Inventions Predicted by Famous Writers

atkins-bookshelf-literatureScience fiction writers not only invent entirely new worlds inhabited by fantastic creatures, they also introduce new technologies and inventions — many times, centuries ahead of their time. Although they seemed far-fetched during the authors’ lifetimes, many of the technologies are deeply ingrained in modern daily life — to the point that we take them for granted. Below is a list of inventions predicted by famous writers (name, novel and year of publication, the invention or technology they predicted, and when the prediction became reality).

Douglas Adams (1952-2001), Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979), predicted electronic books; became a reality in early 1990s (first e-books and e-book readers introduced, most notably Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad)

Edward Bellamy (1850-1898), Looking Backward (1888), predicted credit cards; became reality in 1950 (Diner’s Club Card)

Ray Bradbury (1920-2012), Fahrenheit 451 (1953), predicted flat screen television; became reality in 1971 (first LCD flat screen televisions introduced)

Ray Bradbury (1920-2012), Fahrenheit 451 (1953), predicted earbud headphones; became reality in 2001 (Apple popularized earbuds with first generation iPods)

Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), predicted the computer tablet; became reality in the 1980s (Pencept Penpad introduced in 1983; Newton introduced by Apple in 1993)

Philip K. Dick (1928-1982), Ubik (1969), predicted artificial organs (“artiforgs”) that could be grafted into a human being to replace the organs that had failed. In 2011, surgeons in Sweden completed the first transplant of a synthetic trachea on a cancer patient.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970): The Machine Stops (1909), predicted the office cubicle; became a reality in late 1960s (Robert Propst, a designer for Herman Miller, introduced the Action Office II in 1967)

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), Brave New World (1932), predicted test-tube babies; became reality in 1978 (first test-tube baby, Louise Joy Brown, was born in England)

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932), predicted mood-enhancing drugs; became reality in 1950s (introduction of antidepressants, isoniazid and iproniazid, which were originally developed to treat tuberculosis)

Jules Verne (1828-1905), From the Earth to the Moon (1865), predicted lunar travel; became reality in 1969 (the Apollo 11 mission to the moon and back)

H. G. Wells (1866-1946), When the Sleeper Wakes (1899), predicted automatic doors; became reality in 1954 (automatic doors designed by Dee Horton and Lew Hewitt)

H. G. Wells, The World Set Free (1914), predicted the atomic bomb; became a reality in WWII: the Manhattan Projectcreated the first atomic bombs, Little Boy and Fat Man, that were detonated over Japan in 1945.

H. G. Wells, predicted moving walkways in his novel A Story of the Days to Come (1897). Incidentally, Robert Heinlein (1907-1988) also featured moving walkways in his story, The Roads Must Roll (1940). The first walkway was designed for a project in Atlanta, Georgia in the early 1920s. Moving walkways became commonplace by the 1970s. 

John Brunner’s (1934-1995)  Stand on Zanzibar (1969), stands alone in for its extraordinary and eerie prescience: Brunner describes the future in 2010 — the world is overpopulated; the United States is plagued by terrorist attacks and school shootings, automobiles powered by rechargeable fuel cells, and a culture that encourages short-term, no-strings-attached relationships. And guess the name of Brunner’s fictional American president — President Obomi.

Read related posts: Random Fascinating Facts About Authors
Who Were Barnes and Noble?
Sleeping Habits of Famous Authors
How Many Words Does the Average Person Speak in a Lifetime?
First Typewritten Book

For further reading: Under the Covers and Between the Sheets by C. Alan Joyce (2009)

3 responses to “Inventions Predicted by Famous Writers

  • Carol Casper

    How can you say Robert Heinlein ‘predicted’ the escalator when the 2 examples you cite for its first appearance predate his birth?
    Do you mean he predicted their widespread application years after the idea and technology were first introduced to the public?

    This is rather less impressive than HG Wells prediction of the atom bomb, etc

    You also perhaps left out one of the greatest predictors of future technologies and events: sci fi writer PK Dick. Many of his ideas have yet to see the light of day but some have and others appear well on the way.
    One that I believe he predicted was the development of artificial organs for transplant or ‘artiforgs’ . Items like artificial esophagi are now being ‘grow’ in labs for example.
    Another that thankfully has not appeared yet but could very well someday: flying autonomic bill collection devices that track people down and hover around them in public, loudly broadcasting demands for payment of specific overdue bills for all nearby to witness.
    Between recent developments in small flying drones and potentially privacy-infringing GPS tech built into our smartphones, sounds like these dreadfully embarassing nuisances could be right around the corner!
    Hope no credit card companies see this!

    • Alexander Atkins

      Carol: Thanks for your note and careful reading. You are absolutely correct. Heinlein did not predict the escalator, he predicted the moving walkway (although HG Wells was even earlier). I have updated the post.
      Thanks for mentioning PKD — an imaginative sci fi writer if there every was.Great note. Will add some of his inventions in the next day or two. The flying auto bill collectors sound really scary — yes, best to keep them away from the large banks that have enough info about every American.
      Cheers Alex

  • alexraphael

    I knew HG Wells and Jules Verne would be in here. Nice to see Ray Bradbury too. Such a fan of his work.

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