2001:A Space Odyssey and the iPad (or is it tamPod?)

Posted on February 2nd, 2010 in Commentary by EngineerBoy

"I'm sorry, Dave, that's prior art..."

"Our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device..."

The first picture is of Apple’s new (unfortunately named) iPad, the second picture is from the film 2001:A Space Odyssey, showing a remarkably similar device being used by astronauts Dave Bowman and Frank Poole as they eat their delicious, extruded paste meals.

I wonder if Apple and/or Steven Jobs have thought about throwing Arthur C. Clarke and/or Stanley Kubrick some scratch for finally bringing their design to market?  There is precedent for “new” inventions being denied patents based on prior description in science fiction works (e.g. waterbeds described by Robert Heinlein).

Even if not legally required, I think it would be a public relations coup for Apple to at least make the gesture of offering something to the originators (or, populizers, at the very least) of the pad screen concept.  In fact, tying in the marketing of the iPad with an undeniable cinematic masterpiece like 2001 sounds like a pretty Apple-y thing to do, and I think would show some class.

However, I’m not holding my breath…back in the dark ages, Steve Jobs got a tour of Xerox’s legendary Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) where he saw prototype computer systems based that had a graphical user interface made up of windows, menus, radio buttons, check boxes and icons, and which also utilized a moveable pointing device.  These elements were shortly brought to market by Apple in the Lisa in 1983, and then in the legendary and world-changing Macintosh in 1984.

I’m not denying the design and marketing brilliance of Steve Jobs and Apple in popularizing these products, but it would be nice to see some humility and respect paid to the originators of the ideas they are getting rich producing.

Update 8/26/2011:  Adding additional image below showing a closer view of the device, which clearly shows that it is not integrated into the desktop, and is a separate device, and is obviously hanging over the rim of the table at a jaunty angle:


JauntyPad is jauntily laid...

It’s also easy to find other examples with Google image search, fyi.

8 Responses to '2001:A Space Odyssey and the iPad (or is it tamPod?)'

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  1. Eric said,

    on February 2nd, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    If Jobs were to “throw some scratch” it would have to be at headstones; both Clarke and Kubrick are dead.

  2. EngineerBoy said,

    on February 2nd, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Right, but they have estates which retain rights over their works…

  3. Studiocite said,

    on August 24th, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    except that the perfectly symettrical and perfectly opposite angles and no edges implies that those are merely screens on the tabletop that are built in providing info on voice command. theyre never picked up which makes it obvious. so your premise is a real stretch if not outright silliness.

  4. EngineerBoy said,

    on August 26th, 2011 at 9:51 am


    The original images were selected for aesthetic value, and not to be used as absolute evidence for or against any silliness. I added an updated image at the bottom of the post that shows things more clearly.



  5. Harmanx said,

    on October 29th, 2011 at 11:32 am

    The scene leading up to this sequence shows Bowman entering the centrifuge with the iPad-like device in his hand and setting it down on the table next to Poole who is already eating and watching something on his tablet — which is better evidence that it isn’t built into the table, no? (The perfect symmetry of the devices in the following scene always seemed to me like a poor construction choice for the placement of the rear-projection props.)

  6. Divad said,

    on November 15th, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    Hasn’t anyone zoomed in on the mobile device’s bottom right hand corner and seen the IBM logo? – or do my eyes deceive me?

  7. Farticustheelder said,

    on November 15th, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    Star Trek The Next Generation, had padds, which were portable. Again, prior art.

  8. on November 30th, 2015 at 5:58 am

    […] 21. Samsung contested Apple’s tablet patent by pointing out that the tablet first appeared in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. – Source […]

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