Tech lives long and prospers as Star Trek turns 50
6 min read
08 September 2016
Some 50 years ago today Star Trek aired for the first time and has remained on both the big and small screen ever since. The sci-fi show featured technology that was way ahead of its time, but has since become commonplace including portable storage devices.
Below, a group of technology industry experts consider what the show taught us about technology and how it has developed in the years that have passed.
Campbell Williams, group strategy and marketing director, Six Degrees Group:
“People in my generation/my age, grew up with Star Trek and it was probably the first time technology became a pervasive part of our lives. It’s what we used to play on the playground, particularly pretending we had Tricorders, Phasers and Communicators and it stimulated most of our generation and embedded that real love of technology, innovation and exploration.
“It used to be a pretty good rule of thumb that if you wanted to know what new technologies were going to come further down the line, then you should look at what was on Star Trek and one day soon it will come true. Whether it was speaking recognition, 3.5” floppy disks, PDAs or smart devices, all of those things were seen in the Star Trek environment.
“I’ve always liked the fact that with Star Trek the old truism that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ was true – the makers of the original series ‘invented’ transporters because they didn’t have the special effects budget that would be needed to get the Enterprise to land on different planets week in week out. So they came up with the idea of beaming people to the planet… still one of the things we haven’t quite worked out how to do yet!
“But the great thing about Star Trek, unlike a lot of sci-fi, is that it wasn’t the tech that was the star, it was about the people, human (or not human) stories, and what they could do with the technology. It wasn’t all special effects – it was all about what the technology can do to help people to build better worlds. That’s Star Trek’s real legacy, teaching us that technology isn’t about power, it’s about empowerment; today, for us, it’s still about bringing people and technology together to solve problems and build better companies.”
Victoria Grey, chief marketing officer, Nexsan:
“Star Trek imagined a world where technology was integral to their day-to-day activities, from work to play, to their very survival. Computers on the Starship Enterprise had the ability to gather all the information from around the world, imagine the capacity and power needed for such a system. This concept was ahead of its time, but a lot of this technology has now become a reality. Take the communicators shown on the TV series, these are essentially today’s smart phones. Connecting phones with computers – back in the office or on the Starship Enterprise – are today’s cloud solutions that make collaboration and file sync and share possible.
“However, interconnectivity is not without its dangers. No one wants the Klingons intercepting crucial data from the ship and security is of equal concern in the modern, often distributed (starship) enterprise. The key is being able to securely store and share confidential data through an interconnected but private network, without the fear of it falling into the wrong hands.”
Mark Young, director of systems engineering, Tintri:
“When it comes to foreseeing advances in technology, Star Trek really took the lead. Isolinear chips, the portable storage devices used on the spaceship, are now what we would recognise as either floppy disks or USBs. Both of these technologies took off years after the show had featured them and as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, floppy disks are already becoming collectors’ items.
“One technology that has thrived since being first discovered in the same era as Star Trek is virtualisation. Many people see virtualisation as a modern technology but may not know that the first hypervisor was installed in 1967, and the first versions of virtual machines weren’t far behind. This growth has continued since then, with server workloads doubling in the past four years – showing no signs of slowing down. When we look towards the future, organisations will be working to get the most out of virtualisation and aligning their IT infrastructure to support this goal.
“Star Trek was ahead of its time in predicting the future for technology, but has been caught-up by real-world advances in the past 50 years. Who knows, by the time we celebrated its 100th anniversary, you might even be able to teleport! Live long and prosper.”