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

Stephen Cass stephen.cass at gmail.com
Thu Oct 14 11:57:17 PDT 2021


Dammit, now I’m going to have to change a bunch of powerpoints! But thanks for the correction!

S

Sent from my iPhone

> On Oct 14, 2021, at 11:22 AM, Herb Jellinek <jellinek at newscenter.com> wrote:
> 
>  Martin Cooper has since revised his story about Star Trek and the inspiration behind the cellular telephone.
> 
> From the Santa Cruz Good Times, August 17, 2021, in a piece promoting his book Cutting the Cord:
> In actual fact, it wasn’t Star Trek’s communicator that inspired the cell phone, but the two-way radio wristwatch that Dick Tracy wore in the 1930s comic strip the 92-year-old Cooper read as a kid. So who’s responsible for this long-standing lie? Uh, well … Martin Cooper.
> 
> 
> 
> “I did it,” Cooper told me in an interview earlier this year. “It’s one of the mistakes I made.”
> 
> It’s true. People had assumed that the show predicted the cell phone for decades, but it was actually a 2005 TV movie called How William Shatner Changed the World that first claimed that Cooper literally conceived of the cell phone after happening to catch an episode of Star Trek on TV one day. Cooper endorsed the story—you can still see the clip on YouTube—and he’s been paying for it ever since.
> 
> 
> Herb Jellinek
> 
> On 10/13/21 8:55 PM, Ceruzzi, Paul wrote:
>> Cuneo, in the chapter cited above in the Ferro & Swedin edited volume, quotes Martin Cooper, one of the designers of the original Motorola cell phone: " "...And suddenly , there's Captain Kirk talking on his communicator. Talking, with no dialing. That was not a fantasy to us... that was an objective."   He also quotes Rob Haitani, at Palm and later Handspring: "When I designed the UI for the Palm OS back in '93, my first sketches were influenced by the UI of the Enterprise​ bridge panels...Years later, when we designed the first [Handspring] Treo, it had a form factor similar to the communicators in the original series."  The Treo's design looks even closer to the communicator than the Motorola flip-phones. 
>> 
>> The crew of the ill-fated Discovery One​, from 2001, a Space Odyssey​, used a tablet computer. But also voice recognition & synthesis with HAL; no need for a keyboard. This was in 1968.
>> 
>> Paul Ceruzzi
>> 
>> From: Members <members-bounces at lists.sigcis.org> on behalf of Stephen Cass <stephen.cass at gmail.com>
>> Sent: Wednesday, October 13, 2021 10:11 PM
>> To: Brian E Carpenter <brian.e.carpenter at gmail.com>
>> Cc: members at lists.sigcis.org <members at lists.sigcis.org>
>> Subject: Re: [SIGCIS-Members] Query: mobile phones and science fiction
>>  
>> External Email - Exercise Caution
>> 
>> >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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