Greg Jordan

Back when I was about 4 years old, a new show on television immediately grabbed my attention. It feature a huge spaceship, people with cool gadgets and a guy with pointy ears. The original “Star Trek” foretold a future where people flew around in space all the time, had space battles and dealt with space monsters. I love the show and even made little Starship Enterprises out of aluminum foil to show my devotion.

Naturally, I loved all the equipment used by the Enterprise’s intrepid crew, my favorite being the transporter that “beamed” you up and down from a planet’s surface. Years later, I learned that the creator, Gene Roddenberry, invented the transporter so he could get the show’s characters into action quickly; having to land a spaceship eats up a lot of time.

We still don’t have anything like a transporter, but today we actually have gizmos that equal and even surpass those science fiction gadgets from the 1960s.

The first gadget is the “communicator,” a simple space radio Captain Kirk and company used to speak with the Enterprise while they were exploring the planet of the week. It was about the size of today’s cellphones, and it make an electronic squeak sound when activated. Some folks believe that Trek’s communicator actually inspired today’s cellphones.

Well, today’s cellphones leave the Trek communicator in the space dust. Kirk and Mr. Spock could make calls on their communicators, but that was all. They couldn’t take pictures, shoot videos, call up maps or anything else.

Spock could do more on a gizmo called the “tricorder,” a small portable computer equipped with scanners, but even that was limited. Today’s tablets do more than that tricorder. For instance, in one episode titled “The City on the Edge of Forever,” Spock’s able to record a huge amount of data on his tricorder, but he can’t play it back. He wishes that he could hook up his tricorder to the ship’s computer for even a few seconds. What good is having a cool gadget that records information, but can’t play it back?

These memories came to mind Wednesday when actor William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk on “Star Trek” and numerous movies, actually rode a rocket into space. By “Star Trek” standards, his journey wasn’t even a trip down the block, but now he’s among the few people who have actually experienced outer space. Back in the 1960s, being able to go into space without the help of NASA or the Russians was unimaginable, but now it’s possible to be a space tourist.

In the 1960s movie “2001: A Space Odyssey,” we have fancy space shuttles that regularly take passengers up to a space station where they can catch another flight to the moon. We don’t anything like commercial flights to the moon yet, but we still have technology that surpasses what we saw in that classic movie.

After arriving at the space station, passenger Heywood Floyd decides to go home. How does he do this? Well, he doesn’t simply get out his cellphone and make a call. He actually has to step into – believe it or not – a fancy telephone booth.

Another thing that I consider out of date is how Floyd and his agency are able to keep a major discovery on the moon a big secret. I don’t want to spoil things, so I’ll just say something amazing is found on the moon. Today keeping such a major discovery a secret would be almost impossible thanks to cellphones and social media. Astronauts would have been shooting selfies of themselves with it and texting the photos home to their families.

We still don’t have starships, space stations where you can book a room or luxury space shuttles, but we do have cellphones and home computers that can outperform Mr. Spock’s tricorder any old day. Perhaps someday we will have those fancy space shuttles that can carry passengers up to vacations high above the Earth. Then reality will catch up to the movies and TV shows of old.

Greg Jordan is the Daily Telegraph’s senior reporter. Contact him at gjordan@bdtonline.com

Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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