How ‘Star Trek’ artists imagined Apple’s revolutionary iPad – 23 years ago

invisibleSHIELD case for iPad“One interesting characteristic of Star Trek: The Next Generation—one that separated it from the original series and most of the early films—was its widespread use of smooth, flat, touch-based control panels throughout the Enterprise-D,” Chris Foresman reports for Ars Technica.

Advertisement: Protect your iPad with the invisibleSHIELD.

“This touch interface was also used for numerous portable devices known as PADDs, or Personal Access Display Devices,” Foresman reports. “These mobile computing terminals bear a striking resemblance to Apple’s iPad—a mobile computing device largely defined by its smooth, flat touchscreen interface.”

Foresman reports, “To understand the thinking that lead to the design of the Star Trek PADD, we spoke to some of the people involved in production of ST:TNG (as well as other Star Trek TV series and films), including Michael Okuda, Denise Okuda, and Doug Drexler. All three were involved in various aspects of production art for Star Trek properties, including graphic design, set design, prop design, visual effects, art direction, and more. We also discussed their impressions of the iPad and how eerily similar it is to their vision of 24th century technology, how science fiction often influences technology, and what they believe is the future of human-machine interaction.”

Read more in the full geekfest here.


  1. Rumour: apple to blow everyones minds at this years CES with a time machine that can match it’s appearance to any object in any timeline, a line of tools that use sonic waves to manipulate things, and Steve Jobs revealing that he is a timelord. Microsoft set to reveal an exoskeleton that looks like a pepper shaker and an earpiece that uploads information to the brain. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />
    MDN magic word: major

  2. When we think back to all the memorable characters on Star Trek: TNG, nobody ever mentions the talking computer as a character…but she was in every episode! And her voice had an uncanny resemblence to the iPhone’s voice command lady of today.

  3. Back in February 2003, one of the Macworld contributing editors predicted that at that year’s Macworld that Steve would introduce either a phone or a tablet device. Then, in parenthesis, he put the names ‘iPhone?’ and ‘iPad?’. Although he was a few years behind, I thought that was a pretty cool prediction since he had called the two products by the names that they ended up using.

  4. He means “2001 A Space Odyssey” by Stanley Kubrick.

    Kubrick redefined the Sci-Fi genre. It was all Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon before Kubrick.

    First use of “facetime” when Heywood Floyd has a video call with his family.

    Mind boggling for the 12 year old I was at the time, sitting in the front row of the the Cinerama.

  5. And let’s not forget the “communicator” that vaguely resembles a Motorola Razor. Apropos, an Israeli company has developed a medical diagnostic tool vaguely reminiscent of what Bones and his successors used to wave around the patient. And another company there has developed a primitive means of “cloaking”.

    The future is coming upon us faster than we imagined. Still no transporters, no intergalactic or time travel though.

  6. Look at the picture (at the top of the Ars article) of Picard holding the PADD.

    Notice the inset “groove” around the edge of the device, formed by the top and bottom plates that make up the device. THAT would be an awesome place for an external antenna, since there really isn’t an easy way to touch it (being inset).

    Would be great to see iPhone 5 / future iPads with such a design. Apple – are you paying attention?

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.