Star Trek Freaks Me Out With iPhone Scene

So, I just came through a few days of self-imposed bed rest in order to fight off one of the many bugs going around, a fight, I’m happy to report, that I won, and for kicks during my non-sleeping hours, thanks to Netflix streaming, I went back in time and watched some Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes.

And there I was, watching Season 3, Episode 8, and in one scene Commander William Riker is sitting alone at a table in Ten Forward, the Starship Enterprise bar and lounge, he’s sipping on a shot of the hard stuff, and he’s staring down at a tiny device on the table, poking at it with his finger, reading and stroking his beard, and…

…it just utterly freaked me out, because that’s exactly what I look like everyday at lunch, only I’m assuming the same posture, making the same motions, totally absorbed by technology in a room full of other people, using the latest iteration of a device that was first sold in 2007, 18 years after that Star Trek scene was broadcast.

Like the iPhone itself, the theme of this post is hardly original. Just Google “Star Trek + Apple” and you’ll see. Rather, this is merely how I experienced this topic.

Summary: Not long after the iPad came out, Trekkies and Apple Haters posted YouTube clips from Star Trek episodes showing crew members and other characters using tablet devices, like this one:


Now, that scene came just three episodes before the scene I mention above, I also watched it during my convalescence, but I didn’t react to it nearly the same way only because I don’t own an iPad.

Anyway, along with the clips were articles and blog posts making the claim that Apple simply stole the idea for the iPad from Star Trek. But then someone went back a further 20 years in time and discovered that the iPad was first brought to life by Stanley Kubrick in his 1969 classic 2001: A Space Odyssey:


The latter got considerable attention, when Samsung, who was trying to bring their own tablet to market, but were being blocked by Apple who claimed they got there first, sited that scene from 2001 as proof that Apple stole the iPad design from Kubrick and had no right to claim it was their original idea.

While the late Steve Jobs was no doubt a visionary, his company’s considerable accomplishments were less about inventing than about bringing long-envisioned dreams to life, as Jonny Evans at ComputerWorld points out:

With its claim that the iPad looks like the tablets used in “2001: A Space Odyssey”, Samsung has conceded that Apple is transforming science fiction into science fact…

After all, it’s one thing to make a prop for a movie or a TV show, and it’s another thing entirely to make a working device, and I can’t recommend highly enough a great Ars Technica piece from a year ago that traces the history of the original Star Trek designs, including a discussion with the designers themselves, who talk about the gadgets in relation to the iPhone and iPad.

4 thoughts on “Star Trek Freaks Me Out With iPhone Scene

    1. Yeah, sadly true, Tom. You’d think that if we can have a phone that can interact (Siri) like the computer on Star Trek, we should have replicators and transporters too!

      Seriously, if only a true renewable, eco-friendly energy technology could be developing as fast as communication and entertainment technologies.

      1. or even at the very least to be able to clean up a ship leaking oil in New Zealand. sigh.

        That is why I support all those “fun” gadgets as they are the bridge to people accepting eco friendly energy uses 🙂

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