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Sci-Fi Science

30 Years of Star Wars Technology 146

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the everything-i-need-to-know-i-learned-from-star-wars dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Earlier this month, Computerworld Australia checked out the exhibition of 30 years of Star Wars history at Sydney's Powerhouse museum. They also have a pictorial look at what's on display: one of the largest collections of Star Wars memorabilia combined with real-life examples of how such technology is being applied for business and social advancement."
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30 Years of Star Wars Technology

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  • by sgt scrub (869860) <saintium@@@yahoo...com> on Friday December 26, 2008 @02:19PM (#26235897)

    It hasn't been 30 years. That would make me 30 + ...omfg! I'm freakin old!

  • by owlnation (858981) on Friday December 26, 2008 @02:28PM (#26235941)
    It hasn't been 30 years. It's been 31. The movie was released on 25th May 1977 in the US, and 27th October 1977 in Australia.
  • by fruviad (5032) on Friday December 26, 2008 @02:34PM (#26235967)

    I'd rather have a sonic screwdriver any day of the week...

    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by westlake (615356)
      I'd rather have a sonic screwdriver any day of the week...

      The thing is, the "everyday tech" you see in Star Wars or Star Trek does believable things in believable ways.

      The sonic screwdriver is nothing more than the all-purpose tool for the writer who has painted himself into a corner.

      • Which is of course totally different from when spock reconfigures his tricorder to emit a tachyon pulse which according the Star Trek physics has whatever effect is required to amazingly save the day.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by westlake (615356)
          Which is of course totally different from when spock reconfigures his tricorder...

          Star Trek makes three simplifying assumptions common to space opera: The FTL drive. Teleportation. Artificial Gravity.

          This draws viewers into your story quickly and cheaply without distractions.

          But once there reliance on technobabble is unforgivable. Firing off a gun within the tight confines of a spacecraft is lunatic.

          The energy weapon that can be powered down to disable but not kill - a sophisticated alternative to a Ta

      • For certain large and variable meanings of the word 'believable' sure.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The sonic screwdriver is nothing more than the all-purpose tool for the writer who has painted himself into a corner.

        How is THE FORCE any different?

        • by westlake (615356)
          How is THE FORCE any different?

          There is no difference - when The Force is being used - and abused - as nothing more than a Swiss Army Knife.

          In the mythology of Star Wars, the Force represents all the temptations of a corrupted and undisciplined mind:

          anything you can imagine -

          anything you can put into words - "I want her." - lies within reach.

          It is the wish fulfillment of the Krell machines in Forbidden Planet.

          The Genii of the Lamp.

          To use the power responsibly demands absolute mastery of self. Master

  • Star Wars tech? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by religious freak (1005821) on Friday December 26, 2008 @02:38PM (#26235997)
    I happen to like Star Wars, but in my mind it was never about the tech, at all, nor was it even about space. Star Wars is almost completely story driven, IMHO.

    Trek has the tech focus.

    /me runs away
    • by east coast (590680) on Friday December 26, 2008 @03:16PM (#26236193)
      I have to agree with you here from the tech aspect. There was no real tech. A car hovered because they said it did. No explanation was given. It's on the same level as a fairy tale with fairy dust.

      For that reason alone I disqualify Star Wars as sci-fi. There simply is no "sci" to it at all. Even terrible pseudo-science films like Dante's Peak and Deep Impact are miles ahead of Star Wars.
      • by Miseph (979059) on Friday December 26, 2008 @04:03PM (#26236431) Journal

        "For that reason alone I disqualify Star Wars as sci-fi. There simply is no "sci" to it at all. Even terrible pseudo-science films like Dante's Peak and Deep Impact are miles ahead of Star Wars."

        So sci-fi has to have crappy pseudo-science explanations for all of the vaporware contained therein? I guess that also disqualifies a book like Neuromancer from being sci-fi, since Gibson pretty much gives the explanation of "at some point in the future people figure out how to [implant cybernetics/write Turing Test passing AI/perfect human cloning/build sustainable space colonies/develop a full-immersion global VR network/defy the normal laws of electro-magnetic physics/create devices which allow the creation of full audio-visual illusions through the use of high powered and mind controlled lasers/work around human physiological operation to devise new forms of drug use/dozens of other non-trivial technological challenges] in some way... now quit asking useless questions and read the $%#@ing book!". So much for there being anything worth reading in THAT genre.

        Seriously, have you never just taken it for granted that certain technology "just works"? the car flies because that's something cars can do... the characters don't care how, in fact they barely care that it does at all; it's just a car, and their main concern is using it to get from point A to point B. I for one have absolutely no interest in sitting through a BS explanation every time something not currently possible happens on screen, but I would LOVE to just get on with the fucking movie.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by AK Marc (707885)
          Seriously, have you never just taken it for granted that certain technology "just works"? the car flies because that's something cars can do... the characters don't care how, in fact they barely care that it does at all; it's just a car, and their main concern is using it to get from point A to point B. I for one have absolutely no interest in sitting through a BS explanation every time something not currently possible happens on screen, but I would LOVE to just get on with the fucking movie.

          It's not nece
          • Sure I would say The Time Machine is sci-fi on two fronts.

            First is the most obvious matter of time travel. I guess this could be reduced to mere fantasy so I won't push the point.

            But secondly, as you said, it's partly about the industrialization of society at the time and Wells' outlook on where it had a potential to lead. This is the same reason that Neuromancer (which someone brought up earlier) can be sci-fi; it's a story of what the future might be because of the technology. Star Wars doesn't address
          • I'll play devil's advocate and take the hard line approach and say that science fiction is at least in some tangible way about the interaction of man with scientific phenomena and technology and the consequences of that interaction. "The Terminator" was science fiction as was "Minority Report", "The Fly", and "Strange Days". "Alien" was not per se. You could have had the same story using a Cthuluian sea monster on a ship in the middle of the ocean.

            "Star Wars" merely takes place in a fantasy world where tech

            • by AK Marc (707885)
              "The Terminator" was science fiction as was "Minority Report",

              Terminator is clearly, in that the invention of an aware computer dominates every portion of the movie. Something like T3 is less so, because "robot hunting someone" movies are not sci-fi. They are thrillers, action, or whatever and could have any other creature in its place. The original had at least one thing going for it, in a time paradox created by the tech. Minority Report I think isn't sci-fi. There is no "tech" that advances the st
          • by Miseph (979059)

            Sci-fi and Fantasy are not, by the definitions I am familiar with, particularly differentiated. I tend to see Sci-fi as a sub-genre of fantasy, but I can see you take your genres far more seriously than I do. You know us English literature majors, we just know nothing about what differentiates types of literature.

            I can see your point though, dealing with the ramifications of a device capable of destroying entire planets clearly has nothing to do with the effect tech could have on us personally and as a spec

      • by Rick Bentley (988595) on Friday December 26, 2008 @05:09PM (#26236707) Homepage

        ... I disqualify Star Wars as sci-fi.

        Right, and I disqualify the Pope as a Catholic. Next I disqualify Obama as President Elect. Then I disqualify Earth as a planet and Claudia Schiffer as hot.

        Dude, for an entire generation Star Wars has defined Sci-Fi. Transporters on Star Trek were no better explained than hover-craft in Star Wars. Ray guns in War of the Worlds were no better explained than Light Sabers.

        Besides, before George Lucas was abducted by aliends and replaced with a replicant, he made the two best movies in the world (Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars, in order of greatness). In all good humor I hereby accuse you of blasphemy and disqualify you as a geek.

        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The fact that most people don't understand the difference between science fiction and fantasy is irrelevant - the fact remains that there *is* a difference. Here's a hint - it's about the plot, not the props. Fantasy can have lasers, and science fiction can have science that's sufficiently advanced to be indistinguishable from magic.

          In science fiction, science is part of the plot, not merely a prop. In "Star Wars", one could just as easily replace the light sabers with metal swords, the space ships with sea

          • by toddestan (632714)

            "Hold your fire. There are only two slaves. The lifeboat must have fallen off the deck."

            You're not going to be able to move Star Wars into another setting without changing the dynamic of the film. For example, you can't just make the droids into slaves without changing the nature of them, since people are going to bring in their preconceptions about slavery. Also, I don't see what you're going to use a Death Star, or a planet destroying super laser, or how the hero is supposed to destroy whatever it is wi

            • by kv9 (697238)

              ... whereas Luke Skywalker turns away from technology to make the Death Star-destroying shot.

              Is that why he threw a rock at the death star? oh wait...

        • by Lxy (80823)

          Transporters on Star Trek were no better explained than hover-craft in Star Wars

          In reality they were. Transporters on Star Trek are only one step ahead of what we could build today, and the only reason they don't work in real life is because of Heisenburg's principle. Heisenburg identified that you cannot measure the position and velocity of a molecule at the same time. You either know one or the other. Both are required for the transporter. Hence, Star Trek utilizes the "Heisenburg compensator".

          Becaus

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by westlake (615356)
        There was no real tech. A car hovered because they said it did. No explanation was given.

        Well, of course, no reason is given.

        Luke was exiled to a world that hasn't stumbled over a new idea - or a new machine - in over 5,000 years.

        That is the story point you need to get across.

        You do it by showing his clapped-out car. You don't do it by talking about his clapped-out car.

        Exposition is dull. Exposition take time. You only have ninety minutes or so to tell your story.

        • by Dutch Gun (899105)

          Well, of course, no reason is given.

          Luke was exiled to a world that hasn't stumbled over a new idea - or a new machine - in over 5,000 years.

          That is the story point you need to get across.

          You do it by showing his clapped-out car. You don't do it by talking about his clapped-out car.

          Exposition is dull. Exposition take time. You only have ninety minutes or so to tell your story.

          Yep, it's one of the things Lucas understood best. "A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing." He'd spend an enormous amount of money on these wonderful sets and special effects, but would only spend a few passing seconds on them, or be completely in the background, out of the way, part of the subconscious of the film experience.

          I've seen other sci-fi films and shows, past and present, where the director seemed acutely aware of what were the big, expensive shots, and were determined to co

      • For that reason alone I disqualify Star Wars as sci-fi. There simply is no "sci" to it at all.

        I think we all have different definitions of Sci-Fi, and attach different levels of importance to certain aspects (e.g. the "explanation of the science/tech" part).

        What is your definition of "Science Fiction"?

        Does a Sci-Fi movie need to highlight or explain the science/technology involved?

    • by ethicalBob (1023525) on Friday December 26, 2008 @05:16PM (#26236739)

      I happen to like Star Wars, but in my mind it was never about the tech, at all, nor was it even about space. Star Wars is almost completely story driven, IMHO.

      See, I always thought it was Lucas' excellently written dialog...

      (ducks and cowers from swinging lightsabers)...

    • by Eil (82413) on Friday December 26, 2008 @05:57PM (#26236941) Homepage Journal

      I have to agree with you there. Star Wars is a good tale, but the designers of Star Trek really thought long and hard about what future technology would be like and then came up with plots for how humans (and other species which are really just caricatures for human traits) would use and deal with that technology. This is what drew me to TNG in the first place. The technology was almost as much as part of the story as the characters were. That is *real* science fiction. Other types of drama where the technology takes a distant back seat (like Star Wars and Firefly, excellent though they are) should really occupy a somewhat different genre.

      The other day, I came across my old copy of the Star Trek Technical Manual [wikipedia.org]. I fondly remembered flipping through it as a teenager memorizing the (*almost* entirely fictional) technical details of the 1701-D's innards. And then it dawned on me that much of the technology detailed in the book has already come to fruition just in the last 20 years. Our computer systems are not very different than the ones depicted in the 24th century: large touchscreen LCDs are not yet mainstream, but smaller versions are already very popular in handheld devices (our equivalent to tricorders, PADDs). The Internet combined with powerful personal computers rivals the Starfleet mainframe computer systems in almost every regard. Worldwide communications are generally easy and cheap. Computers are getting astonishingly good at recognising human speech, although it will be awhile longer before they can interpret arbitrary questions.

      I'm intensely curious to see what the next 20 years will bring.

      • ... designers of Star Trek really thought long and hard about what future technology would be like ...

        Yeah, you can see the evidence by reading the raw scripts they produced, which are littered with references to ... (tech). The scriptwriters would literally write the word "tech" in parentheses to indicate the places where their science writers (who had NO INFLUENCE on the actual PLOT) should insert some technical-sounding jargon.

        • by Eil (82413)

          Yeah, you can see the evidence by reading the raw scripts they produced, which are littered with references to ... (tech). The scriptwriters would literally write the word "tech" in parentheses to indicate the places where their science writers (who had NO INFLUENCE on the actual PLOT) should insert some technical-sounding jargon.

          I'm not saying they didn't make up a fair bit of dialogue as they went along. And I likewise wouldn't expect that their story writers grasped every pseudo-scientific theory upon wh

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by silentben (1119141)

      This response is directed to the entire sub-thread, not just the post - it IS true that Star Wars opted to steer clear of explaining its sci-fi tech where Star Trek revolved around the tech itself. But I have to completely disagree about Star Wars not being sci-fi.

      If Jules Verne wrote a book about a version of the 20th century where carriages were propelled without horses, but failed to explain some sort of combustion engine as being the driving force, would that have made his work less sci-fi? Much of go

  • by tpjunkie (911544) on Friday December 26, 2008 @02:43PM (#26236009) Journal
    "The exhibition starts with the juxtaposition of the Millennium Falcon, which can travel between galaxies effortlessly,... "

    Ok, one would assume that being in "a galaxy far far away" would mean that the story took place within that galaxy, although they never specifically said this, it is a logical assumption that the author seems to have missed.

    "Another is dubbed "dataless" and uses nuclear fusion as the fuel. It is a concept that dates back to the 1970s and one originally from the Interplanetary Society."

    Here they somehow seemed to have confused "Daedalus" [wikipedia.org] in an impressive homophone that had never even occurred to me before seeing that.

    thats as far as I got before closing the tab in disgust
    • by bitrex (859228)
      The great thing about being a technology journalist is that since journalists don't know anything about technology, and techies don't know anything about journalism, one doesn't have to have any skill in either to get the job!
      • since journalists don't know anything about technology, and techies don't know anything about journalism, one doesn't have to have any skill in either to get the job!

        Ah, you've read Roland Piquepaille's technology trends too?

    • by bckrispi (725257) on Friday December 26, 2008 @05:23PM (#26236757)

      "The exhibition starts with the juxtaposition of the Millennium Falcon, which can travel between galaxies effortlessly,... "

      Effortlessly??!!? Did these pinheads ever see The Empire Strikes Back? Half the film's storyline was spent just trying to get the damn ship to jump into hyperspace.

  • by sithkhan (536425) <sithkhan@gmail.com> on Friday December 26, 2008 @02:47PM (#26236041)
    They misspelled tauntaun for one of the captions ... D;
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The exhibition starts with the juxtaposition of the Millennium Falcon, which can travel between galaxies effortlessly, and our own forms of space travel.

    "We are not quite there yet," Connell said. "We can send things out, but people have been thinking about interstellar travel for a long time."

    Does this guy know anything about science?

  • Usually media stories about Star Wars means that George Lucas has decided his pension pot needs a little top up and another remaster of the only successful movies he's made are on the cards. There are so many different versions now it's hard to see any new remastering swindles to pull.

    Perhaps an Ewoks sequel (or prequel...we know he's fond of those), or maybe a "who shot first" DVD, with the option to play ANH and have a different cut of the cantina scene edited in. Since the Star Wars franchise are all abo

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      There is a new two box set DVD release in slim boxes, I continue to buy every version that comes out and feel not at all "fucked over" because I collect them. The only people who are fucked over is those who feel obligated to buy them and then endlessly bitch that "George is a money grubbing bastard and takes all my money!"

      Please...take some responsibility for your own purchasing you tools.

  • The "Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination" exhibit [wikipedia.org] has been going on for quite some time (three years now). It was in Portland two years ago where I got some pics of the same exhibit [flickr.com].
  • I agree that the Stormtrooper's appearance probably influenced the Asimo's appearance.

    I wouldn't credit the advancement in Prosthetics or Bionics to Star Wars - more the 6 million dollar man and the original Battlestar Galactica.

    And until the Cinnamon Bun Hairstyle and Metal Bikini become fashionable, I'm not buying the Business and Social Advancement.

    • by Chyeld (713439)

      And until the Cinnamon Bun Hairstyle and Metal Bikini become fashionable, I'm not buying the Business and Social Advancement.

      We can dream, we can dream...

    • I wouldn't credit the advancement in Prosthetics or Bionics to Star Wars - more the 6 million dollar man and the original Battlestar Galactica.

      Star Wars predates the original Battlestar Galactica by a year (1977 vs. 1978).

      Although I wouldn't credit the advancements in prosthetics or bionics to anything in any movie or TV show. I'd credit it to R&D.

  • ...is more like it. What a regression in taste, quality and importance over 30 years. Let's hope GL passes peacefully before he makes another BurgerKing/Kenner/Hasbro inspired prequel/sequel.

  • It's not sci-fi (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MouseR (3264) on Friday December 26, 2008 @03:34PM (#26236281) Homepage

    But rather fantasy-fiction.

    There isn't much science in those film.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by fartrader (323244)

      I disagree, frankly I think we'll all be using watches that measure time using parsecs in the near future - driven by linux of course.

  • by Capmaster (843277) on Friday December 26, 2008 @03:37PM (#26236291)
    All I read was "30 years and still no lightsabers".
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Rude Turnip (49495)

      That's because it's meant to be an elegant weapon for a time more civilized than ours.

  • Stormtrooper: Let me see your Technology.
    Obi-Wan: : [with a small wave of his hand] You don't need to see his Technology.
    Stormtrooper: : We don't need to see his Technology.
    Obi-Wan: : These aren't the Technologies you're looking for.
    Stormtrooper: : These aren't the Technologies we're looking for.
    Obi-Wan: : He can go about his business.
    Stormtrooper: : You can go about your business.
    Obi-Wan: : Move along.
    Stormtrooper: : Move along... move along.
    Stormtrooper2: : Hey, let's go check out the new Subspace Communi

  • by Xaoswolf (524554) <(Xaoswolf) (at) (gmail.com)> on Friday December 26, 2008 @05:21PM (#26236749) Homepage Journal
    When they have specials like this on the the Discovery Channel.

    Of course, every answer that they always come up with is always "Plasma!"

    Lightsabers, PLASMA!

    Open Docking Bay Doors, PLASMA!

    The Force, PLASMA!

    Jar Jar's ability to annoy, PLASMA!

    Everything is plasma...

  • by dwiget001 (1073738) on Friday December 26, 2008 @05:44PM (#26236859)

    My former brother in-law used to work at Industrial Light and Magic, I toured their studio three times in the early 80s.

    Saw the original Falcon there, the walkers, planet setups for space shots, line of cannibalized model parts that were used for shots where fighters and other craft were near larger craft (like the Start Destroyers).

    Last time I was there, they were filming Star Trek III, got to see the Enterprise in front of the blue screen after it had taken damage. And, they also had a miniature forest scene setup for the flying bicycle scene(s) in ET. The model and monster shop was also astounding, seeing the different molds, tools, partially completed and complete models and monsters.

    I even saw the baby dragons from the movie Dragonslayer, which were designed and operated by my former brother in-law for that movie.

  • And Obiwan is STILL my only hope.
  • Jar-Jar (Score:5, Funny)

    by bobv-pillars-net (97943) <bobvin@pillars.net> on Friday December 26, 2008 @06:57PM (#26237283) Homepage Journal

    I just wanted to point out that there are two kinds of Star Wars fans:

    1. Those who secretly despise Jar-Jar Binks, and
    2. Those who openly despise Jar-Jar Binks.

    Q: What if I actually like Jar-Jar?

    A: Then you're obviously one of the first kind.

  • Star Wars fans are to feel the force of the seminal sci-fi films and their iconic soundtracks on stage, screen, television, Game Boy, comic book and Internet in major new releases, which will launch next year.

    In Star Wars: Journey To The Bottom Of The Barrel [today.com], the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra will play a live score as recreations of scenes from the six films with amusingly-captioned kittens are shown on a cinema screen.

    It will not be a traditional musical with actors playing characters from the films,

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