fandom, Star Trek, technology


iPad mania, predictably, is sweeping the tech journalism community, even among those mercenary hacks who dutifully dismissed the device before ever using it. Most of the latter are now either eagerly playing with their new iPad or eagerly awaiting the UPS delivery truck. I’ll bet most of them will have a tough time coming up with original reasons to complain about whatever it doesn’t do. I await the tepid, half-assed copycat devices which will inevitably follow over the coming year.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that I’m an ardent fan of a certain popular television entertainment franchise that has a relatively durable forty-four-year history. I admire the accomplishments of this franchise because of the skill involved in some of the stories it has told us since it first appeared in 1966. But whenever the writing may have been lacking, the production design was not. Regardless of the budget, dozens of creative professionals collaborated to create a fictional world whose verisimilitude lent enormous credibility to plots that often failed to meet those same standards.

Star Trek had great visual appeal for viewers in its day, because a great deal of thought was put into its visual design. The series somehow survived cancellation. 1966 begat 1979. Art Director Matt Jefferies begat Michael Okuda. What had begun as stagecraft engineered with blinking Christmas lights and plywood became more sophisticated computer-generated transparencies and early computer-animated graphics.

Mr. Okuda designed fictional control user interfaces for technology that did not exist — could not exist — by drawing upon both his fan-based ardor for the tv series and his professional training. He did something important for science fiction fans. He communicated the way the controls for a fictional computer system might aid actors in their consistent depiction of characters working within an environment that relied upon such consistency.

His work did not go unnoticed. We know this, because we’ve had iPhones for several years now, and we know how an intuitively obvious, remarkably simple and functional software-configured control system should work, thanks to designers who were in part inspired by this earlier work of dramatic fiction.

Today the iPad was released to considerable legitimate enthusiasm for the same reasons.

The legacy of excellent work done by Mr. Okuda, Jim van Over, and many others is now in the hands of consumers, where it was always supposed to be.

My enthusiasm for such accomplishment transcends my restraint. Please pardon my continuing graphic-designer adoration and my fandom-driven rhetoric. It’s long been my opinion that Star Trek’s Library Computer Access and Retrieval System is a direct retro-continuity-lineal descendant of whatever version of Apple exists in the Trekverse. Daystrom Industries merely built the hardware. Apple Interstellar designed the working interface.


2 thoughts on “Lineage.

  1. As a fellow Star Trek fan of many many years, let me just say that I echo your sentiments here. And also add that when I saw that someone had put together a PADD app for the iPad, I squealed aloud. I also then looked at my credit card to see if I could sneak one on there. No luck. I have to wait.

    • moeskido says:

      Howdy, Brian.

      My sloppy provenance aside, I genuinely believe that there is some serious Trek fan love at the top of Apple’s managerial food chain. Jobs knows a good metaphor when he sees it.

      The iPad is looking damn good. Being a late adopter of almost everything, I hope to own one at some point next year.

      And I can’t give enough praise to the latter-day creatives who worked on the franchise in its last several tv incarnations. Mr. Okuda himself has come full-circle, having designed mission logos for NASA itself. There is no disputing the shared DNA these groups possess.

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