|from the July 1984|
Byte magazine cover
|Mind Static device|
|cover by Ric Binkley|
Even in the 1940s, Asimov knew that it was theoretically possible to miniaturize computers. But how? The original idea for the integrated circuit was patented in 1959 and IC technology got NASA to the Moon. The "microprocessor on a chip" revolutionized computing in the 1970s.
A Virgin Computer Is Useless
|Byte magazine, issue #1, 1975|
|Thorsen Memory Tubes.|
processor revolution and science fiction was made explicit in the first issue of Byte magazine.
Asimov had imagined "positronic robots" and Heinlein had his imaginary "Memory Tubes". Finally, in the 1970s, microprocessors were seen as the beginning of a brave new future that would eventually lead to artificial intelligence and machines with human-like cognitive abilities.
|My first computer.|
The Way We Were
The first computer that I ever used was a Wang programmable calculator. At 39 pounds and costing $7,000 pre-oil-crisis-inflation dollars, working with this beast gave me the "look and feel" of the technology that got Humanity to the Moon. As the first cover of Byte magazine still proclaimed in 1975, magnetic cassette tape memory was the cheap but slow "solution" for "bulk memory". Of course, "bulk" had a different meaning in those days. Still, if you wanted a 256k byte disk drive, all you had to do was shell out another $6,000!
|"1984 won't be like 1984!"|
The first computer that I ever bought was a Macintosh. After a decade of using lesser PCs, I experienced great joy from having a "what-you-see-is-what-you-get" display screen and a built-in magnetic disk drive. It had suddenly become a pleasure to write using a computer and I've been doing so now for 31 years.
It was natural for Byte to put Spock on its cover in the Summer of 1984. The Search for Spock was in theaters. What better way to illustrate the topic of video displays and computers than to put an image of Spock on a Macintosh computer screen?
|Spock's second life.|
My favorite cover from Byte was the one for the December 1977 issue. I had just gone off to college and I was using data terminals like the one shown in this amusing image (below). That summer, Gene Roddenberry had announced that he would be bringing Star Trek back to television.
|Museum of Ancient Technology.|
|introduction to "The Computers of Star Trek"|
Roddenberry's imagined future was a science fiction future where technology could change human society for the better. The first three references cited in "The Computers of Star Trek" were works of science fiction by Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke.
I read "The Last Question" when I was 12 years old and it was the kind of science fantasy that got me interested in the process of writing speculative fiction about the fate of Humanity in the far future.
|The "Big Three".|
One of the topics discussed in "The Computers of Star Trek" was the ability of the Star Trek computers to understand human language. Science fiction authors had long imagined machines with human-like abilities, including the ability to use human languages.
In 1987, Star Trek did finally return to television with a significant computer upgrade. In the original starship Enterprise, the "talking computer" was huge: thousands of square meters, much like the "giant brains" of computers in some early science fiction stories.
2017 and Counting
|Star Trek: the next television series.|
My preference would be that the next Star Trek television series tackle nanotechnology and introduce us to an array of artificial life forms, but I'm not holding my breath. I suspect that Hollywood will subject us to some silly "future" full of terrorists and idiotic Trump-like politicians arguing against more aliens being allowed into the United Federation of Planets.
Next: return to 1966 and the first episode of Star Trek
|Producing another Star Trek reboot would not be logical. I $mell $eductive Hollywood ca$h at work!|