• Total Nerd

7 Ways Star Trek Changed the World

Star Trek (the original series) was quite a progressive take on the future for a show filmed in a generation that wasn't as open minded as their future kin from a star date far, far away. In fact, Star Trek had an incredible cultural impact and many things people find common today actually originated on the classic sci-fi series.

Why is Star Trek so popular? That's not a rhetorical question, we actually have the answer: accessibility. Despite its reputation as nerd fodder, the original show was actually a tightly paced, archetypal, and cool exploration of a possible future of the human race.

Creator Gene Roddenberry was a visionary, and many of his predictions and ideas actually came true. What common place ideas and inventions that have changed the world came from Star Trek? Read through the list below to find out.
  • 1

    It Was a Civil Rights Pioneer

    Video: YouTube

    It’s no secret that miscegenation (interracial marriage) was kind of a big deal in the United States until very recently - as in, it was totally illegal for people of different races to marry until 1967. That's why it's so shocking to learn that just one year after the Supreme Court decision, the Star Trek episode "Plato's Stepchildren" featured the first ever interracial kiss on scripted TV in the US. It was so controversial, even on the set, that they had to shoot it twice - once where William Shatner (Kirk) and Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) kissed, and once where they didn't. But Shatner intentionally ruined the shot where they didn’t kiss, forcing the studio to use the other one.

    So what, right? It's not like the Star Trek cast was standing with the national guard outside Little Rock High School.

    But then again, consider that this was the last great step forward for interracial relationships in media. After that episode aired and the planet wasn’t immediately consumed by whatever apocalypse the detractors assumed would consume it, the cabal of ancient immortals that run network TV figured "okay, so we can have white dudes boning black chicks - but that's it." Forty five years later, and it's okay to have, say, Bob Thorton sleep with Halley Berry, but studio executives still think the country is terrified of black men and white women getting "intimate."

    Keep in mind, Uhura wasn’t a one-off character - she was a major part of the cast and a ranking officer in Star Fleet. So, not only did Star Trek take a big step forward, but it’s still probably one the biggest steps any show or film has taken since.

    There's also the little fact that Nichelle Nichols considered quitting the show at one point, because being the only black actor on a huge show in the 1960s totally sucked. She decided to stay when Martin Luther King, Jr., a man you don't exactly say "no" to, personally asked her to stay on the show, because she was such a good role model for young black girls - including Whoopi Goldberg, who cited Nichelle as her inspiration to get into acting.
  • 2

    It Basically Invented the Mobile Phone (and Quicktime)

    Photo: user uploaded image

    Science fiction makes predictions about the future all the time, but it's more rare for the future to consciously look at science fiction and say "let's do that." But with Star Trek, that's exactly what happened. Twice.

    A lot of people know that the flip-phone was actually invented by Star Trek, but if you're not among them then… hey, the flip phone was invented by Star Trek! Dr. Martin Cooper, inventor of the mobile phone, says that watching Captain Kirk yammer away on his communicator gave him the idea for a mobile phone, and later generations of "flip phones" imitated the iconic design.

    Also, the groundbreaking media program "Quicktime" was invented when Steve Perlman, a scientist at Apple, was watching an episode of Star Trek Generations in which a character listens to multiple tracks of music at once.

    Star Trek also invented the idea of a computer that was user-friendly, so it should come as no surprise that the first ever personal computer, the Altair 880, was named after a solar system from the Star Trek universe.
  • 3

    Star Trek Generations Was the First Film to Have a Website

    Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY
    This one seems like a no-brainer in hindsight, but it was actually a major step forward in marketing - not just for film, but for everything. We now live in a world where water bottle focused subsidiaries of the Coca Cola Company have their own websites and this phenomenon is more than a little due to Star Trek, because at some point a bunch of marketing people said "hey, Star Trek fans are nerds, nerds spend a lot of time on their computers exploring this internet thing, let's make an internet poster for Star Trek."
  • 4

    It Invented Nerd Rage

    Photo: user uploaded image

    Star Trek pre-dates Dungeons and Dragons. It predates video games. It predates superhero comic readers as a niche group. Star Trek nerds were the first major nerd subculture, meaning that every contemporary nerd subculture is taking its cues from the Trekkies. An iconic moment in this history has got to be when Leonard Nimoy received death threats after his character, Spock, died in The Wrath of Khan.

    As we all know, this "if an artist I like does something I don't like I can become angry" philosophy is now the trend, most recently exemplified by people attacking BioWare for writing the "wrong" ending for their Mass Effect franchise.