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

Julie Cohn cohnconnor at gmail.com
Wed Oct 13 19:38:58 PDT 2021


I actually have more than one early reference, but have not found the one related to police.

This one, which I may have misremembered as referring to policemen, describes telephones on streetcars, from vol. 34, July 22, 1899, p. 129:



This article from Electrical World, vol. 44, October 29, 1904, pp. 742-743, may be more relevant to the sci-fi conversation. I love the photo of the headset:






Julie Cohn, Ph.D.

Non-Resident Scholar, Center for Energy Studies
Baker Institute for Public Policy, Rice University, and
Research Historian, Center for Public History
University of Houston

email: cohnconnor at gmail.com
cell: 713.516.0849

Author: The Grid: Biography of an American Technology (MIT Press, 2017)
https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/grid


> On Oct 13, 2021, at 9:11 PM, Stephen Cass <stephen.cass at gmail.com> wrote:
> 
> >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 <mailto: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 <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> <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> <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/> <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/> <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> <mailto: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> <mailto: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> <mailto: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> <mailto: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> <mailto:alexi.baker at yale.edu <mailto:alexi.baker at yale.edu>>
> > 
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> > 
> > _______________________________________________
> > This email is relayed from members at sigcis.org <http://sigcis.org/>, the email discussion list of SHOT SIGCIS. Opinions expressed here are those of the member posting and are not reviewed, edited, or endorsed by SIGCIS. The list archives are at http://lists.sigcis.org/pipermail/members-sigcis.org/ <http://lists.sigcis.org/pipermail/members-sigcis.org/> and you can change your subscription options at http://lists.sigcis.org/listinfo.cgi/members-sigcis.org <http://lists.sigcis.org/listinfo.cgi/members-sigcis.org>
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> _______________________________________________
> This email is relayed from members at sigcis.org <http://sigcis.org/>, the email discussion list of SHOT SIGCIS. Opinions expressed here are those of the member posting and are not reviewed, edited, or endorsed by SIGCIS. The list archives are at http://lists.sigcis.org/pipermail/members-sigcis.org/ <http://lists.sigcis.org/pipermail/members-sigcis.org/> and you can change your subscription options at http://lists.sigcis.org/listinfo.cgi/members-sigcis.org <http://lists.sigcis.org/listinfo.cgi/members-sigcis.org>_______________________________________________
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