Thursday, July 21, 2011

10 Comparisons Between Technology Today and Star Trek

For years, science fiction writers have been a source of inspiration for real-life technological advances. As Jules Verne’s Nautilus, the famous submarine from his novel, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, served to motivate numerous inventors and scientists to further underwater exploration, so, apparently, has the Star Trek industry stirred creative juices. Today, we see abundant evidence that Kirk and his crew once ventured where almost everybody has now gone. Here are several examples of Star Trek technology we use today.
  1. Large-Screen Television – A large-screen monitor was constantly in use on the bridge of the starship Enterprise, not for entertainment purposes, but for strategic use. Prior to Star Trek,science fiction author Ray Bradbury made use of huge screens in his famous novel, Fahrenheit 451. Now, of course, we practically take big screens for granted.
  2. Wireless Headsets – On Star Trek, Uhura, Spock and Chekhov often wore wireless headsets, comparable to today’s Blue-Tooth technology.
  3. Hypospray – The hypospray was a needle-free device that could subcutaneously inject drugs using forced air. Now, though not yet in widespread use, forced nitrogen and forced liquids help deliver medications that fight migraines, and high-risk diseases such as hepatitis and HIV infections.
  4. Tri-corder – The term “tri-corder” referred to a series of devices, some hand held, that recorded and analyzed three types of data: geological, meteorological and biological. One prominent example, in use today, is the ubiquitous bedside monitor seen in almost every hospital in the world.
  5. Personal Computers – the entire starship fleet was equipped with no-keyboard computers, many similar in size and function to what we find in today’s market place.
  6. Tablet Computers – Kirk was often seen, using a stylus and a small computer pad (actually called a PADD), signing commands and instructions. Tablet computers and smart-phones are popular items now used world-wide.
  7. Teleporters – We aren’t quite there yet, but we do use aspects of the teleporter in our GPS, or “Global Positioning Systems”. Scotty needed to know exactly where he was going to teleport someone to and/or from, which presaged all those little Tom-Tom voices that help us find Thai restaurants, and steer us around traffic jams today.
  8. Biometrics – Voice-, palm-, and retinal-scanners were utilized in numerous episodes, and now we use this technology for a variety of purposes. Modern forensics would be lost without these scanners.
  9. Communicators – Kirk and crew were frequently spotted using small hand held devices that they simply flipped open, and spoke into, communicating with other members of the crew. Rare, now, is the day we aren’t annoyed by a swerving driver who is paying more attention to his cell phone than to the road ahead.
  10. Venus Drug – An illegal chemical substance possessed by intergalactic ne’er-do-well Harcourt Fenton Mudd, which contained properties that would make women more physically attractive.  Although Mudd’s nefarious plans were thwarted by Kirk, who was able to show that beauty was more than skin-deep, much of today’s cosmetic science is devoted to the enhancement of perceived physical beauty.
This is just a sampling of the ways life has come to imitate.  If you watch a few episodes of Star Trek,you will probably note some other things that have been “teleported” to real-life.

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