50 Years of Star Trek: Highlights of Some Predictions and Inspirations

The crew of the Starship Enterprise began their voyage 50 years ago, airing for the first time on September 8, 1966. As I kid, Star Trek was my favorite show. When my cousins and I would play Star Trek, I would always play Scotty, the miracle working engineer. In many ways, Star Trek was influential to me personally. My decision to go into engineering and join the U.S. Navy were both inspired in part by Star Trek. In honor of Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary, I would like to highlight a few of the predictions and inspirations that have arisen from Star Trek.

Diversity in the Work Force

If you watch the original series now, you probably wouldn’t think twice about the crew’s cultural diversity.  However, the crew’s diversity was unheard of the 60’s and included Lieutenant Uhuru (a black woman), Lieutenant Sulu (an Asian), and Ensign Chekov (a Russian). If you look at the times, the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing, the United States was also in the middle of both the Vietnam War and the Cold War. In comparison, Star Trek’s closest contemporary, Lost in Space, had an all-white cast. Star Trek had an optimistic view that in the future we would all learn to resolve our differences and work together.

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The Cell Phone

I was watching Star Trek with my niece and when Captain Kirk pulled out his communicator, my niece commented, “How cute, a flip phone.” Interestingly enough, Dr. Martin Cooper inventor of the first hand held phone admits his inspiration came from Star Trek. In addition, Motorola’s first flip phone, the StarTAC, looked remarkably like a Star Trek communicator.

The iPad

When the iPad first came out, it reminded me of Star Trek’s PADD (Personal Access Data Display). Interestingly enough, when Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, first demo-d the iPad, he showed the rebooted Star Trek Movie as an example of a video that could be watched. In a recent History Channel documentary, 50 Years of Star Trek, it was revealed that Apple approached Star Trek to license the “PADD” name.

The Tricorder

The Tricorder was a medical device used by Dr. McCoy to diagnose his patients. The Tricorder has yet to be invented. However, XPRIZE has a $10 M Tricorder Challenge which is an open competition to develop a “Tricorder device that will accurately diagnose 13 health conditions (12 diseases and the absence of conditions) and capture five real-time health vital signs, independent of a health care worker or facility, and in a way that provides a compelling consumer experience.” Results for the competition will be announced in 2017.

The Space Shuttle

The Starship Enterprise would use Shuttlecrafts to ferry crew members to a planet when they couldn’t use a transporter.  In 1972, when NASA began to develop a re-usable spacecraft, they called it the Space Shuttle Program. The prototype for the shuttle program was originally to be named the “Constitution.” After receiving hundreds of thousands of letters from devoted Trekkies, President Ford requested the prototype to be renamed “Enterprise.”

Star Trek creator, Gene Rodenberry, had an optimistic view that humanity will overcome the challenges that threaten to destroy us and travel to the stars. After 50 years, Star Trek is still going strong in books, video games, movies and television.   For you inspiring entrepreneurs looking for an idea for your next startup, try watching a couple episodes of Star Trek.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014. Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

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