Sunday, July 24, 2011

How Star Trek artists imagined the iPad... 23 years ago

One interesting characteristic of Star Trek: The Next Generation—one that separated it from the original series and most of the early films—was its widespread use of smooth, flat, touch-based control panels throughout the Enterprise-D. This touch interface was also used for numerous portable devices known as PADDs, or Personal Access Display Devices. These mobile computing terminals bear a striking resemblance to Apple's iPad—a mobile computing device largely defined by its smooth, flat touchscreen interface.

To understand the thinking that led to the design of the Star Trek PADD, we spoke to some of the people involved in production of ST:TNG (as well as other Star Trek TV series and films), including Michael Okuda,Denise Okuda, and Doug Drexler. All three were involved in various aspects of production art for Star Trekproperties, including graphic design, set design, prop design, visual effects, art direction, and more. We also discussed their impressions of the iPad and how eerily similar it is to their vision of 24th century technology, how science fiction often influences technology, and what they believe is the future of human-machine interaction.



Drexler said that to him, the iPad is "eerily similar" to the PADDs used in Star Trek. "We always felt that the classic Okuda T-bar graphic was malleable, and that you could stretch and rearrange it to suit your task, just like the iPad," he said. "The PADD never had a keyboard as part of its casing, just like the iPad. Its geometry is almost exactly the same—the corner radius, the thickness, and overall rectangular shape."
"It's uncanny to have a PADD that really works," Drexler said, unlike the non-functional props made for the TV series and later films. "The iPad is the true Star Trek dream," Drexler told Ars.

http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2010/08/how-star-trek-artists-imagined-the-ipad-23-years-ago.ars

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