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Read this eerily accurate 1999 prediction of the iPhone and the death of privacy

Read this eerily accurate 1999 prediction of the iPhone and the death of privacy
[Photo: Carl Berkeley/Wikimedia Commons]

Is there anything Star Trek writers can’t predict?

Eight years before the first iPhone was released in 2007, science fiction writer David Gerrold was asked to write a column on the future of computing for a now-defunct magazine called Sm@rt Reseller. His description sounds eerily similar to the device we now all carry around in our pockets, with Gerrold speculating that, within the next few years, a portable “box” would come along and serve as a TV, a camera, calculator, pocket organizer, and “beeper” all rolled into one. He also predicted that this magical box would have speech-recognition capabilities, letting it carry out tasks in much the same way that digital assistants like Siri actually do.

“It will be a box less than an inch thick and smaller than a deck of cards. (The size will be determined by what’s convenient to hold, not by the technology inside.) The box will have a high-res color screen, a microphone, a plug for a headset or earphones, a camera lens, wireless connectivity, a cellphone and beeper functions, a television and radio receiver, a digital recorder, and it will have enough processing power and memory to function as a desktop system.”

The article recently resurfaced on Twitter courtesy of Esther Schindler, a former editor of the magazine who says she asked Gerrold to pen the piece. Gerrold is an award-winning sci-fi author who–amazingly–also happened to write the classic “Trouble With Tribbles” episode of the original Star Trek series.

Perhaps more impressive than Gerrold’s technical prediction was his foresight into how smartphones would affect our lives and psyches. He nails it with the kicker:

“I call this device a Personal Information Telecommunications Agent, or Pita for short. The acronym also can stand for Pain In The Ass, which it is equally likely to be, because having all that connectivity is going to destroy what’s left of everyone’s privacy.”

I’d say beam me out of here now, but it sounds like I’m 18 years too late.

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