Essay / October 2017 / Walter Proulx

Star Trek Predicted the Future

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Think about Star Trek and there will be a couple of close associations. Star ships and that famous actor – who was it? William Shakespeare? No it was… William Shatner. Take a look at the original set of Star Trek and everything seems like it was from the 1960s. That’s because it was. Another look and you’ll see something out of place. Despite the age of the show, there are some insanely futuristic looking user interfaces. Sure, it was a spaceship, but damn those ideas were ahead of their time.

I’m a little obsessed with Star Trek, so it was only natural for me to go visit downtown Ticonderoga, New York. There’s a really cool place called Star Trek: Original Series Set Tour that allows you to walk through the original set. Any fan of the original series will be very impressed by this recreation. Everything is just like the original series and walking through really feels like being on the set. This was the perfect setting for me to get a better look at the original set. Maybe I could shed some light on these new interfaces that I’m so obsessed with.

Thanks to the wonderful staff Star Trek: Original Series Set Tour I got the chance to see these user interfaces up close and get some interesting information. The set of the bridge was very impressive for the time. It seems silly today, but it’s important to remember that five years ago they didn’t have flat screen TVs. In order to get these screens flat they would have to use either a projector to display information, or make the interface with paper and use a back light giving the illusion of a screen.

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Long story short, they didn’t have what they needed to make the set. Yet with a little TV magic, they got it to work. This leap into the logic of the 21st century continues. In the original television series, the sick bay also had a very futuristic looking panel. This would display essential vital signs of the patient. The coolest part was that the patient didn’t even have to be hooked up in order to get the vital information. This idea is still ahead of our time and although we don’t have the technology yet, it’s not a completely inconceivable idea.

Screen Shot 2017-10-22 at 3.43.07 PM.pngSomething I’ve always found impressive is Star Trek’s deadly precision in predicting how humans will interact with technology. Above you’ll see a tricorder. These devices are handheld and capable of taking in massive amounts of data. There’s a little display, a primitive display, and a few buttons, but regardless it was impressive. Remember that laptops weren’t even a feasible option for the general public until a decade later in the 1970s. They predicted handheld electronics before they were even a thing. It gets even crazier. You’ll notice to the right a odd device is sitting on a desk. That isn’t just any device, it’s a tablet. That’s right, Star Trek predicted humans would be using tablets before they were even possible. Mainstream tablet use hasn’t really caught on yet today, yet decades ago the writers of Star Trek saw that humanity would push towards this way.

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Call it luck, intuition, magic. It doesn’t matter what your opinion is, you can’t deny the fact that Star Trek just predicted the future. Whether the writers were hipsters or geniuses, they made one of the most futuristic shows that that transcends its time. This was a very impressive display of creativity and engineering that inscribable amazing.

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