My Turn

Compu-Analyzing a TV Classic: Where No One Has Gone Before

Tom Gabriel - 2001.06.04

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

If TV Characters Used Real Computers got me to thinking about one of my own favorite TV (and movie) genres, science fiction, which of course has a great deal to do with computers and the future. Of course I gravitated toward television's greatest sci-fi saga, parent of spinoff, imitations, and series that would never have seen the light of day if it had not made such a great impression on the imagination of the public. I refer, of course, to Star Trek, both TV series and films.

Having considered this show, its influence, and the veritable universe it has created around itself, I have come to a conclusion which should gladden the hearts of Mac users and Mac partisans everywhere. It is verifiable and logical - even by Vulcan standards.

The technological and personal future of humanity undeniably belongs to the Macintosh.

Consider: in the best film of the Star Trek motion picture series, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, the crew of the Enterprise has traveled back in time to the late 1980s to bring humpback whales into the future so they can talk to a space probe that can only understand their language patterns. The probe is wreaking havoc with Earth's weather.

They must find a way to fabricate a light, strong material to line the area in the starship where the whales will be kept, and Mac Plus in Star Trekso Scotty and Dr. McCoy arrive at a fabrication facility in San Francisco, masquerading as a genius engineer and his assistant from Europe, there to collaborate on production of a new alloy. The people at the facility are skeptical, but they allow Scotty to use their computer to draw up fabrication instructions. After first mistaking the mouse for a microphone, Scotty gets immediately to work and produces instructions and blueprints within a minute or so.

Guess what computer he was using? One of the early Macintosh all-in-ones (it's in the closing credits). It was fast, flexible, and efficient. It didn't crash when Scotty entered information so quickly that the twentieth-century people watching were astonished. In short, the movie Mac behaved just like Macs do in real life.

In the Star Trek universe, a Macintosh helped save the Earth from destruction. But consider also how quickly Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott was able to adapt to the (for him, and perhaps now for us) ancient computer's operating system and do his work!

I submit that this is because the operating system Scotty was accustomed to using in the future could only be a direct descendant of the OS he was called upon to use in the 20th century on that little compact Mac: easy, friendly, intuitive, and powerful.

Windows of the 23rd century? Hardly.

2001: A Space Odyssey showed the more cautionary attitude necessary for using Windows on outer space missions, presenting the psychotic break experienced by HAL (read: IBM) the computer. Most Windows users have experienced the same or similar: the PC freezes, stops what it's supposed to be doing, and won't really tell you why. The cryptic Windows error message of today is the "Dave, I don't see anything wrong with what I've done" of tomorrow.

No, the ship's computer would have to be responsive, powerful, flexible, up to any challenge, and possess a degree of sophisticated operation that would all but guarantee no possibly lethal temper tantrums.

It could only be a 23rd century version of the Mac OS (perhaps Mac OS XXIII)?

This tells us beyond any reasonable doubt that the future - the best future, as exemplified by the Star Trek universe - belongs to the Macintosh. Look at the Mac you use, whether it be an old compact or Quadra, a Power Mac 6100, 9600, an iMac, or the blazingly-fastest G4 presently being made, and realize that the genius responsible for this computer and operating system has to be the one to take humankind where no one has gone before - and back again. This will allow all of us, and the future itself, to live long and prosper.

Straightforwardly and supremely logical.

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