Did Stanley Kubrick invent the iPad in his 1968 film ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’?
While it is generally accepted that Stanley Kubrick is a pioneer of cinema whose legacy will never be in doubt, a reflective analysis of his work has revealed yet more fascinating questions surrounding his ability to predict the future.
Quite bizarrely, despite the long and detailed studies of Kubrick’s 1968 science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey that have been published in the years that followed its release, it was a high-profile legal battle between tech giants Apple and Samsung which pricked the ears of cinephiles more prominently.
The patent battle, which started in 2011 and initially resulted in a $1 billion ruling in Apple’s favour, was contested as part of a long seven-year process of appeals which ended up lowering the figure down to $539 million again in Apple’s favour. Another appeal was imminent before the two companies settled the payment amount away from the Supreme Court.
Samsung fervently denied that they had copied Apple’s design and, in an unusual attempt to clear their name, referenced Kubrick’s iconic sci-fiction picture as evidence. “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,” Samuel Wigley explained in his article for the British Film Institute.
“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.”
Samsung, of course, were referencing Kubrick’s ‘Newspad’, a prop which was used in the filming of 2001: A Space Odyssey. When discussing the ‘Newspad’, Kubrick’s collaborator Roger Caras wrote a letter to Joseph F. Kern to detail its functionality: “In one sequence aboard a spacecraft involved in a deep space probe two of the astronauts use an IBM NEWSPAD. This is a news projecting device enabling space travellers to have access to Earth news via radio projection. It is an item of hardware logically anticipated for a period 36 years from now. We are working with IBM, of course, and using their technical assistance,” he wrote.
He added” “In the sequence involved, an astronaut pushes a button which causes an index of 200 leading periodicals to appear on a screen. At various times buttons will be depressed that will cause the individual indices for five of these publications to be projected. The five periodicals selected are Sports Illustrated, Life, Scientific American, Popular Mechanics, and the New York Times,” in what sounds coincidentally similar to the ‘newsstand’ app used on an Apple iPad.
In what feels like a very Black Mirror moment, Kubrick speculated about the impact his film may have on the future and discussed how technology would develop in the future during a 1968 interview with Playboy: “Perhaps the greatest breakthrough we may have made by 2001 is the possibility that man may be able to eliminate old age,” the filmmaker said at the time. “I’m sure we’ll have sophisticated 3-D holographic television and films, and it’s possible that completely new forms of entertainment and education will be devised,” he continued.
Below, enjoy some clips of Kubrick’s ‘Telepad’ or ‘Newspad’ in action.