For me it went back to the Research Machines 380Z and BBC Micros we had at school. By today's standards pocket calculators, of course.
But it depends on your age doesn't it? If you're a smidge older than me perhaps it was LEO, a smidge younger, the film Tron (or perhaps not).
The rate of progress in IT means that there are relatively few common touch points for inspiration because they can come from such disparate sources: software, hardware, enterprise apps, gadgets of all sizes and shapes, personal computers, Apple zeitgeists and so on.
But then again there are things that all lovers of technology seem to hold in awe. Apple fanboy or not, it's very hard not to be impressed with the iPod, then the iPhone, then the burgeoning creativity (sometimes) of the App Store.
I did a quick straw poll in the office for things that inspired:
- Hungry Horace on the ZX Spectrum 1982
- BBC BASIC
- Elite on the Spectrum 1984
- Granny's House on the BBC Micro (I haven’t got a clue what this is)
- The Sony Walkman
- Calculator Watches (you could write SHELLOIL)
- Nintendo Game and Watch
- Nintendo DS Lite
- Stranger in a Strange Land (a book!)
- 1960's reel to reel storage (so futuristic)
- Space 1999
- Things with glowing buttons and multiple screens
- The Star Trek Communicator
- 2001 (the film, not just the year in general).
- Dick Tracey's walkie-talkie watch
- Logan's Run (what a robot!)
- Voigt-Kampf Machines
- The iPhone
- Robbie the Robot
Strange old list isn't it? And yet some of those things have been quoted as inspiring some of our most creative inventors (apparently Star Trek has been a particular inspiration).
The beauty of this stuff is that soon someone will come up with something that will blow you away: it'll either be something already here that you stumble across: (Spotify, Palm Pre, The Light Bikes on the iPod/iPhone (great, just like Tron!)), or something new: really good touch screen laptops, VR brain implants, personal jet packs (when???).
Exciting isn't it?
What does it for you?
About the author
Brian Runciman is Head of Content at BCS and blogs about the Institute’s role in making IT good for society, historical developments in computing, the implications of CS research and more.