Science Fiction Timeline of Inventions


143 points | by raleighm 7 days ago


  • greggman3 6 days ago

    It's hard to find the first reference of each idea.

    I remember some picture floating around showing Star Trek as inspiration for cellphones, tablets, augmented displays, video calling

    but the creators were not aware all of those things existed long before.

    • analog31 6 days ago

      While the patent system has its flaws, one good concept is that a patent requires not only an idea, but a credible recipe for reducing the idea to practice. As such, few of the ideas in science fiction are actual inventions.

      At the workplace, someone will often suggest something at a meeting, or to a subordinate, and claim "credit" for it later on. My rule of thumb is that credit goes to the person who actually made it happen, because that person had to work out whether it was feasible or not. Ideas are a dime a dozen.

      • the8472 6 days ago

        > but a credible recipe for reducing the idea to practice

        So, where can I buy those inertial mass dampeners? Some chinese knockoffs would be fine too.

        • _ph_ 6 days ago

          I think you are wrong. Ideas are a dime a dozen, good ideas are not. Ideas, which can be put into something useful. Yes, bringing an idea to life is also important, and often credit belongs to the person who does. But on the other side, there are plenty ideas, which once being had, are trivial to put into production.

          So credit belongs to all involved people. Sometimes it is more the execution, sometimes it is the idea by itself. And very often, it is a process of iteration. Having an idea, implementing it, augmenting the idea and implement that.

      • hirundo 6 days ago

        I recently discovered that Jules Verne's Nautilus (1875) was named after the "first practical submarine", designed and built by Robert Fulton (later a steamboat designer) and first tested in 1800. Fulton built the submarine as a delivery device for the torpedoes he also invented, and tried to sell the weapons system to Napoleon to counter the dominant British fleet.

        So while Verne is one of the great scifi inventors of all time, his submarine was an homage to an older invention, dialed up to eleven.

        I wonder if there is another timeline somewhere of inventions that no science fiction story ever anticipated. It may be a shorter list.

        • aspenmayer 6 days ago

          This is cool. Reminds me of Orion’s Arm, a kind of collaborative hard sci-fi world building exercise that pulls from any and all sources.

          Then there’s this:

          ATOMIC ROCKETSHIPS OF THE SPACE PATROL or "So You Wanna Build A Rocket?"

          • This is great from many perspectives... Futurists would like it; other science fiction writers would like it, philosophers, particularly philosophers about technology would like it (and even would-be future comedy-about-technology writers such as yours truly, would find inspiration in it!)...

            A fascinating and inspiring collection of ideas! Worth re-visiting at various intervals in the future!

            • neoplatonian 6 days ago

              I think such articles underestimate the ingenuity and detailing that goes into inventions. The idea represented by the science fiction and its execution by science are not the same thing. Case in Point: The dream of human flight must have existed ever since man first looked up at the sky and found it beyond his reach. But to say ancient humans came up with the idea and Da Vinci executed it (unsuccessfully) would be either belittling Da Vinci's designs or the thought and imagination that went into them. Better to say ancients had some idea (Hindus with flying chariots, Greeks with wings stuck-on with wax etc.), Da vinci had some other idea, and Wright Brothers an altogether different one.

              • Flenser 5 days ago

                This entry on workplace distancing is apropos:


                • illuminated 6 days ago

                  The moving picture player, by H.G. Wells, from 1899 is definitely intriguing:

                  • codingdave 6 days ago

                    Edison had already invented it (sans sound) and was publicly showing films a few years before that.

                    Seeing the timing in sci-fi remains interesting. But quite a few items on this list are responses to inventions, not newly conceived concepts. I'd be interested in seeing a breakdown of which ideas were first conceived in fiction.

                    • Tagbert 6 days ago

                      And Edison’s work was based on Lumière‘s Cinematographe and before that, the Zoöpraxiscope which was proceeded by the Zoetrope. Each one took and idea and developed it in ways that made improvements. This is how invention actually works, not the sudden inspiration of the lone inventor who deserves full credit. It is a serial process of inspiration and enhancements that over time produce progress.

                      • illuminated 6 days ago

                        Didn't know that, thanks.

                    • Anon4Now 6 days ago

                      The movie Impostor doesn't get enough credit. The personalized ads credited to Minority Report appeared a year before in Impostor. Both were based on Philip Dick works, so maybe he was the genesis for both.

                      • KineticLensman 6 days ago

                        Interesting. Just as a test I decided to see it it included concepts as well as SF devices, and it did indeed include 'flashcrowd' (Larry Niven in 1972) and 'worm' (John Brunner, 1975).