Reverse Engineering the Future

First day in two weeks I’ve felt halfway decent. My sleep was restful, the little headache pulses are gone, and I even had the initiative to get back to walking today. (Only 2/3 of a mile, because it got cold out, and I didn’t bring a jacket this morning.)

Tonight I will be catching up on housework and bills, and of course giving my Mom a call to see how she’s doing.

Was thinking more about the high-tech Captain Nemo today. If you dropped today’s MacBook Pro in his workroom, I suspect that he’d figure out how to turn it on, and even use some of the software if there wasn’t a login password. I expect he’d work out what the battery was, and might even be able to recharge it using the technology of his time. I’m sure he could work out the basic concept of the motherboard, and I’ll even grant that he could reverse-engineer the simpler peripheral protocols with enough brute force, time, and care.

I’m fairly confident, though, that the LCD screen, integrated circuits, memory, and hard disk would be completely beyond him. At his technology level, any of them would have to be ripped apart and destroyed to achieve even a basic understanding of the principles involved. A magnetic storage medium might be within his imagination, but the ability to build another one just wouldn’t exist yet.

(A few of the TNG and DS9 episodes annoyed me in this fashion, showing the heroes taking apart communicators and tricorders with utterly primitive tools. I’m convinced that one couldn’t even crack the cases with less than highly specialized tools, and if one did, the contents would be largely integrated into a few non-user-serviceable bits. But that’s just me.)

Perhaps Nemo could accomplish much with “black box” parts delivered by a mysterious supplier, much as the scientist-heroes of This Island Earth did. But could our justly-paranoid sea captain trust the source?

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  • geckoman says:

    Oh, that sort of thing goes back to ST:TOS, what with GangsterWorld (or was it NaziWorld?) figuring out how to amazingly duplicate some aspect of Earths past completely just by taking apart a phaser.

    I still think Back To The Future did an awesome job with how much technology changed over the course of Doc Brown’s lifetime…a suitcase sized collection of tubes and wires replacing a single IC and, of course, we can’t forget Mr. Fusion…

  • madwriter says:

    Well, if Thomas Edison could disassemble and reassemble the Omni carried by Phineas Bogg, one never knows . . .

  • madwriter says:

    Am I the only one who just suddenly realized not only ago that the “far future date” of 2015 in BttF is now only 7 years out?

  • anterus says:

    Hmmm, I get the impression that the communicator is intended to be opened up in emergency situations. My copy of the TNG Tech Manual shows enough discrete internal components that I think you could probably, if you’re familiar enough with ST Engineering, tweak it to do some interesting things. I’m not recalling anything specific they ever did with ’em in disassembled states, but I do recall they disassembled them on multiple ocassions.

  • nanoreid says:

    That was the cool thing about “This Island Earth”. The “parts” catalog was really the parts catalog. Just pull the part from the page.

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