Kids growing up in the 70s and 80s clearly expected to see Back to the Future style hoverboards, hands-free scooters, and other futuristic marvels in their lifetime. For baby boomers, the future promised Jetsons’ lifestyle conveniences such as instant ovens and flying cars. While the skies may not yet be filled with flying vehicles that drive themselves, there are all sorts of wonderful modern inventions that were inspired at least in part by science fiction.
Star Trek fantasies that are now reality
When Star Trek made its debut in 1966, nobody had ever seen anything like a “communicator” device. Today, they are everywhere in the form of cell phones. At first, go-anywhere telephones were as big as shoe boxes. Today, cellular phones fit in the palm of your hand and offer instantaneous communication with anyone in the world who has a similar device. Between the debut of gigantic “portable phones” and today’s tiny telephones, there were even flip style phones that looked an awful lot like the communicators employed by Spock, Chekhov and other Star Trek characters.
Captain Kirk and his crew had access to something just like the universal language translators of today. HowStuffWorks notes that while 21st century translators cannot yet translate Klingon into English and vice versa, they work very well to enable communication between Earthlings who speak a variety of languages and dialects.
GPS location systems were inspired mightily by a science fiction author named Arthur C. Clarke. Star Trek’s Gene Roddenberry also contributed to the invention of satellite location systems. When Scotty was instructed to “beam me up,” he used a GPS device to locate the captain or crew member. Of course, it may be a good thing that we don’t yet have the technology to actually parse a person into atoms and move them from one place to another.
Video conferencing is another Star Trek-inspired convenience that many of us now take for granted. Talking with one or more people while seeing them in real-time is as simple as logging into Skype and starting or joining a video conference call. Currently, an outfit known as Ostendo Technologies Inc. is working to deliver a holographic projector that will attach to your cell phone enabling you and another person to share amazing real-time 3D images through which to convey much more information than can be shared via voices or text messaging services.
Domestic robots that make life easier
In 2002, a company called iRobot debuted a curious little device called Roomba. The circular-shaped robot moves about on its own vacuuming up crumbs, pet hair, and other annoying debris without any human effort whatsoever.
When Jane Jetson wanted to whip up a quick meal, she simply spoke to her oven and within seconds, a tasty breakfast, lunch, or dinner instantly appeared. Modern microwave ovens are not yet speech-enabled, and they do require human input of foodstuffs, Aside from that, today’s microwave ovens would fit right in at the Jetsons kitchen.
Even law enforcement got in on the sci-fi technology game
Sci-fi writer Jules Verne wrote stories such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Time Machine. Verne’s writing inspired the Taser device used by law enforcement agencies today. The inventor of the Taser says that he was inspired by a number of sci-fi stories published by Stratemeyer Syndicate that he read as a young adult. Other amazingly science fiction-like devices used by police departments today include digital fingerprint scanners as well as dash cameras that are now found on police cars throughout America and the world.
You’re using a sci-fi inspired invention right now
Although computers are everywhere these days, and everybody seems to have at least one of them now, it was not so long ago that personal computers were a thing of science fiction. If you are old enough to remember floppy disks, you used something that first appeared in science fiction. On the TV show, Star Trek: The Next Generation, computer users retrieved data from disks that held a whopping gigabyte or so of information. Today’s modern storage disks and USB thumb drives are even more impressive and can hold terabytes of crucial data.
Are you wearing ear buds and listening to your favorite music right now? If so, you can add another science fiction-inspired device to your list. In Ray Bradbury’s groundbreaking 1953 sci-fi tome, Fahrenheit 451, tiny radios attached to in-the-ear listening devices called “seashells” were remarkably similar to today’s tiny earbud speakers.
We can hardly wait to see what sort of future inventions will be inspired by today’s science fiction stories, movies and TV shows.
Charlie Holland is a huge movie fan, and also an avid reader, his favorite genre being sci-fi. He takes inspiration from TV, Films and Books to form his article topics.