Back in 1966, we were first introduced to the future as imagined by the creative team behind Star Trek. And with each passing day, the “incredible” technology on that show seems to become more quaint.
The communicator was actually the model for the first batch of cell phones that everyone used until that became eclipsed by the current generation of so-called smart phones.
And the phaser? Okay, we’re still waiting on that one. And I’m sure it will be cool when it arrives. However, there is one bit of Star Trek tech that slipped into our lives without anyone noticing.
I am referring to the tricorder. As many of you may recall, the tricorder was a handy piece of tech that could gather data, store it, share it and even interpret it for you. It could tell you everything you wanted to know about the environment you were in and even help you do diagnostics on both machines and lifeforms.
And while it still cannot do everything the Star Trek tricorder can do, today’s smart phones and tablets can do a lot of the same things and many things that the show’s writers never imagined. Smart phones can easily capture, store and transmit data. They can parse spoken inquiries and (most of the time) give a reasonable response. They can be customized for any purpose you might need one for, from a simple stop watch to enhanced reality.
While today’s mobile devices lack the sensors to tell you about the environment that you are in, it can easily access information collected from other data points and tell you the temperature, wind speed and even barometric pressure. They can translate foreign languages for you and give you meta data on that song you can’t quite remember the title for.
Of course, while the Starfleet tricorder is designed to tell you everything about something that no one has ever seen before, smart phones and tablets are limited to only things that are already stored in a database somewhere. However, being linked to the internet, it can easily act as your window to the world, giving you information as soon as it becomes available.
Case in point: In season 3, episode 4 of “Grimm” (One Night Stand), Sergeant Wu is seen using a tablet in the field to determine where the suspects are located. And while it would seem outrageous to see Inspector Keller doing the same thing on the “Streets of San Francisco” back in the seventies, we have become so used to smartphone technology that we can accept what Sergeant Wu is doing without batting an eye.
And for all the wonders of Starfleet technology, we have never seen Mr. Spock use one to download a little light reading.
But that’s a topic for another time. Enjoy your future.