Sci-fi has been ahead of the digital game for years, whether writers and directors were predicting the future or the people who eventually created the devices were influenced by the writers is an ongoing debate. In any case, here are 5 digital sci-fi predictions.

The iPad

Originally in: 2001: A space odyssey by Arthur C.Clarke (Novel, 1968)

Clarke 2001 Bk 1000

“When he tired of official reports and memoranda and minutes, he would plug in his foolscap-size newspad into the ship’s information circuit and scan the latest reports from Earth. One by one he would conjure up the world’s major electronic papers…Switching to the display unit’s short-term memory, he would hold the front page while he quickly searched the headlines and noted the items that interested him. Each had its own two-digit reference; when he punched that, the postage-stamp-size rectangle would expand until it neatly filled the screen and he could read it with comfort. When he had finished, he would flash back to the complete page and select a new subject for detailed examination…”

Video chat

Originally in: Ralph 124C 41+ by Hugo Gernsback (Novel, 1911)


“Stepping to the Telephot on the side of the wall, he pressed a group of buttons and in a few minutes the faceplate of the Telephot became luminous, revealing the face of a clean-shaven man about thirty, a pleasant but serious face. As soon as he recognized the face of Ralph in his own Telephot, he smiled and said, “Hello, Ralph.” “Hello, Edward. I wanted to ask you if you could come over to the laboratory tomorrow morning. I have something unusually interesting to show you. Look!” He stepped to one side of his instrument so that his friend could see the apparatus on the table about ten feet from the Telephot faceplate.”

Personalised in-store advertising

Originally in: Minority Report (Film, 2002)

Whilst Tesco’s petrol checkouts don’t know your name or purchase history like Minority Report’s, a recent update means new screens scan your face to determine your age and gender so they can advertise relevant products and get more sales. This is just the first step of in-store personalised advertising, soon we may be seeing scenes like these…

Print On Demand

Originally in: The Senator’s Daughter by Edward Page Mitchell (Short story, 1879)

“…an endless strip of printed paper, about three feet wide, was slowly issuing from between noiseless rollers and falling in neat folds into a willow basket placed on the floor to receive it. Mr. Wanlee bent his head over the broad strip of paper and began to read attentively.”

Digital publishing

Originally in: ‘Return From the Stars’ by Stanislaw Lem’s (Novel, 1961)


“The bookstore resembled, instead, an electronic laboratory. The books were crystals with recorded contents. They can be read the aid of an opton, which was similar to a book but had only one page between the covers. At a touch, successive pages of the text appeared on it. But optons were little used, the sales-robot told me. The public preferred lectons – like lectons read out loud, they could be set to any voice, tempo, and modulation.”

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