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Science Fiction’s Take on the Future of Computers (Read 410 times)
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Science Fiction’s Take on the Future of Computers
Oct 17th, 2011, 1:29pm
excerpt of a piece by Kevin J. Anderson

As a science fiction writer, I am often asked about the genre’s track record in predicting the future, and certainly SF has had some great successes. My favorite anecdote, hands down, is about the little-known pulp science fiction author Cleve Cartmill, who in 1944 wrote a story called “Deadline” for Astounding Stories in which he described in great detail a secret government program (on an alien world) that was developing a super-weapon based on the fission of Uranium-235. Since at the time the U.S. government had just such a secret program, the Manhattan Project, developing just such a U-235 nuclear weapon, the FBI showed up at Cartmill’s door and demanded to know who had leaked the information; it took him some time to convince them that he’d just made it up.

Science fiction has had some major predictive flops as well, such as when SF legend Isaac Asimov famously suggested that computers would become so big and so powerful that they would eventually grow to the size of planets. Or when Robert Heinlein has his advanced astrogators calculating star navigation using slide-rules. Or when Frank Herbert had scientists in a far-future society hooking up magnetic reel-to-reel tapes…

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