Star Trek premiered on NBC TV on September 8, 1966… 56 years ago. It is my favorite show; I was glued to the TV for the first episode and every one after that. It significantly influenced my life and my choice of a career in technology.
An Optimistic Future
The show represented an optimistic vision of the future where challenges of poverty and hunger had been addressed. But many other issues — relevant to the ’60s — were depicted as still being wrestled with centuries into the future. Set circa A.D. 2266–2269, it is just over the horizon. The Original Series showed a utopian view of science fiction that is somewhat different from current dystopian Sci-Fi movies and television today. And the franchise is still creating new shows, as I’ll describe below.
Star Trek did not just envision the future; it imagined and helped drive it. It inspired generations of scientists, engineers, and technologists like me around the world. Many scientists today will say that Star Trek influenced the projects they are working on, especially in space exploration, physics, optics, electronics, computing, and communication — as I’ll recount near the end of this article.
Though the original show ended in 1969, the dream of exploration did not die. It lived on: six weeks later, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Moon: one small step for man… where no man had gone before.
In 2004, when Armstrong was the keynote speaker during the “Beam Me Up One Last Time, Scotty” convention honoring James Doohan, who had gotten a star on the Walk of Fame, the Moon astronaut said:
“So, I’m hoping for my next command, to be given a Federation starship. And, when I get that command, I would like to have a crew like Captain James T. Kirk had. Spock and Chekov and Uhura and Dr. McCoy and Sulu and the others we all remember.
“Now I have a confession to make. I am an engineer. And if I get that command, I want a chief engineering officer like Montgomery Scott. Because I know Scotty will get the job done and do it right. Even if I often hear him say, ‘But Captain, I…