10 Media Innovations that Were First Introduced in Science Fiction

Any technology we imagine will become reality — even if decades later.

  1. In 1889, Jules Vernes foresaw live news: “Earth Chronicle is every morning spoken to subscribers, who, from interesting conversations with reporters, statesmen and scientists, learn the news of the day.” In 1980, CNN launched the first TV channel providing 24-hour news coverage.

2. Hugo Gernsback described news personalization back in 1911! “Morning newspapers transmitted to the sleeping subscriber by wire at 5am. The newspaper office, notified by each subscriber subscriber what kind of news is desirable, furnished only such news”.

3. In 1939, Harl Vincent wrote a book called Newscast featuring the “Polyceltron Iconoscope Televisor”, a portable camera and microphone setup that could broadcast on-the-spot news. Today, news organizations use LiveU transmission technology to broadcast directly from the field.

4. News summarization was introduced in 1942 by Robert Heinlein: the “News Roundup” device presents brief story outlines, any of which can be chosen to find details. Today, publishers use Natural Language Processing to automatically generate news summaries.

5. In 1961, H. Beam Piper wrote about a device called the “Transmit Camera”, a system that both takes pictures and uploads it directly to a news station. This sounds a lot like crowdsourcing journalism platforms like Stringr.

6. In 1963, Philip K. Dick imagined the “Homeostatic Newspaper”, an autonomous news-gathering and publishing entity, that produces a newspaper without human assistance. “News Receptors” were the devices used by homeostatic newspapers to gather news automatically. My favorite!

7. In 1967, Philip Jose Farmer described the combination of a television, a news camera and surveillance device — a gadget named Fido — which to me, sounds a lot like the Citizen app.

8. Google News Alerts were conceptualized in 1978 by Arthur C. Clarke who wrote about “Personal Interest Profiles”, a set of topics about which people wanted to know about, cutting through the flood of global information.

9. The idea of synthetic media was introduced in 1988 by Jeff Kleiner + Diana Walczak who created the 1st digital actor for their film “Sexton for President”. They also coined the term “Synthespian”, a synthetic media personality. Xinhua News launched its own synthetic anchor in 2018.

10. In the 2002 movie Minority Report (the original book is from 1956), Steven Spielberg shows a paper-thin, flexible LCD-style display that was large enough to display a full newspaper page. Not sure if USA Today is currently working on an ePaper but they do exist, for example Remarkable Paper.

Computational journalist and co-founder of Applied XL. I write about data science, storytelling and innovation.