50 yrs. of Star Trek!

Rich Alderson RichA at LivingComputerMuseum.org
Thu Sep 8 16:37:35 CDT 2016

From: Murray McCullough
Sent: Thursday, September 08, 2016 10:04 AM

> What role did Star Trek play in the rise of small computers that are
> so ubiquitous today? This science fiction series prognosticated many
> things but how many actually happened or am I expecting too much from
> a television show of 50 years ago?

ST:TOS didn't really envision small computers.  Systems like the M1 were
obviously modeled on the mainframes of the day, taken to a logical extreme
in which they were so powerful as to become self-aware.  (Compare Mike in
RAH's _The Moon is a Harsh Mistress_.)

The communicators used in the same series actually did influence the
Motorola flip phone design--as stated by the designers at the time that
this device was introduced.  They recognized their early adopter audience.
But cell phone technology was in place a decade and a half prior to ST:TOS,
so the development of what became the flip phone was simply an instance of
Moore's Law in action, not a direct influence from the show.

Although a lot of young tech people of the 60s and 70s enjoyed Star Trek,
it was more a matter of world view than any direct influence on technological
developments.  The program was not, in the end, about, nor even particularly
friendly towards, technology.  Hi tech was simply the milieu within which
stories of interpersonal interactions, one on one or civilization to civili-
zation, could take place.  ("Wagon Train to the Stars", as Roddenberry
envisioned it.)

My $0.02.


Rich Alderson
Vintage Computing Sr. Systems Engineer
Living Computer Museum
2245 1st Avenue S
Seattle, WA 98134

mailto:RichA at LivingComputerMuseum.org


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