Star Trek – no hyperbole here -- has changed the world, but no one could have seen it coming on September 8, 1966, when The Original Series kicked off with the episode “The Man Trap.” So much of what is commonplace today was introduced, glimpsed, inspired and/or at least hinted at by Star Trek; and yes, before you say it, we know that sci-fi existed before Star Trek.
Still, consider the following:
Faces of color, people of all nationalities in space:
Race relations were at their worst around the time Star Trek debuted, and yet series creator Gene Roddenberry envisioned a future in which an African American – and a woman, no less – would assume major responsibilities aboard a starship. Nichelle Nichols beautifully embodied the role of Lt. Uhura, inspiring countless people of color to achieve their dreams. Uhura would also factor into another groundbreaking moment, as she and Captain Kirk locked lips in television’s first interracial kiss. Later, during season two of Star Trek and at the height of the Cold War, when the concept of American and Russian astronauts traversing the galaxy together was truly pure science fiction, the show introduced the character of Chekov, yet another canny, progressive bit of forward thinking.
Flip phones: You may be reading this article on your flip phone right now and if you are, you have the legendary Star Trek communicator to thank for that.
PDA’s and iPads: Captain Kirk filed his regular Captain’s Logs on a device – think an electronic clipboard -- that’s remarkably similar to the PDA’s so familiar to us all today. Perhaps even more prescient was the Star Trek: The Next Generation PADD – or Personal Access Display Device, which could be easily confused with that iPad being sold at the Apple Store around the corner from you.
Bluetooth: Let’s bring Lt. Uhura back into the conversation. Sure, her earpieces might resemble corn holders, but they – and their open wireless technology concept -- also set the stage for the Bluetooth and all its subsequent incarnations.
Needle-free injections: Dr. McCoy and the Enterprise medical team had no need for needles. Instead, they used hypospray. Sure, some docs today still use the handy-dandy needle, but now there are needle-free alternatives, including the Glide SDI or PharmaJet’s 0.5 ml device.
Automatic Doors: You probably don’t even think twice about it now as you walk through doors that open as you approach, but those funky whooshing doors on Star Trek were the precursor, right? Right.
Viewscreens: Have you looked at your TV lately? ‘Nuff said.
Phasers: Tasers, anyone? Just saying.
OK, now it’s YOUR turn. What elements of Star Trek do you think have impacted the world – socially, scientifically, gadget-wise – we live in today? Bring it on… and bring on the debate, too.