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Fans of science fiction will often get some stick from those who don’t love it. It isn’t real, it isn’t possible, they tell us. Sure, we reply. Right now, it isn’t possible but in twenty, fifty or a hundred years, who knows? And we are so sure of this because there are plenty of examples of once science fiction that is now science fact. Here’s to celebrating science fiction!
1. The smartphone
This may be one of my favourites. Let’s go back to those original (admittedly a little dated) 1960s episodes of Star Trek. Nearly every episode they would pull out a little gadget, flip it open and talk to other people on the ship or even down on a planet. A communicator it was called. Science fiction at its best – we could never talk to someone from a wireless device that wasn’t connected to a phone line!
Now we have cell phones and eventually smartphones. Remember those flip phones that were all the rage a few years ago? Remind you of anything?
Handheld computers – tablets – are another thing that we take for granted as a common modern gadget. And they too have their first appearance in science fiction – in the Stanley Kubrick version of 2001: A Space Odyssey to be correct. In the film, astronauts carried handheld devices containing all the information they needed. Star Trek had a similar version called a PADD – a persona access display device.
In fact, when Samsung launched a lawsuit against Apple over the right to make tablets, they actually cited 2001 as an example that the iPad was not the first example of a handheld computer. Samsung won the case too.
Everyone remembers that little repeating message of Princess Leia in the Star Wars: A New Hope movie. Projected from R2D2, the miniature princess was startling and caught everyone’s attention but so too did the tech behind the idea. Since then the creation of holographic images continues to develop. In 2014, the Billboards Music Awards had a holograph of Michael Jackson on the stage while his music was played, a convincing performance by a star who had passed away some time before.
Speeders were a type of transport featured in Star Wars films and were ridden like a motorbike but hovered above the ground, dodging all that rough terrain. A company in California called Aerofex have created a vehicle called the Aero-X which can fly at 45mph up to 10 feet off the ground. Another example f the Hoverbike created by Malloy Aeronautics in the UK whose bike can reach 170 mph at the same altitudes as helicopters.
5. Energy weapons
We are all familiar with the Taser, but have you ever thought about what the name means? It means Thomas A Swift’s Electric Rifle, named for the creator of the device. It does shoot electricity and incapacitates people just like a stun gun seen in many books and shows. And energy weapons are continuing to evolve – a new non-lethal weapon works like a microwave, causing discomfort by heating the body under the skin and is used for crowd control.
The idea of planets outside this Solar System has been the basis for many films and books but it wasn’t until 1995 that we actually knew such planets existed – everything before that was purely science fiction. We now know about thousands of exoplanets and more are being discovered all the time. And every time, there is the chance that one of them could one day turn out to have life on it…
7. Video calls
One of the earliest ever science fiction movies was called Metropolis and was released in 1927. In it, the main character could be seen chatting with someone on a wall mounted video phone. Similar ideas appeared in many other science fiction works and films from Blade Runner to Back to the Future II. Today, with the use of smartphones, tablets and webcams, making a video call is just as easy as making a voice call and we can make them on the move as well.
8. Voice activated computers
One of the most commonly used themed in science fiction is the voice-activated computer. Ask it a question, get it to call someone, have it find out the weather and much more, these voice-activated assistants were commonplace across the sci-fi world. And now they are commonplace in the real world too – Amazon’s Echo, Siri on the iPhone and much more are all the real-world version of these ideas.
9. Smart watches
The first device recognisable as a smartwatch to the modern observer was first seen in the Dick Tracey comic strips back in the 1940s. The detective had a watch that he spoke to and provided him with information. Inspector Gadget had something similar as did Agent K in Men in Black. So, when the Apple Watch was released, all sci-fi fans thought was ‘about time!’
10. Gestured based user interface
I remember watching Minority Report with Tom Cruise and seeing him move his hands around, enlarging and swiping information on an off a giant screen. Iron Man did something similar in the films of the same name. Known now as gestured based user interface, it is something seen with the Nintendo Wii and Xbox Kinect as well as a range of new devices that allow you to control your computer with hand movements. Just need that big, invisible screen now…
Celebrating science fiction
These are just ten of the ways celebrating science fiction becoming science fact. Sure, there are plenty of things that haven’ come to reality yet but there’s no saying they won’t at some time in the future. And in the meantime, they make for brilliant reading or viewing!
What’s your favourite sci-fi film, series or book? I’d love to hear!