Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Michael Okuda

So, I'm thinking about getting a new phone very soon. After much shopping around for all the things I both need and want, I think it's going to be the LG "Vu":

One of the things I want (notice, not need, but want) is a touch screen. They look like a lot of fun.

What I'm really interested in, though, is where the touch screen started. We've had them for a while now, and they seemed like a logical step forward, but I do remember a time (and some of you might, too) when nothing like that existed. So where did the touch screen come from?

I don't have a lot of research to back this up, but it seems to me a lot of the impetus comes from a production designer named Michael Okuda and his giant leap forward for the Star Trek franchise, the okudagram. Remember that show started in 1987, and from jump it wasn't the characterization or acting that set the show apart (those things came later), it was the new technology. The touch screen controls were a big part of that. In case you forgot how that looked, here's a reminder:

Within universe, this touch screen system tied in to the central computer is called the LCARS. I remember as a kid the first time I saw someone on this show touch their finger to a piece of glass and heard the responding beep; I was amazed. I remember talking to my friend Carl, both of us unrepentant geeks of the 7th grade persuasion, and saying "someday." For those that want to continue to let their geek flag fly, there's even an LCARS skin interface for iPod Touch and iPhone.

I think it's a fantastic technology, and I'm glad it's around. I just wish maybe more people would pin it back to the person who, it seems to me, inspired the move toward the revolution.

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