It isn’t unheard of for entertainment to blur the lines between fiction and reality. From tablets to autonomous-driving cars, the imaginations of the past often inspire the everyday items that surround us in the future. Today, let’s consider a few technological innovations that first appeared in popular culture.

Tablets in Star Trek and A Space Odyssey

The modern tablet is widely known to have started with the first Apple iPad in 2010. However, this was not the first time tablets appeared in pop culture. The show Star Trek featured a tablet called a PADD – or personal access display device – which allowed crew members of the Starfleet to easily access various information on the small handheld device. The PADD is often thought of as the original inspiration for the modern-day tablet.

However, Star Trek was not the only time a tablet-like device appeared in entertainment. In 2001, Stanley Kubrick’s film, A Space Odyssey, featured tablet devices. This film was used to block Apple’s attempt to copyright the form factor and, because the innovation had been used in entertainment before, Apple’s bid failed.

Autonomous-Driving Cars in Total Recall

Self-driving vehicles are a popular innovation nowadays, but they were first seen in 1990’s Total Recall with “Johnny Cab”, a car that drove itself with an advanced computer system.

Smart Watch Technology in Dick Tracy

Smart watches like Apple watches and Fitbits have only grown in popularity since their development. However, the idea of a smart watch first appeared in the 1930s with the comedy series Dick Tracy. The series’ titular detective possessed a watched that served as a two-way communicator with authorities.

3D Printing Technology in Star Trek

Another technological development to begin with Star Trek is 3D printing. Any Trekkie should remember the replicators that the crew utilized to produce nearly anything and everything. 

Most 3D printing is currently carried out by running a strand of material in a computed pattern until an item is produced. However, a 2019 version uses rays of light to shape objects, and its creators say it was inspired by the famous replicator.

The Defibrillator in Frankenstein

This technology actually comes from a book, instead of a television show or film. In Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein, which many consider to be the first piece or modern science fiction, she details a possible defibrillator-like device with the quote,


“With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet.“

The “spark” she is referring to is most often interpreted as a spark of electricity. Thus, creating the very valid argument that this inclusion inspired later research and development of the modern defibrillator in 1930.

What other pieces of technology or innovations do you remember from popular culture and entertainment that we now have today? List them out in the comments! And, visit our blog for more fun tech content!

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