Mobile/ Cell Phone Technology

History of Mobile/Cell Phone Technology
Full Text


1946 Mobile Phone

1946 Mobile Phone

Donald Ring-1947 AT&T Cell Phone Concept
Company Memo

1964 Mobile Phone

1964 Mobile Phone

1960s Star Trek Communicator

Star Trek Communicator

1973 Cell Phone

1973 Cell Phone


Present Day Cell Phone

Present Day Cell Phone

 

Real World Technology and Star Trek

The rapid technological advancements in the 1960s were of keen interest to many including Roddenberry. Historian Timothy Moy concluded, "Quarks. Quasars. Lasers. Apollo. Heart Transplants. Computers. Nylon. Color TV. Pampers. The Pill. LSD. Napalm. DDT. Thalidomide. Mutual Assured Destruction. Star Trek. Dr. Strangelove. The Sixties had them all." [1]

Over the decade of the 1960s the attitude toward technology was of a dual nature in that "Americans would continue to embrace the power and comforts of high technology, they would also regard science and its products with a skepticism-and even fear-that would have seemed un-American in the first half of the twentieth century." [2] Roddenberry and Star Trek embodied, respectively, both the embracing and skepticism of science and technology.

Contrary to popular myth that Star Trek had some extraordinary vision on the technology of the future, the hard science and research for many of the devices used on Star Trek was already in existence. What Star Trek did accomplish was bringing the technology and science to popular main stream media and offering futuristic artistic designs of the technology.

Roddenberry requested guidance from Colonel Donald I. Prickett who worked at the Weapons Effects and Test Group Headquarters, Field Command Defense Atomic Support Agency. Roddenberry and Prickett became friends over time through correspondence. During the initial correspondence between the two, Prickett wrote Roddenberry a very supportive letter in which he said, "To answer your query instead of trying to be an expert in your business, let me assure you I will be only too happy to put you in touch with personnel from RAND and/or the Space Technology Labs or the AF Space System Division." [3]

Roddenberry followed up on those leads and eventually was also in continuous correspondence with Harvey Lynn at the RAND Corporation. Lynn donated his time and scientific expertise generously with comments on Star Trek stories with incredibly detailed comments given on the pilot story outline, The Cage, all to insure scientific plausibility and accuracy.

Roddenberry also had at his disposal throughout the production of Star Trek the services of Kellum DeForest who would analyze all aspects of a script for consistency in both artistic and scientific concerns.

Roddenberry did not just rely on others for input. He also continuously stayed abreast of the latest science and technology both during the inception and throughout Star Trek's production run through avid reading of scientific periodicals, articles from various sources and the requesting of government documents to the space program.

The importance of scientific accuracy and cutting edge technology to Roddenberry with regard to Star Trek was clearly evident in a memo from Roddenberry to Grant Tinker at NBC when discussing preliminary information gathering in order to ensure the pilot episode was scientifically accurate. Roddenberry said,

"Still another plus--the art designer and I have been puzzling over such problems as creating the illusion of the remarkable speeds necessary to the U.S.S. Enterprise. A significant portion of our audience (including the space-wise younger generation) will know that rocket engines are too primitive for our galaxy travel concept. But, without the roar and fire of rockets, how do you create the illusion of spaceship speed? One answer is suggested in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, an article by Dr. I.E. Sanger, "Some Optical and Kinematical Effects in Interstellar Astronautics. (Impressed? I wasn't kidding about research.)." [4]

Later when Star Trek was in production, in order to convince network executives of the future financial viability of Star Trek, Roddenberry extolled the uniqueness of Star Trek by highlighting the parallels between cutting edge development in science and technology and Star Trek. In a letter to NBC Executive Herb Schlosser in 1968 Roddenberry said,

"Most of the television programs begin to run out of stories after a few years. Using I SPY and RUN FOR YOUR LIFE as examples, it is no secret that they are now scrambling for new material. STAR TREK, on the other hand, receives a new story from almost every edition of the local newspaper. It is in the enviable position of having a hundred thousand scientists around the world working to provide new story material plus also providing a form of promotion for STAR TREK with each press release about a new scientific discovery (Estimate the effect on STAR TREK of the first moon landing and new discoveries about Mars, Venus, and other planets.)" [5]

Mobile/ Cell Phones, Jet Injectors/ "Hyposprays", RAND Tablet/ Palm Pilots and Tablet PCs

Mobile/Cell Phones

"America's mobile phone age started on June 17, 1946, in St. Louis. Mobile Telephone Service (MTS), as it was called, had been developed by AT&T using Motorola-made radio equipment, and Southwestern Bell, a subsidiary of AT&T, was the first local provider to offer it." [6]

The idea for cellular phone service was proposed the following year. "In December 1947 Donald H. Ring outlined the idea in a company memo. The concept was elaborate but elegant. A large city would be divided into neighborhood-sized zones called cells or cell sites." [7] The most significant reason cell phones were not available between the 40s and 50s was mainly due to "the lack of computing power." [8]

The cell phone concept and the mobile phone occurred eighteen years before Star Trek ever aired and as an article in 1967 commented, "Star Trek is just able to keep slightly ahead of the universe of fact. For example, the Star Trek crew has a walkie-talkie called a "communicator," which instantaneously interprets the language on any planet they happen to visit. But scientists in the real world already have announced invention of a small automatic interpreting machine." [9]

"Hypospray"/ Jet Injectors

" Jet-injection devices were first developed in the private sector in the 1940s. Military scientists adapted the early devices to create needle-free, multiuse-nozzle jet injectors capable of 600 or more subcutaneous injections per hour from 1949 onward, primarily for basic training camps. The Army's Aaron Ismach and Abram Benenson developed a nozzle for intradermal vaccination, used in civilian mass small pox immunization campaigns in the 1960s." [10]

RAND Tablet/ Palm Pilots and Tablet PCs

"In 1964 RAND's 'digital tablet" allowed users to write with a penlike stylus and have the writing converted into electronic text. They could also draw simple graphics and edit their work. While limited in its capabilities and far too expensive for commercial use, the RAND Tablet nonetheless showed the way for the Palm Pilots and Tablet PCs of today." [11] Since Roddenberry was in direct contact with Harvery Lynn who worked at RAND during 1964 it is not very much of a surprise that an electronic writing tablet would appear in Star Trek.


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Footnotes


















 



Jet Injectors/ "Hyposprays"

History of Jet Injectors and US Armed Forces Immunization Projects
Full Text

1960s Jet Injector

1960s Jet Injector

Star Trek "Hypospray"

Hypospray Drawing

Star Trek's Dr. McCoy Holding Hypospray

Present Day Jet Injector

Present Day Jet Injector




RAND Tablet/ Palm Pilots and Tablet PCs

History of RAND Tablet and Palm Pilot/ Tablet PCs Technology
Full Text


1964 RAND Tablet

RAND Tablet

1964 RAND Tablet Memorandum

Star Trek Writing Tablet

Star Trek Writing Tablet

Present Day Philips Tablet

Modern Philips Tablet