Science Fiction has traditionally done a pretty good job of making us feel sad about not living in the future. We get a taste of some of the wondrous technology that might be available to our distant descendants, and then almost immediately are hurled back into our normal boring lives, which are full of toil, inconvenient menial tasks, and wasps. So much for progress.
But what we often fail to realise is that many modern technologies have actually gone far beyond anything Science Fiction was able to conjure up until comparatively recently. This often leads to the well-documented phenomenon of zeerust, in which the “futuristic” devices of SF past become so hopelessly dated that they appear amusingly quaint in hindsight. A particularly good example of this comes in the form of older depictions of “supercomputers” using tape reels and vacuum tubes. However, what may surprise you, gentle reader, is that some anachronisms that are still reasonably common in Science Fiction have escaped scrutiny almost entirely in the popular consciousness. Here are a few of our favourites.
1. Guns which fire bullets are the norm because they’re much more efficient than anything else
Almost every space-borne sci-fi show has some kind of energy-based weapon as the standard mechanism of combat between hostiles. In fact, lasers, phasers, and plasma guns are such an ingrained aspect of the genre in the eyes of some that it becomes slightly odd when they’re omitted (as in the remake of Battlestar Galactica). Some people remain disappointed that we haven’t abandoned traditional guns in favour of the more psychedelic option, but there’s a very good reason we haven’t.
First of all, the technology to create weapons-grade lasers has existed for some time, but it is ludicrously inefficient and has a bad habit of setting the air around the weapon’s firing line on fire. Likewise, “plasma” has the disadvantage of being essentially very hot gas, and being about as aimable and shootable as steam. Meanwhile, projectile-based guns are easy and cheap to make, and extremely good at killing things. As more knowledge of how next-gen weapons work trickles down, this facet of the sci-fi trope library is beginning to see less and less of the light of day, with railguns, coil guns, and other mass-accelerator type devices taking their place.
2. While our spacecraft may look worse, they are a lot better at actually being spacecraft
Discerning casual viewers of space missions will have noted that many of the things humans put into orbit or beyond are by no means easy on the eye. By comparison, many aircraft, along with the huge number of spaceships seen in TV and movie Science Fiction are sleek, smooth-edged things that are exceptionally pretty to look at. The very good reason behind this is that the sleek, smooth, aerodynamic models of fiction would be almost entirely useless outside of the atmosphere.
When you have an atmosphere around, it’s obviously to your advantage to make vehicles that are designed to move through it efficiently, hence the concept of “aerodynamic” design. However, out in space, where there is no atmosphere to steer against and nothing much at all producing friction, aerodynamics isn’t likely to get you very far. Craft like the moon lander look so ungainly and ugly precisely because they’ve been designed to be efficiently propelled by rockets, which are the only motive force currently available to us. So future spacecraft are likely to be more ‘Red Dwarf’ and less ‘Starship Enterprise’. The sole exceptions are space shuttles, which have been designed with some basic aerodynamic considerations in mind because they need to be able to fly through the atmosphere in order to land.
3. Our handheld computers are much better than most iconic fictional examples
Admittedly, this one feels like a bit of a cheat, since laptops, tablets and ultrabooks are now produced by dozens of manufacturers and a lot of these devices are a recent phenomenon. It’s difficult to blame shows like Star Trek for not anticipating them. But even our most recent science fiction forays have been prone to misrepresenting the power of handheld devices: They are either depicted as specialist equipment or bulky and inelegant. In reality, a properly configured tablet or smartphone can actually harness the same technology as their sedentary equivalents.
With a little bit of work, you can even double-head your computer setup in such a way that you can achieve the same effect seen with the handheld computer in this scene at the beginning of Avatar (ironically released within a few months of the first true tablets becoming commercially available). Our touchscreens are also sensitive and advanced enough to replicate effects seen in films like Minority Report, but we’ve done one better than the movies again in that we haven’t stapled them to a wall, so it’s actually possible to use them while sitting down, and without Tom’s ‘special gloves’.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that the dreamers of Hollywood don’t influence real world design. Would we have had the ‘clam-shell’ mobile phone without the original Star Trek communicator, or the iPad without Star Trek’s PADD? Maybe… But I can’t help thinking that people that designed those products must have been influenced by the TV shows and movies they saw in their youth. You only have to look at NASA to see that it did have some effect. After all, what was the name of the first space shuttle?.. Enterprise.
Apple are on the verge of releasing another iPhone, set out to be the iPhone 5 according to all reports, but could they surprise us with a “New iPhone” branding like they do with the “iPad 3″?
Of course, with a new release we have to think about the prices for our old iPhones. The panic button doesn’t need to be pressed just yet, but prices are expected to continue falling on iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S devices in the run up to the new release.
So what does this mean for us? Well, we need to keep an eye on prices and the best way to do that is to make full use of a comparison website such as SellMyMobile.com who are constantly keeping an eye on current prices.
If you want to get rid of your iPhone now, and not run the risk of keeping it and losing value, then there are a few places that you can try to sell it at.
Already mentioned earlier on in this article. Sell My Mobile are a price comparison website who compare all the leading UK recycling companies such as Mazuma and Envirofone. The best part about using these guys is that you don’t have to pay listing or final value fees. So the price quoted is the price you get paid.
An old favourite for many of us. With eBay you can get more back for your phone, however you run the risk of getting less. You also have insertion fees and final value fees to pay. Posting your item can also take time.
Here you can list an item with a set price, on a marketplace that serves 162 million customers worldwide. However the costs can be high if the item is sold and it can also take time for it to be sold. Other than that Amazon can get you the exact price you want.
Overall, each site has its positive and its negative points, but if you are looking to sell your iPhone then SellMyMobile.com comes in at the top of the list as the benefits outweigh the rest.
Really, what more can we say that hasn’t already been said. The world has lost a genuine visionary.
You will be very sadly missed.
“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs
Just been sent a link to this great little free iPhone game/app called Spinning Streak. It’s described as ‘a game of skill and balance’, where your purpose is to ‘become the most famous Spinning Streak act on the planet’.
The object of the game is to keep the coins spinning on the poles by flicking the screen. The longer you can keep them going, the more points you get. Like a lot of iPhone apps, it’s a pretty simple premise, but also amazingly addictive. As you improve, you move up through the ranks, performing at various locations, until you manage to reach the ultimate goal of spinning your coins in Las Vegas.
Spinning Streak is a great little free and fun app which runs on all flavours of iPhone.
My guess would be, at this very moment, at least one Apple employee is becoming an ex-Apple employee, after this seeingly genuine prototype of the brand new iPhone was lost in a bar in Redwood City… And then handed in, not to Apple, but tech site Gizmondo… (The rest of Apple employees I suspect are cowering in corners as Steve Jobs hurls furniture around the office in a blind rage.)
After some close examination, including taking it apart, the phone (which was camouflaged in a case to look like an normal iPhone 3GS) appears to be the real deal.
New features include a front-facing video chat camera, Improved regular back-camera with flash (unfortunately, not the flash we all want on the iPhone, but still nice), a switch to Micro-SIM, improved display, and a bunch of changes to the layout and buttons.
BBC have a great article where they took away a 13yr old boy’s iPod, and gave him a classic Sony Walkman instead.
Born in 1996 (the year i graduated… i feel so old…) this was pretty much the first time young Scott Campbell had needed to deal with old analogue technology, particularly the staple of my youth, the humble home audio tape, producing my favourite remark from the article:
“It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape.”