It’s hard to believe, but 50 years ago, in 1966, the universe would never be the same after NBC debuted the Science-Fiction phenomenon known as Star Trek. Unless you live on a distant planet, you’ve probably heard of the cosmic exploits of Captain James T. Kirk and his crew of the starship Enterprise. Responsible for 13 movies and 726 episodes from its 6 televised series (so far), Star Trek is credited with inspiring several real-world technologies, from medical diagnostic instruments to tractor beams. Of all the incredible technology inspired by the series, the greatest has to be the one that most-helped Kirk boldly go where no man has gone before… Universal Translators (UTs).
Let’s look at some of Sci-Fi’s other attempts at bridging the language barrier.
Stardate 1945: “First Contact”
Prolific Sci-Fi author of 1500+ articles and short stories, Murray Leinster (1896-1975) is credited with the first use of UTs in his novella “First Contact,” originally published in 1945.
Stardate 1977: C3PO is “A New Hope”
Not to start any fights, but a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, we learned that human-cyborg relations droids are the real OGs of UTs. By 1983’s Return of the Jedi, C-3PO was boasting about being fluent in more than 6-million, but mostly whiny, forms of communication.
Stardate 1979: The Answer to Everything Isn’t 42?
Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series uses “the poor Babel fish” to translate languages. According to Adams, the Babel fish is probably the oldest thing in the universe, somehow both proves and disproves the existence of God, and has “caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.”
Stardate 2017: IndieGoGo “Pilot”
Promising to change “being lost in translation,” Waverly Labs’ crowd-funded “Pilot” earbuds use Bluetooth technology to instantly hear and translate between multiple languages. Raising nearly $3 million dollars during its campaign, pre-orders are expected to ship by mid-2017. The future is here, folks.
Let us know which Sci-Fi tech you’re looking forward to. And stay tuned for next week’s blog post: Students Lend a Hand (Gesture) to the Future!