Today’s iPad is not so very different from Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Personal Access Display Device (PADD).
Science fiction often influences the development of new technology and in the case of the communicator and the PADD, fans today can see that with flip cellphones and the Apple iPad.
Michael and Denise Okuda and Doug Drexler, all of whom were involved in production art for Star Trek, spoke about the similarities between the “futuristic” gadgets of yesterday and today’s counterparts. “”Going back to the original series, when you look at forty-five years ago, look at the communicator they used,” said Denise Okuda. “Then fast forward and look at what we are using today: flip phones.” It’s really mind-blowing when you look at things today, like the iPad—we were using those things on Star Trek.”
The touchscreen PADDs designed for The Next Generation were meant to replace the original series “electronic clipboards.” “The idea was that we wanted to make them sleeker, slimmer, and way more advanced than the electronic clipboards were on the original series,” explained Michael Okuda.
Budgetary concerns drove the development of the graphic Okudagrams and the PADD. “The initial motivation for that was in fact cost,” said Okuda. “Doing it purely as a graphic was considerably less expensive than buying electronic components.”
Okuda began to think about how the PADD would actually work if it was real. “But very quickly we began to realize—as we figured out how these things would work and how someone would operate them, people would come to me and say, ‘What happens if I need to do this?’ Perhaps it was some action I hadn’t thought of, and we didn’t have a specific control for that. And I realized the proper answer to that was, ‘It’s in the software.’ All the things we needed could be software-definable.”
Drexler listed gadgets of today that were probably influenced by Star Trek. “Swiss army knife-like cell phones, wall-sized TV screens a quarter of an inch thick, GPS devices that nag you with voice, body scanners at airports, voice recognition, remotely operated fighter planes [and] surgical robots,” he said.
What will tomorrow bring? “Once you don’t have to physically touch the screen,” said Michael Okuda, “I think yet another window is going to open up.”
Drexler sees something introduced in the Terminator movies as a possible future technology. “Interactive ocular HUD [head-up display]” he said.