Category Archives: Science Fiction

Notes: Television – “Window to the Future”

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In the 1920s, television was not just a new, futuristic technology; it became a symbol of the future itself. The print ads and magazine covers of the day celebrated the advent of TV with breathless descriptions of new developments and potential video services that were coming “Soon!” or even just “Maybe!” — such as this cover from “Radio News,” a very popular US periodical in its time. (Note that television was thought of as an add-on to radio in those days. Note also that it took nearly a hundred years for this magazine cover’s vision of getting medical care via audio-video transmissions to be realized, via a technology no one in the 1920s saw coming: the fusion of video and telephony that we call the “smart phone”.)

But television didn’t really take off until after World War II, and by the 1960s, when reasonably priced color sets from Japan began to swamp the global market, TV was such a normal part of industrial-world households that it called less and less attention to itself, as a technology. Ads for televisions focused more and more on the sensual experience it was there to provide. TV was no longer “the future” — it was “magic,” a “wonderland of color” and a “thrilling” window to a world of entertainment and distraction.

And occasionally, a window to visions of the future itself, for it was television that introduced the world to Star Trek — the first  series built around an imagined future where humans had conquered the galaxy with starships.

The original 1960s series “Star Trek.” Collage with images courtesy Wikipedia.

Source: Window to the Future: The Golden Age of Television Marketing and Advertising, by Steve Kosareff, Chronicle Books, 2003

Note: Science Fiction film titles

Apple’s iTunes service had over 2,500 films available under the category of science fiction when I last checked. I ran an analysis of the most common words in the titles of those films, and here were the top 10 results, in order of frequency (not counting franchise series titles, like Marvel’s “Agents of Shield”):

  1. Time
  2. Man
  3. Earth
  4. Unknown
  5. Dark
  6. Alien
  7. Star
  8. Space
  9. Planet
  10. World

The word “Future” was much farther down the list, coming after words like “Dead”, “Apocalypse,” and even “Spielberg”. (I also looked at film director names.)

Based on that list, here is the ultimate science fiction movie title:

“The Time of Man on Earth: the Unknown Dark — like an Alien Star in Space — How our Planet became a World.”

It almost makes sense — and almost sounds like a summary of how some people view the era of humanity’s ascendancy on the “Third Rock from the Sun.”