Saturday, September 18, 2010

My Star Trek Communicator

I had been thinking about writing an article about the vision of the year 2000 as it appeared in books and movies of the middle 20th century. Show, for example, that 2001: A Space Odyssey was not very predictive. There are no bases on the Moon. There is not regular travel between Earth and the Moon. And our exploration of the Solar System is limited to robotic probes.

On the other hand, the world of the 22nd century, as shown in the original Star Trek is badly behind the power curve.

Here’s why. In one episode, Spock is on a planet’s surface and he is attempting to fool a computer by loading into it small snippets of Kirk’s speech to answer questions. He’s standing there with a handful of colored objects and when a reply is required, he pushes one into a slot.

And now a little history. Back in the old days of the home computer, information was written to large black things called floppy disks because they were, well, floppy. They were about eight inches square.

Eventually these were replaced with smaller versions that were more rigid and those were replaced by little plastic squares about three and a half inches on a side but still called floppy disks. They originally came in black, but finally they came in a variety of colors. I still have a box of them. They were useful but only held about a megabyte.

But while watching Spock, I realized that he held floppy disks with wave files on them. A technology that was advanced in 1995 but now hopelessly out of date. Computers now have DVD drives that take silver disks and not little drives that take plastic squares.

And we can get so much more on a thumb drive including hours and hours of music and still have space from lots of other stuff. Thumb drives that I never saw in a science fiction movie or on Star Trek.

Those little plastic floppy disks were one thing that came and went long before Spock was on that planet with his wave files.

Here’s something else. I have a communicator. Oh, I don’t call it that. I call it a cell phone, but it really is a communicator, only better.

While we were at Fort Riley preparing to deploy to Iraq, our battalion commander didn’t want us to use the cells phones to communicate... his reasoning was that he didn’t like us spending our own money to communicate and he knew that when we reached Iraq we wouldn’t have that ability. Iraq had no cell phone infrastructure. That has changed.

Anyway, the Enterprise would carry it’s own cell phone infrastructure with it. And it would have access to all the data in the world in the computer. I know this because we can cram so much into a thumb drive and our cell phones have access to the Internet which gives us access to all the data in the world.

We have our communicators and they’re much better than those postulated in the 1960s by the science fiction writers on Star Trek. Who would have envisioned a world then where you could carry access to the knowledge of the human race in your pocket?

These are just two of the things that we achieved before we got to the turn of the century and long before the 22nd arrived. I just thought I’d mention it.

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