28 January 2011

Does life imitate art or vice versa?

I read this article about hooking up a cell phone to a hand-held scanner to do basic medical scanning. The image can be sent over the web to the family doctor for analysis. The apparatus looks something like this:

Pretty cool, huh? That could be a lifesaving setup for people that live in remote areas or far away from a specialist.

But for some of us in geekdom, it looks a bit familiar.

Kind of looks like we aren't terribly far from Dr. McCoy's Feinberger medical scanner (which looks like a salt shaker-because it is a salt shaker). Or from the tricorder, come to think of it.

I thought the communicator from the original Star Trek looked pretty cool.

 But there's no way we'd ever have a handheld wireless device that would allow people on opposite sides of the planet to talk to each other. Would we?!?

Oops. Guess so. And a modern smartphone has way more apps than Kirk's communicator had.

In some episodes of the original Star Trek, Captain Kirk could be seen signing some sort of tablet with lights on it. No doubt some high-tech device connected to the ship's mainframe. The tablet looked like this:

Certainly, something like this would take a century or so to develop, wouldn't it? Well, no, actually.

Here, Spock can be seen programming a computer with some sort of portable media. Back in the days of tape reel data storage, that must have looked highly implausible.

Hmm. Been there, done that.

Get those big clunky 3.5 inchers out of here and bring me a flash drive!

A tiny color television monitor on a tabletop? Surely not!

Or is the proper question Why is the screen so big and clumsy?

About the only thing we don't have is a decent hand phaser:

The best we can do there is the Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser...

...which won't fit on a belt.

Next time you laugh at the 'cheesy' special effects on an episode of the original Star Trek, think about how much they got right on a shoestring TV budget.

I can't help but wonder that if we didn't have science fiction shows on TV, would we have some of the neat devices we use every day? Did the engineers who came up with some designs imitate what they saw? Or would the natural progression of events naturally mean that these items would have been developed anyway?

Something to think on for the weekend.

yankeedog out.


  1. yeah, amazing how shit pans out...I'd like to see some fk attached the LASER to their belt..fkn not.!

  2. That medical scanner one is soooo close to Bones'gear its not funny. Amongst all the pinheadedness currently being promulgated by those Who Oppose Our Government Doing Anything, they want to put the kybosh on the development of a 21st Century Broadband network. Firstly because they hate spending money on infratructure and spent over a decade in government doing exactly that, and now to say the money should be spent on infrastructre rebuilding after the floods. The broadband network is just the ticket for transmitting the scans from that tricorder variant. Sorry for the rant but the ignorance of these numbnuts drives me to despair. To quote Sebastian (Tweetsville, via Blarkon)_, Cap the FKN MUPPETS!!!

  3. When I said doing exactlhy that I meant they spent fuck all on infrastructure, just heaps on middle class welfare to shore up votes.

  4. You could also point to the antecedent for the bluetooth ear piece in Lieutenant Uhuras communication thingie.

    And while the desktop computers were a bit clunky the main view screen on the bridge sure looks like a home entertainment unit plasma screen to me.

    Also Dr Martin Cooper the director of Motorola's Reseach and Development who is attributed with inventing the cell phone, when asked what was the inspiration he is not shy of saying Star Trek’s communicator was what started the gears in his mind moving.

  5. Hmm, cellphones need towers and relays to make them work. Kirk's flip top communicator can reach out and contact anyone on his side of the planet. If there is a ship in orbit, his signal can be relayed.

    So, the cellphone is fancier, but it is supported by a global network. Kirk's communicator is designed to operate without one.

    Point taken on most other items.

    On the Outer Marches

  6. Then there's all the rest of science fiction. HG Wells foretelling the use of atomic bombs, only to have Leo Szilard read the story and then a year later develop the idea of using a neutron chain reaction.

    Yeah I think without sci-fi, we'd still be in the stone age.

  7. Great post and very true..there is an episode where they DO show a flat screen TV set in it...so they predicted that too ;-)