4 Modern Technologies Predicted by Science Fiction Authors

Thursday, 03 July 2014 - 3:39PM
Science of Sci-Fi
Thursday, 03 July 2014 - 3:39PM
4 Modern Technologies Predicted by Science Fiction Authors
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We all know that science is forever taking inspiration from science fiction, but sometimes we forget that everyday technologies were once only dreamed of. sci-fi authors were often at the forefront of this dreaming, and as such were able to correctly predict the game changing technologies of the future. The list of such predictions is immense, but here are 4 modern technologies that were envisaged by sci-fi authors decades before they were available to ordinary folks like you and me. 



1. Tablet Computers - Arthur C. Clarke in 1968

In his 1968 masterpiece, "2001: A Space Odyssey", British author and sci-fi legend,  Arthur C. Clarke predicted a futuristic "newspad" that matches apple's ipad technology word for word. If only Clarke had lived 4 more years, until 2010, he would have been able to claim it as his own.


Check out this excerpt from Clarke's seminal novel:


"When he tired of official reports and memoranda and minutes, he would plug in his foolscap-size newspad into the ship's information circuit and scan the latest reports from Earth. One by one he would conjure up the world's major electronic papers...Switching to the display unit's short-term memory, he would hold the front page while he quickly searched the headlines and noted the items that interested him. Each had its own two-digit reference; when he punched that, the postage-stamp-size rectangle would expand until it neatly filled the screen and he could read it with comfort. When he had finished, he would flash back to the complete page and select a new subject for detailed examination..."


credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images


It's a shame that Clarke passed in 2008, only four years before Apple released the first iPad in 2010. He would have been able to see his vision come true, more than 42 years later.




2. Earbuds - Ray Bradbury in 1953

In his 1953 masterpiece, Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury describes little in-ear radio transmitters that sound creepily familiar. Keep in mind that this was 1953, headphones had only just surfaced as widely accessible household technology, and that the little buds we know so well today wouldn't become commonplace until around 2001, when Apple released their first iconic white ones.


"And in her ears the little seashells, the thimble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk and music and talk coming in."

If only they actually were little seashells.

credit: NYtimes 




3. The Internet - Mark Twain in 1898

Most know Mark Twain for "Huck Finn" or for "Tom Sawyer", but the "true father of American Fiction"(according to Faulkner) wrote more than just adventures about life on the Mississippi. He even dabbled in science fiction. And in one of his Sci-fi stories in "From the London Times of 1904", Twain predicts the biggest invention of the 20th century to an eery level of detail. He describes a "telecommunicator" of the future: an "improved 'limitless-distance' telephone" that catalogues " the daily doings of the globe made visible to everybody, and audibly discussable too, by witnesses separated by any number of leagues." (Sorry for the goosebumps). 


credit: Facebook



Of course, the Internet has been predicted by many a sci-fi author, but perhaps none have done it with such eerie accuracy regarding its day to day impact on people: 

"Day by day, and night by night, he called up one corner of the globe after another, and looked upon its life, and studied its strange sights, and spoke with its people. ... He seldom spoke, and I never interrupted him when he was absorbed in this amusement."



Sound familiar? Like, really familiar? Goddamnit, Mark Twain... it's too real. 


4. Credit Cards - Edward Bellamy

Back in 1888, a utopian science fiction writer named Edward Bellamy developed the first idea for the credit card. He came up with the concept and the execution of the cards that we all use today, down to the most detailed descriptions of it's functioning. 

This credit card plays a large role in his most popular science fiction novel, "Looking Backward", a story about a man who falls asleep in 1888, but wakes up to a utopian socialist society of the year 2000, where credit cards allow monetary fluidity and an international marketplace.

"A credit card issued him with which he procures at the public storehouses, found in every community, whatever he desires whenever he desires it. This arrangement, you will see, totally obviates the necessity for business transactions of any sort between individuals and consumers."


credit: getty images 


The details that he delves into are impressive. Here he describes receipts:

"The duplicate of the order," said Edith as she turned away from the counter, after the clerk had punched the value of her purchase out of the credit card she gave him, "is given to the purchaser, so that any mistakes in filling it can be easily traced and rectified."

"An American credit card," replied Dr. Leete, "is just as good in Europe as American gold used to be, and on precisely the same condition, namely, that it be exchanged into the currency of the country you are traveling in."



Predictions like this mean that if you want to keep tabs on what the technologies of the future might be, reading good science fiction is 100% essential.

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