I have a very vivid memory from my childhood. I think it was sometime in the seventies, maybe early, maybe late, let’s just say it was a long time ago. It was after dinner early in the evening. My Mom, Dad and younger Brother all sat down to watch Star Trek. I had a key role to play. My brother and I would lie on the floor in front of the TV; my job was to tap the tuning dial when the picture started to get out of whack.
I know it is hard to imagine, but back then TV was broadcast over the air using radio waves. The Television actually had a tuner that had to be set to the proper channel. These old style tuners were actually variable capacitors that were adjusted to frequency of that channels broadcast. I found this out much later when I got a chance to open up the TV and help my Dad change a burnt out tube. I know that there many of people who don’t have a clue as to what a variable capacitor, or tube is all about. The point is that after a period of time, for one reason or another, the picture of the TV slowly went fuzzy as the variable capacitor changed position. My job was to tap the tuner. For some reason I had the magic touch and could bring the picture into perfect focus with a single touch.
Anyway, I am getting off topic and showing my age a bit more than I intended. My point is that I have been a big fan of Star Trek since the very biggining.
I used to marvel at the gadgets on Star Trek. I loved the idea of a big flat view screen. Or a little TV on the Tricorder that could play information, pictures, or even video! The communicators were especially appealing. I loved the idea that somehow all the captain had to do was open the lid and start talking. Somehow the little device knows who he wanted to talk to! I actually thought that was how it worked, rather than just a simplification of script. For some reason it was the small gadgets that really fascinated me. To me the aliens, star ships, and faster than light travel was kind of secondary to the technology they used every day.
Last night I was sitting in my backyard watching Star Trek on my iPad using Net-Flix. That’s when it seemed to come full circle. I didn’t have a tape, or disk, or wires, just a little device that is essentially all screen. It sits on my lap and plays my favourite episodes while I sip on a glass of whiskey and listen to the thunder off in the distance.
I get a call during the show from a friend, I pause the show just as Kirk opens his communicator to call the ship. While I am talking to my friend I notice that my phone and Kirks communicator are remarkably similar.
It made me think back to the days lying on the carpet watching the show with my parents. A lot of the Star Trek universe that I found most fascinating has already come true. The big flat screen, the Tricorder, and the communicator are all real life examples of everyday devices that were only fantasy props when I was a kid. There is only one thing left to make my dreams from my childhood complete.
I want a phaser.