Takei asteroid riff: why science fiction writers are the true tech visionaries

John Shinal · October 4, 2007 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/67

Yes, I know Silicon Valley gets credit for being the cradle of high tech innovation, thanks to Dave Packard's garage, the Fairchild Eight, Jobs and Woz and all that. But if you're talking about the long-term visionary thing for consumer tech products, you've got to give some propers to Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.  


I write this after hearing that an asteroid between Mars and Jupiter has been renamed for George Takei, in honor of his role as Lt. Sulu, the helmsman of the Starship Enterprise during the first Star Trek series.


Why the Committee on Small Body Nomenclature of the International Astronomical Union would bestow the honor on Takei, rather on Leonard Nimoy, who played an actual alien on the show, is beyond me. But of course this was the same group of scientists who last year demoted Pluto from planetary status, thereby convincing first-graders everywhere that nothing said by parents or teachers about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny OR THE SOLAR SYSTEM should ever be trusted.


Even Priceline.com pitchman, er, I mean, the Captain Kirk-playing William Shatner would have been more appropriate, given that he beamed down to alien planets many more times than Takei's Sulu. Or the eggheads at the CSBN of the IAU could have named a second asteroid after Roddenberry, a one-time LAPD cop who learned to write TV scripts by alternately watching the idiot box with the sound off and listening to it from another room.


Roddenberry was first to market in tech several product categories that later went mainstream. A decade before the Steves at Apple rolled out their first desktop PC, Roddenberry outiftted Kirk, Spock and the gang with networked desktops using floppy disks, mobile handsets with built-in GPS locators and a killer flat-panel screen for the bridge whose bold images Sony and Sanyo still can't match.


In so doing, Roddenberry was carrying on a tradition going back to Chester Gould, the creator of Dick Tracy, whose radio embodied the idea of multiple functionality 80 years before the BlackBerry or the iPhone. 


I have no doubt that in some future operating room somewhere, a physisican using a hand-held scanner similar to Dr. McCoy's is going to repeat his immortal words in Star Trek 3: "My god man, drilling holes in his head isn't the answer."


And just in case you doubt whether Takei was the right man for the honor, check out the quote he provided the Associated Press upon hearing of it: "I am now a heavenly body...I found out about it yesterday. It came out of the clear, blue sky - just like an asteroid."


Compare that to "Our mission is to boldly go where no man has gone before" (or "no one," to use the politically-correct version written for Star Trek: Next Generation).


I rest my case. Roddenberry's estate, as well as Shatner and Nimoy, should look into this.

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