While it now bears embarrassing marks of the 1960s here and there, the future envisioned by Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey remains, on many levels, chillingly plausible. True, Pan Am Airlines went under in the 1990s instead of launching a space station like they’ve got in the movie, but in the smaller details, 2001 gets a lot right, at least insofar as its reality resembles the one in which we find ourselves in the actual 21st century. No less an aggregation of brainpower than Samsung thinks so too: in fact, they’ve gone so far as to cite Kubrick’s sci-fi masterwork before a judge as proof that the director invented tablet computing.
“In 2011, an unusual piece of evidence was presented in court in a dispute between technology giants Apple and Samsung over the latter’s range of handheld tablets, which Apple claimed infringed upon the patented design and user interface of the iPad,” writes the British Film Institute’s Samuel Wigley. “As part of Samsung’s defence, the company’s lawyers showed the court a still image and clip showing the astronauts played by Gary Lockwood and Keir Dullea eating while watching a TV show on their own personal, mini-sized, flat-screen computers.”
Apple and Samsung have not, in recent memory, played nice. Apple accused Samsung of “slavishly” copying the design of the iPad for their own Galaxy tablet, a charge that in some ways aligns with Samsung and other major Korean manufacturing companies’ reputation for rapidly adapting and even improving upon products developed in other countries. Samsung’s defense? Watch 2001‘s footage of its “Newspads” (above), and you can see that Kubrick invented the tablet before either company — or, in the words of their attorneys, he invented a computer with “an overall rectangular shape with a dominant display screen, narrow borders, a predominately flat front surface, a flat back surface, and a thin form factor.”
Even in their lifetimes, 2001 gave Kubrick and his collaborator Arthur C. Clarke, sci-fi eminence and author of 2001 the book, reputations as something like seers. “I’m sure we’ll have sophisticated 3-D holographic television and films,” Kubrick speculated in a Playboy magazine interview we featured last year, “and it’s possible that completely new forms of entertainment and education will be devised.” Certainly the opening up of the realm of tablets has made new forms of entertainment and education possible, but I wonder: could he ever have imagined we would one day use our Newspads to watch 2001 itself?
Colin Marshall writes on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.