Some days ago, Stanley Kubricks epic science fiction movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” created in 1968 and based on Arthur C. Clarke’s novel “The Sentinel” was broadcasted on my TV.

2001: A Space Odyssey
2001: A Space Odyssey

As usual when this happens I had to watch it. This time, I remembered a blog post from boingboing.net pointing out that there are some tablet devices visible in this movie. So I took a closer look at these machines.

There is this scene where the journey to Jupiter begins, where the mysterious super computer HAL 9000 is introduced and where we can see how the astronauts Dr. David Bowman and Dr. Francis “Frank” Poole live on board of their spaceship “Discovery One”, while three other passengers lie in “cryogenic hibernation”. These two guys are jogging a around, checking ship controls and, of course, eating lunch. And while they are eating a not very appetizing looking meal, they are staring into some flat devices, where a BBC story is on display.

As you can read in a text bit in the boingboing.net article and on the linked blog post from Steve Sande on tuaw.com, Arthur C. Clarke had a very clear idea of a device that can display TV or movies AND can be used to read electronical editions of newspapers. He called it the Newspad. The fact that this idea was written down around 1968, years before personal computers began spreading all over the world and more than 40 years before the iPad and all the other tablets became reality, is pretty amazing for me.

It is also interesting that this scene shows a typical situation where one can use a tablet computer: Turn it on, connect to the net and put it on the table beside your lunch or your breakfast as you would do with a newspaper. This is a scene that comes to reality now, as we stand at the begining of the tablet age. In thousands of households similar scenes will be observed: People eating and staring on a tablet device the same time. This was a really visionairy shot in Kubrick’s Space Odyssey. A situation out of the future, not from 2001 but from 2010.

This scene reminds me of another really important characteristic a good tablet device, designed for everyday use, should have: It must be easy to clean. Because sooner or later you will blot your device with marmelade, soup or other stuff dropped in a short moment of inattention. This might even be one of the most important features. Future user experience will show if I am right with this thesis…

Arthur C. Clarke had the right idea of how a part of the future will develop. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the idea of such a device is even older. Maybe other Sci-Fi authors had written about it earlier. If you know such a novel where tablet like computers or screen devices are described, let me know in the comments…

If you like to view Clarke’s Newspad in action, head over to youtube to watch some short bits of the original scenes at the beginning of this clip (9:55).

Android Tablet

There is this scene where the journey to Jupiter begins, where the mysterious super computer HAL 9000 is introduced and where we can see how the astronauts Dr. David Bowman and Dr. Francis “Frank” Poole live on board of their spaceship “Discovery One”, while three other passengers spend the travelling time in “cryogenic hibernation”. These two guys are jogging a around, checking ship controls and, of course, eating lunch. And while they are eating a not very appetizing looking meal, they are staring into some flat devices, where a BBC television story is on display.