Friday, August 13, 2010

Trek inspired Tech

When Apple's iPad hit the stores, I was extremely underwhelmed. It wasn't just my normal cynicism either. While I enjoy picking apart the media hype machine with pointed, intelligent questions, there was something deeper about my lack of enthusiasm for the iPad. It was almost like I had seen it somewhere before, so I wasn't impressed when the rest of the world caught up with what I already knew.

And it wasn't until I read this article from Ars Technica that I realized what it was. 23 years ago, when I was around 10 years old, Star Trek: The Next Generation introduced me to a slew of new technology. One of the most prevalent was the PADD (Personal Access Display/Data Device). Basically, I grew up watching people use touch screen technology every week. So naturally, when the rest of the world caught up to the vision of Gene Roddenberry, Michael & Denise Okuda, and Doug Drexler, with stuff like iPod Touch, iPad, and other touch screen technologies, it didn't make a mark on me.

Reading this article also brought to mind a documentary I saw where the inventors of certain technologies talk about how they were influenced by the ideas they saw on the classic Star Trek series. Capt. Kirk's communicator greatly influenced the creator of cell phone technology and now we're all using flip phones!

The ARS Technica article also brings up a couple of other examples. Those little plastic devices the ST crew would carry around and pop into slots to access the ships computer look an AWFUL lot like our current USB drives and flash memory cards, don't they?

So, no, I'm not impressed with the iPad. I was witness to the core idea behind its development 23 years ago, but it's nice to see the rest of the world finally catching up. Now what would be cool is if someone could write a Mac OS skin that would make the iPad look like the Next Gen PADDs. That would impress me!

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