ELECTRIC DREAMS
by Kim L. Neidigh

How much of what is around us was predicted by science fiction?

     It’s been said that science fiction was remiss in predicting the digital revolution. That, however, isn’t quite true. The prophets may have missed the exact details, but the general nature and specific functions of much modern technology were described decades earlier. The following list is a sample of what was conceived in the years before modern electronics. It is by no means comprehensive.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

“Moxon’s Master” by Ambrose Bierce (story) 1893

BIG SCREEN/FLAT SCREEN TELEVISION

FAHRENHEIT 451 by Ray Bradbury (novel) 1951

CELL PHONES

“Dick Tracy” by Chester Gould (comic strip) 1946

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (TV series) 1964

STAR TREK (TV series) 1966

COMMUNICATION SATELLITES

“Extra-Terrestrial Relays” by Arthur C. Clarke (article) 1945

COMPUTERIZED AUTOMOBILES

THE DREAM MASTER by Roger Zelazny (novel) 1965

COMPUTERIZED EDUCATIONAL TOYS

“Mimsy Were the Borogroves” by Lewis Padgett (story) 1943

DIGITIZING THE WORLD’S BOOKS

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (TV series) 1965, Episode: The Ultimate Computer Affair

GPS TRACKING

SEARCH (TV series) 1972

THE INTERNET/SOCIAL NETWORKING

“The Machine Stops” by E.M. Forster (story) 1909

“Huddling Place” by Clifford Simak (story) 1944

MINIATURIZED VIDEO CAMERAS

SEARCH (TV series) 1972

PERSONAL COMPUTERS/ELECTRONIC BOOKS

“As We May Think” by Vannevar Bush (article) 1945

“The Fun They Had” by Isaac Asimov (story) 1951

“The Martian Shop” by Howard Fast (story) 1959

VIDEO SURVEILLANCE

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century by Philip Nowlan (comic strip) 1929

1984 by George Orwell (novel) 1949

     With the exception of Bradbury, what SF didn’t foresee was the seductiveness of these breakthroughs and how they would come to consume us. Science Fiction’s greatest failure was in not predicting the trivialization of technology.

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