Star Trek, perhaps more than any other piece of popular culture, has played a special role in the history, evolution, and design of the technology that powers our daily lives. Offering an optimistic vision of humanity’s future, one mainstay of Star Trek’s onscreen universe is its portrayal of futuristic technologies drawn from the most cutting edge ideas of its contemporary scientists, futurists, and authors.
Now 50 years old and spanning over 700 hours of television, Star Trek has inspired two generations of young scientists and engineers to turn its technological vision into reality. The cell phone, desktop computer, touchscreen interfaces, teleconferencing (Skype), and the iPad – to name but a few – all have strong conceptual and aesthetic roots in Star Trek’s portrayal of the future, often decades before their appearance in the real world. But among the most alluring technologies portrayed within its cannon is the concept of the Star Trek Computer and the effortless, AI-assisted control it gives users over information and their environment. That technology is now finally here, and you can have it in your home today.