4 Star Trek Technologies We have Today
Science fiction has increasingly proven to be glimpses into future technology. From the then-revolutionary submarine in 5000 Leagues Under the Sea, to face timing shown in The Jetsons, things that seemed impossible in the past are now part of our daily routine. Star Trek, of course, is no exception. What was once considered fantastical in ’69 is now floating somewhere between taken for granted to outdated. If you’re a die-hard Trekkie, you’ll appreciate the surprising connections between what you know now and what Star Trek only dreamed of.
According to an article on Screen Rant, Martin Cooper, the man people cite as the inventor of the cell phone, was heavily influenced by Star Trek. The design of the flip phone is neither durable nor practical, as it is much harder to connect the number pad and speaker separated by a hinge the way flip phones are constructed. However, that’s what communicators looked like in Star Trek: The Original Series, so that’s what people wanted to buy.
However, while cell phones look more like communicators, they don’t work quite the same. Two way radios operate physically much more like communicators, especially those in the Star Trek: Next Generation series where you were able to connect to a broader network with a single press of a button. The ability for teams of multiple people or officers is to communicate through Sierra wireless products was beyond the technology of the time that Star Trek was made, but is now a common reality in many industries.
Three-dimensionally projected images was just a dream back in ’69 when Star Trek was first aired. However, holograms take many forms today. There are apps on smartphones that can create the illusion of three-dimensional images, though we’ve gone further than that. Light and water shows in Disney parks and others provide massive three-dimensional images that bring characters to life in dramatic battles. The ability to project smaller images in three dimensions is still in the works, of course, but many scientists working with light technology are working to create all sorts of modern projection devices that that we won’t have to wait for the year 3000 to use.
Of course, we are striving to reach the holo-deck experience through other means, as well. Virtual Reality games are growing in popularity and in how advanced they are. While this isn’t an entire room dedicated to holographic projected experiences, the immersion that VR gaming provides is very close in value. It may not be likely that holo-decks would ever become wide-spread, even if the technology were created, simply for cost effectiveness. VR, on the other hand, is likely to grow and become an equally immersive alternative.
Touch Screen Technology
Star-Trek gadgets that were once called “Personal Access Data Devices or PADDs” are now called touch-screen technologies. Back when the series was first filmed, the use of false touchscreen technology wasn’t actually the result of expectations for the future, but rather budget constraints. Producers say that if they could have covered the deck of the Enterprise with buttons and dials, they would have.
However, it was much cheaper to just cover monitors with transparent image sheets. After this, the newly dubbed “okudagrams” became standard for creating the illusion of touch-screen technology. Nowadays, of course, we have touch screens on our phones, computers, and even thermostats. Touchscreen technology has truly become common-place in today’s society, bringing us that much closer to a Star Trek reality.
Their PADDs heralded more than just touch screen technology, however. They also were capable of wireless connection to databases, wireless hacking, and even to stream movies. While this was likely more of a deux ex machine plot-based decision than an attempt to foreshadow the future, this matches up perfectly with our current use of tablets and smart phones today.
3D printing has moved beyond the replication of toys and objects. Now, the food replicator is becoming a reality as 3D printers are being made to print food. While it may be weird to think of technology making your pizza, tech has definitely moved in that direction and may soon become common-place. While it doesn’t use the same atom-changing technology described in Star Trek, food printers do all of the mixing and baking for you. The materials that are needed to make the food are put into the machine, then the printer does the rest, resulting in food that tastes just as good as its non-printed counterparts.
Of course, while we’re not quite putting food together from atoms, synthetically created food isn’t entirely in the realm of science fiction anymore. GMO stands for Genetically Manufactured Organism, meaning that there are genetically altered plants creating much of our produce today. Genetic alteration isn’t quite the same as food replication, but perhaps that technology can someday be combined with 3D printing to create on-the-spot manufactured ingredients like we saw on TV.
What once seemed like SciFi fantasy is now reality to the majority of the world, and technology continues to expand. With research continuing into faster-than-light tachyon particles, quantum entanglement for teleportation, and other seemingly impossible theories and advancements, we may beat the projected timeline for Star Trek lifestyles set by the television series. While we may take our current technology for granted, knowing how advanced it all seemed to people in the past may give us a greater understanding of what we can expect from our future.
Meghan Belnap is a freelance writer who enjoys spending time with her family. She loves being in the outdoors and exploring new opportunities whenever they arise. Meghan finds happiness in researching new topics that help to expand her horizons. You can often find her buried in a good book or out looking for an adventure. For a little Star Trek feel in practical settings, Meghan recommends checking out a set of NYC two way radios to get that real communicator experience.