolute favorite feature of the Enterprise—and the feature that gave us some of the best episodes of the series—is the Holodeck. Members of the Enterprise crew often took breaks from their duties to create experiences for themselves as a means of escape. It was the only way for them to go on vacations, really (outside of shore leave).
We technically have a holodeck now, though it goes by a different name: virtual reality (VR for short). The concept of virtual reality and simulated images dates back to way before Star Trek, however, the way it was shown in the show provided a fascinating new perspective on what it could become. We use a headset apparatus to jump into VR today, but the holodeck doesn’t need that.
Courtesy of theconversation.com
The closest the real world has come to this type of VR experience is called Tilt Brush. It was developed by Google and lets you paint 3D pictures in a 3D space. Though it still requires a headset, the user is the one creating the images.
I love science fiction in all its forms. It's not just television that has given us glimpses into the future of technology; literature has also played a major part. More on that to come.....
Were/are you a fan of Star Trek? Any pieces of tech that I missed? What other movies or television shows do you want me to analyze? Let me know in the comments!