Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Old Science Fiction Books

It can be rather interesting when reading science fiction written many years ago to consider what things mentioned in the book that were considered part of the SF setting at the time the book was written that are simply a part of our everyday life now. Consider for example Robert Heinlein’s book “Space Cadet” where in the opening pages one of the main characters calls his father on his phone and another main character mentions having packed his in his bag. On reading this now you might wonder why he didn’t simply turn it off. Of course the book was written several decades before the first mobile phone. Later in the same book they send their phones home because they would be out of range from space. Of course you wouldn’t do that with today’s phones because even if you can’t use it as a phone you could still use it as a computer – something that is completely missing from the book even though computers were invented long before the book was written.

Another of Heinlein’s books, “Waldo” is in some ways even more interesting in that one of the main aspects to the story is that radiation from transmissions that we ourselves make might be harmful to us. The story discusses radio transmission of power but it closely parallels the real world concerns about transmissions for mobile communications. Of course that book also directly influenced the name given to another device mentioned in the story that didn’t exist at the time but which has since been created for real. Both in the book and now in the real world those devices are named after the title character of the book.

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