Mar 8, 2023

How Star Trek inspired modern tech—smart phones, touch panels, VR

Posted by in categories: computing, cosmology, mobile phones, virtual reality

The most famous one is the cell phone itself: Captain Kirk’s communicator inspired the folks at Motorola to make the first handheld mobile device in 1973. Star Trek: The Original Series (popularly called TOS) from the 1960s also inspired video conferencing. But things started to amp up when, in 1987, Star Trek: The Next Generation (aka TNG) hit the floors, with Sir Patrick Stewart in the lead. It became one of the most syndicated shows on television—which is how I discovered it in mid-90s India on the Star network. It fundamentally impacted my life, inspiring me to become the technology writer I am today.

But more than me, this show heralded more technological concepts that are becoming increasingly real. The LCARS computer on the Galaxy-Class USS Enterprise D is basically the foundation of what Google is today. Google’s former head of search, Amit Singhal, often said that the company is “trying to build the Star Trek computer”.

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