Nov 11, 2012
Old Sci-Fi Ideas That Are Now on Your iPhone
Decades ago, our grandparents dreamt of a future of flying cars, talking monkeys and time machines. They imagined a future where the world was such a different place that reading about it was the only way you could get there. This medium of transportation to the unknown future is what we geeks love to call ‘sci-fi’.
Now if you’re also a sci-fi fanatic who reveled in the world of space adventures and oppressive future societies and virtual reality, you’re probably aware by now that the world we read about, written decades ago, is the same world we are living in right now. More than just the settings these novels present, we are also using the same technologies our forefathers dreamt of years ago and it’s there, right in the palm of your hand! Years before we had the chance to sell used iPhones, some creative people dreamt of a little machine that would be able to so many great things like…
In Stanislaw Lem’s 1961 novel “Return From the Stars,” Hal (the protagonist) came back to a different Earth after being in space for 10 years (which was actually 127 years back on earth). Upon his arrival, he faced a civilization that was medically altered to avoid health risks and they had new technologies like touchscreen books. Oh wait, where have we heard of that before? In the novel, Lem predicts that 127 years in the future, people will be able to record a book’s content onto a digital device that does not necessarily scrap paperback books but does make reading easier. Well it’s been 51 years since the publication of the novel but we now have books stored on our iPhones for digital reading.
Hugo Gernsback had such an imaginative mind that in 1925, he was able to descriptively show people what the world would probably look like in 2660. In his novel “Ralph 124C 41+”, the protagonist was able to save the heroine by using different technologies that abound the future. Gernsback was able to foresee and describe video phone and video chatting and he called this Telephot. The Telephot is a telephone-like device that allows you to talk to someone instantaneously through a video. Today, smartphones like the iPhone have video chatting applications like Skype and FaceTime that allow people to easily talk in person through their mobile devices. What might make you sell your iPhone out of pure amazement is that while this novel was written back in the 1920’s, the first video calling machine was invented in 1964 (by AT&T called Picturephone) and the first webcam was not developed until 1991. If you think about it, Gernsback was able to predict Skype 78 years before it even existed!
There are so many more sci-fi ideas that were predicted years ago and are now on the iPhone that you’d probably not want to sell your iPhone 4 anymore. The Internet, for one thing, was first described by Mark Twain in 1898 which he called the Telectroscope in his short story “From the ‘London Times’ of 1904”. Ebook Readers like the iPad and Kindle were also predicted in Arthur Clarke’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Now look at your little iPhone. What other stories and cool things will it be able to do in the future?