[SIGCIS-Members] Query: mobile phones and science fiction

Stephen Cass stephen.cass at gmail.com
Wed Oct 13 19:11:22 PDT 2021


>I call foul. The original communicator was in "The Man from U.N.C.L.E."
(premiered on September 22, 1964). Star Trek came later (September 8, 1966).

Hah! For sure, but the inventor of the phone watched Star Trek, not the The
Man from Uncle :)  This is why we had to toss so many well-worn examples
from our book drafts, because we couldn't establish specific links.
Teasing out the specific linkages between sci-fi and tech is really tough,
because inspiration is so personal to those involved, and barring a direct
quote from them, it's hard to be sure about the casual relationships: first
in fiction may not mean much. Or even non-fiction: in a related example of
the relationship between science and art it's reasonable to suggest Van
Gogh's Starry Night was influenced by the drawings of M50 by the Earl of
Rosse, because the drawings were widely reproduced and there's some
evidence Van Gogh saw them, but we can't say for sure....

S.



On Wed, Oct 13, 2021 at 9:34 PM Brian E Carpenter <
brian.e.carpenter at gmail.com> wrote:

> > The mobile phone is actually a classic example, being inspired by Star
> Trek's communicators
>
> I call foul. The original communicator was in "The Man from U.N.C.L.E."
> (premiered on September 22, 1964). Star Trek came later (September 8, 1966).
>
> I was a fan of "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." before I was a Trekkie.
>
>
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Man_from_U.N.C.L.E.#Communications_devices
>
> Regards
>    Brian Carpenter
>
> On 14-Oct-21 12:45, Stephen Cass wrote:
> > I'm not an historian, but in my co-author and I have written about the
> feedback loops between science fiction and technology in parts of our
> "Hollyweird Science" books, published by Springer (
> https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783319150710 <
> https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783319150710> ) . The mobile phone is
> actually a classic example, being inspired by Star Trek's communicators,
> c.f. this Forbes article, which also mentions some other innovations.
> >
> >
> https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelvenables/2013/04/03/captain-kirks-call-to-spock/?sh=368b37f6a92c
> <
> https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelvenables/2013/04/03/captain-kirks-call-to-spock/?sh=368b37f6a92c
> >
> >
> > In an interview with Jason Pontin, then EIC of MIT Technology Review for
> the 2013 Twelve Tomorrows hard sci-fi anthology (which I edited, so another
> shameless self-plug, sorry :) ), Neal Stephenson put it very well:
> "...science fiction can provide a coherent picture of an alternate
> realty in which some innovation happened. Not just the technical innovation
> itself, but the social context and the economic context that causes the
> innovation to make sense. It can be sort of like an invisible magnetic
> field that gets the iron filings to line up. In big engineering
> organizations, you've got all these people working on small pieces of a
> bigger problem, and there's an enormous amount of communication that has to
> take place to keep them all working in a coordinated fashion. That
> communication
> is tedious and expensive, but if everybody's got the same picture in their
> heads, maybe you don't have to communicate as much."
> >
> > Currently, the best academics to talk to are likely at ASU's Center for
> Science and the Imagination:
> >
> > https://csi.asu.edu/about-us/ <https://csi.asu.edu/about-us/>
> >
> > They've done some innovation projects, including the "Hieroglyph:
> Stories & Visions for a Better Future" anthology and ASU's Threatcasting
> Lab uses science fiction as a tool for e.g, military and intelligence
> folks: https://threatcasting.asu.edu/ <https://threatcasting.asu.edu/>
> >
> > Hope this is of some help!
> >
> > S.
> >
> >
> > On Wed, Oct 13, 2021 at 3:29 PM Andrew Russell <arussell at arussell.org
> <mailto:arussell at arussell.org>> wrote:
> >
> >     Hi again SIGCIS - please see below, forwarded with permission via
> Peggy Kidwell -
> >
> >>
> >>     *From:* Baker, Alexi <alexi.baker at yale.edu <mailto:
> alexi.baker at yale.edu>>
> >>     *Sent:* Wednesday, October 13, 2021 2:14 PM
> >>     *To:* rete at maillist.ox.ac.uk <mailto:rete at maillist.ox.ac.uk> <
> rete at maillist.ox.ac.uk <mailto:rete at maillist.ox.ac.uk>>
> >>     *Subject:* [rete] History of telecommunications / mobile phones
> >>
> >>     This is perhaps going a bit far afield in the history of
> technology, but I have a student who is interested in the history of mobile
> phones
> with respect to science fiction. She is in particular interested in how
> the development of such telecommunications influenced, was represented in,
> and was influenced by science fiction films. Do any of you happen to know
> of historians who have focused on the development of mobile phones and/or
> on the relationship between sci fi and technology in general?
> >>
> >>     Many thanks for any suggestions - Alexi
> >>
> >>     Dr. Alexi Baker
> >>     Division of the History of Science & Technology
> >>     Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History
> >>     Tel. 203-737-3084
> >>     alexi.baker at yale.edu <mailto:alexi.baker at yale.edu>
> >
> >     _______________________________________________
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