Artificial Intelligence History Software Engineering

Star Trek – 1966 AD

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Star Trek Premieres

Gene Roddenberry (1921–1991), William Shatner (b. 1931), Leonard Nimoy (1931–2015), Nichelle Nichols (b. 1932)

On September 8, 1966, the National Broadcasting Company (NBC®) premiered Star Trek, a new science-fiction television show by Gene Roddenberry. The show ran from 1966 to 1969 and would grow into the most influential science-fiction franchise in history, eventually spinning off 7 different TV shows, 13 movies, and more contributions to popular culture—“Beam me up, Scotty!”—than can be accurately measured.

At a time when war and fears of out-of-control technology were everyday fears, Star Trek showcased a vision of an alternative future in which humanity had evolved and overcome poverty and material needs, harnessing technology to overcome myriad challenges.

Computers and robots play important roles in many Star Trek episodes. The Enterprise is equipped with a ship’s computer that maintains massive information stores, offers universal accessibility throughout the ship, and responds to human commands by voice. Meanwhile, the crew encounters societies that make war by computer and civilizations ruled by computers, as well as robots that devour planets, send people back through time, or manifest in humanoid form.

The original series documented many firsts, including showing the first women in positions of authority, the first televised interracial kiss—Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Lieutenant Uhura (Nichelle Nichols)—and the first series of storylines that used the veil of science fiction to draw analogies to current events involving war and discrimination that TV censors of the day would have otherwise banned. Alien beings and a multiethnic bridge crew, including the alien Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), were often depicted working together to solve problems, drawing subtle comparisons to moral and ethical issues about the Vietnam War and women’s rights that were in the public’s consciousness at the time.

To this day, Star Trek’s vision of the future—“To boldly go where no man has gone before”—continues to inspire progress among scientists, engineers, artists, teachers, philosophers, and others.

SEE ALSO Artificial Intelligence Coined (1955), HAL 9000 Computer (1968)

Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley), Captain Kirk (William Shatner), and Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) on the transporter platform aboard Star Trek’s USS Enterprise.

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