How Science Fiction Changed Reality

Some ideas in science fiction becoming real

Science fiction’s concepts and ideas seemed too implausible, fantastical and far-fetched to become real. However, some of these concepts and gadgets have come to exist, and we actually use many of them. For example, take cues from the sci-fi space series Star Trek.

Star Trek may not have invented the cell phone or the iPad, but it is one of the very few science fiction shows which has been cited as a big influence for such technological inventions. There are also sci-fi works whose predictions were simply fantastical, esoteric and seemingly too good to exist in the real world. But now we actually use these certain things that were once amazing in the science fiction world, and we even take them for granted.

Here are some of the science fiction concepts and predictions that, once out-of-this-world, have become real-life inventions:

1. Cellphones

The Star Trek crew often uses handheld devices — called “communicators,” their own intergalactic edition of walkie-talkie — that very much looks like the clamshell phones of the 21st century.


2. Earphones


Way back then, earphones didn’t exist in reality, but in Ray Bradbury’s 1953 dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451. The earphones of today were Bradbury’s in-ear radios than in that novel: “And in her ears the little Seashells, the thimble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk and music and talk coming in.” Now earphones came true and in fact became really popular, especially with Apple’s recognizable white earphones that first came out in 2001.


3. iPad and other tablets

Apple’s iPad and other Android (and few Windows-based) tablets have almost become ubiquitous now, but they’re not as unprecedented as you think. Taking Star Trek again, the characters there are frequently using units of a hand-held touchscreen device called PADD, or Personal Access Display Device. Actually, it is believed that these props were devised out of a tight budget — so as you can see, there are no knobs, no buttons or dials, just a completely flat surface. Furthermore, the idea that the software could be re-configured to carry out a particular task makes it a really flexible and very mobile prop for the Star Trek set.

4. Bionic limbs

Before, bionic limbs were thought to work only for science-fiction TV and movies such as The Six Million Dollar Man, Star Trek franchise (the Borgs) and Star Wars (Darth Vader). Now, bionic limbs that can be controlled by the mind are possible. Although not as prevalent just yet, bionic limbs have become increasingly available in many parts of the world. You can control your fingers, pick up things, run for miles, play tennis, shake hands with anyone — those who have lost their arms or legs may have now the chance to lead normal lives again, thanks to the bionic limbs.


5. GPS


On Star Trek‘s original series, the idea locating the crew members were introduced into their cellphones… oops, communicators that are. This concept is a great idea to keep track of the crew and to locate them with precision before beaming them up. This idea came to life when the Global Positioning System (GPS) was introduced four years after Star Trek went off the air. This was originally called Navigation System for Timing and Ranging, or NAVSTAR. The earth-orbiting satellites were launched by military and so GPS was then strictly for military use. By the 1980s, GPS was made available for civilians. In 1995, as 27 satellites had been launched, the US government declared GPS as fully operational. For most of us who have smartphones and mobile devices, GPS enables us to locate our friends or to know where you exactly are right now. GPS is not only used on land, but also in the sky and on water.


6. Sliding doors

Sliding doors (or automatic doors) are now commonplace and rather dull, but way back then they were totally unheard-of. As early as 1899, H.G. Wells foresaw the possibility of automatic or sliding doors, as he mentioned in his novel The Sleeper Awakes: “And then came a strange thing; a long strip of this apparently solid wall rolled up with a snap, hung over the two retreating men and fell again, and immediately Graham was alone.”


7. Credit cards

Credit cards

19th-century American writer Edward Bellamy’s imagination the credit cards is surprisingly precise. In his utopian novel Looking Backward, published in 1888, Bellamy’s vision of the future includes the use of a card that allows citizens to send goods and services by using a “credit” from a central bank. This eliminates the need to carry money.


8. CCTV cameras

Closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras are perhaps one of the most famous (and most dreaded too) sci-fi predictions. Of course, you think of George Orwell’s 1984 where Big Brother watches over the people on giant telescreens. Now a real-life CCTV camera may not be as fearsome as in the novel; in fact, these cameras can give you security. Now there are millions of CCTV cameras installed in many business establishments and homes around the world.

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