Friday, August 27, 2010

Clunky Star Wars Tech

When Star Wars first came out in the late 70’s, I remember being amazed with its technological marvels. And indeed, there is a lot to admire. Faster than light starships? Moon-sized space stations? Anti-gravity cars? Blasters? Holographic cameras? All of these are awesomely cool, and most of them hold up very well, even today.

But what Star Wars (and so many other science fiction films) really underestimated was the rapid development of personal electronics. Yes, in the late 70’s, the idea of a palm-sized ‘comlink’ was pretty awesome. I mean, back then, we still had rotary phones! But looking at it through modern eyes? Wow. Okay, so all it can do is transmit voice messages? Lame. The modern blackberry or iPhone is a hell of a lot more ‘futuristic’ than the comlinks we see in Star Wars— even in the prequels. Voice, text, even visual images can be exchanged, to say nothing of the plethora of ‘apps’ that turn a ‘phone’ into an entertainment center, a link to the world-wide computer network, a GPS device, etc., etc.

The same can be said for the computers shown in the movies and the ‘datapads’ and ‘portable computers’ introduced in the RPG. PDAs and more modern things like iPads kind of put these to shame. For instance, just about every picture of a datapad in the various books had an integral keypad or controls of some sort. Nobody must have thought of touch screens. Display screens for computers- especially those in the original trilogy- are almost laughably simplistic to modern eyes. For instance, the targeting displays in the Starfighters in Episode IV. Just silly.

And then there is the whole wireless revolution. Seriously? Does a droid need to ‘plug in’ to a computer console to interface with it? Maybe if it was a secure console, yes. So okay, that would explain the Death Star being locked down. But in other instances? Why couldn’t R2-D2 interface with public terminals just by making comlink-contact with them?

As I continue to work on my overall sourcebook I am faced with the decision of either keeping things the way they were shown in the movies or of ‘updating’ them to what we’re used to in ‘real life’. To a certain extent, this kind of updating was already underway during West End games run with the franchise. The galaxy-wide ‘information net’ for instance was (I believe) introduced in their gaming materials- an analogue to the world wide web. So there is at least some precedent in ‘updating’ the tech. I mean, afterall, just because we only ever see them talking into their comlinks doesn’t mean that they weren’t capable of other functions, it just means we never SAW those other functions…right? Works for me anyway.

So I guess that answers my question, going to update the functionality of some tech so that it doesn’t seem so.. clunky in comparison to what we have here on Earth. And yes, I know Star Wars was supposed to be “A long time ago”, but I also think that people who figured out how to fly between stars could make an iPhone, too.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe it was just lowly storm troopers who had voice-only com links, on par with their piss-poor body armor and blasters that can't hit the side of a barn from the inside.

    I could kind of see the wireless being secure, shielded, or even off (to some systems) during wartime, and because the Empire were paranoid control freaks. I look at droids accessing systems directly as an anonymous, back-door method to gain information.