Prediction of the Videophone!
Communication and computing technology is advancing at an accelerated pace. These developments have provided us with a constant means of effective communication. Many of the technological innovations showcased at events such as the annual International Consumer Electronics Show resemble examples of technology that could have been taken straight from a science fiction film set. This is not far from the truth.
It would appear that much of the communication technology that has shaped the world we live in has been directly influenced by pre-existing science fiction. Below we have a list of communication technologies along with the examples of the fiction that inspired their creation. Enjoy!
The internet has been one of the most significant inventions for both businesses and society as a whole. As well as unlimited communication, it has provided valuable data sharing and storage capabilities. The internet has been the basis for a whole host of modern fiction, from The Matrix directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski in 1999, to William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer written in 1984. There was literature depicting the internet before it was ever conceived.
The first conception of the internet appeared in Mark Twain’s From the 'London Times' of 1904 written in 1898. The story featured an invention called the "telelectroscope" that created a worldwide network of phone systems used for information sharing.
The actual inventor of the worldwide web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, cited Arthur C. Clarke’s short story Dial F For Frankenstein written in 1964 as one of his main inspirations.
It wasn’t just Sir Tim Berners-Lee who was inspired by fiction. Martin Cooper, the inventor of the first handheld mobile phone in the 1970s, was inspired by Gene Roddenberry’s series Star Trek in 1966. The handheld communicator used by Captain Kirk in the original series influenced Cooper’s design. When asked about the connection, Cooper said “That was not fantasy to us, that was an objective.” After their conception, mobile phones quickly infiltrated science fiction fantasy from The Matrix franchise to the novel Cell written by Stephen King in 2006.
The videophone is the natural progression from the mobile phone in the world of sci-fi. Rather than just talking to someone else, you are able see them too. The videophone has been represented across popular culture for decades. The first appearance of the videophone was on the silent film Metropolis directed by Fritz Lang in 1927. Another significant appearance of the videophone was during 2001: A Space Odyssey directed by Stanley Kubrick in 1968. Nowadays, video conferencing is an everyday necessity for many businesses, not merely the work of fiction.
As well as the videophone, 2001: A Space Odyssey was home to a multitude of future technologies including tablet computers. This film was an adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke's novel of the same name. The tablet, or ‘NewsPad’, appears in both the film and novel. Tablet computers have also featured on television during the Star Trek The Next Generation series that ran from 1987 to 1994. The tablet appeared on the series as the PADD (personal access display devices), a handheld touchscreen interface device.
Where do we go from here?
According to the communication technology depicted in popular culture, we are already living in a sci-fi future. But where can communication technology go from here? One of the main contenders at the moment is body-adapted wearable technology such as Google Glass. Google Glass provides wearers with information (maps, reminders and games), enable them to dictate texts, and participate in hangouts with screensharing. There have also developments in screenless computer displays and brain-computer interfaces.
We are moving closer towards total connectivity, not only to each other but also to our surroundings. It would appear that as our technology mimics our science fiction fantasies, we must endeavor to dream a little bigger in order to evolve our communication technology to the next level.