Sir Arthur C. Clark foresaw many things that were possible and that today we have seen come from science fiction into science fact. Right at this moment, that you are reading this article of mine on-line, you may not realize that you are able to do so because of a “Geostationary Orbiting Satellite”.
Clarkserved in the Royal Air Force during WWII as a Radar Specialist. In 1939, radar was a new technology being developed for early detection of incoming German bombers. At the time radar was considered, more science fiction than real science by some in the British War Department. This distrust of “new ideas” continued well into the 1940s, when a radar unit picked up a large “return” on Dec. 7, 1941, an hour before the actual Japanese planes were dropping bombs on Pearl Harbor. Clark developed the workings of what is now the “air control” that is used in every major airport today to keep planes from flying into one another, and coined the phrase “glide path”.
After WWII Clark earned degrees in math and physics from Kings’ College, and started to become interested in working of the solar system. From 1946 to 1947 he was the Chairman of the British Interplanetary Society. The BIS “knocked about” ideas on space travel, and exploration of deep space, and out of these discussions came a paper, “The Exploration of Space” in 1951, and “The Promise of Space” in 1968.
Clark put forth the idea in an article that he wrote in 1945, “Wireless World.” The article was about the possibility of a worldwide net, a communications system that would be dependent on having a network of Geostationary Orbiting Communication Satellite. This orbit is now referred to as the Clarke Orbit or the Clarke Belt. It is one thing to have a building or a school named after you but something that encircles the whole world now that is making an impact on science and technology.
Clarkis best remembered for “2001 a Space Odyssey” first published in 1968, and its sequel “2010: Odyssey Two” published in 1982 and adapted for the movie “2010” released in 1984. There is an interesting note here. The internet was in its infancy. Clark collaborated with Director Peter Hyams on the script for “2010” via e-mail. These e-mails were published as “The Odyssey File: The Making of “2010” in 1984.
In a recent rash of movies that I have seen the last few years, there has been a huge Mother ship, strange and dangerous aliens. Mother ships hidden inside huge magnetic storms or in others, long-dead, alien ship captains found at the helm of their crafts, all visually exciting on the screen and make a fine afternoons’ entertainment. All these ideas were first explored in “Rendezvous with Rama” published in 1972.
This gave Riddle Scott some ideas, and he made the movie “Alien” with Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Veronica Cartwright, and Yaphet Kotto in 1979. The film has drawn a lot of flak for being too similar to other films some in the same genre such as (Planet of Vampires-1965) an Italian movie and some others from the same era but all law-suites failed to make it into court. Riddle Scott claims to have never seen the movie. The most notable rise of star power was that of Sigourney Weaver, whose character Ellen Ripley continues through the series, even after falling into a vat of molten metal to make a last resurrected appearance in what is, for now, the last of the Alien movies.
Clark’s “Rendezvous with Rama” ideas can also be seen in other movies as well, take for example “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” also released in 1979. This movie started with a huge “Energy Storm” headed right of the planet Earth, and Admiral James T. Kirk tap-dancing his way to command theEnterpriseto save the world once again. There is little doubt thatClark’s concepts had some bearing on the general ideas for many sci-fi movies and other media like graphic novels and books.
Clarkstarted to write books for children around 1937, and met with little success. The stories were sci-fi for the most part and were published as shorts in “Astounding Science Fiction” in 1946. He started to write full time around 1951. In 1948, Clark wrote “The Sentinel” for a BBC competition but did not win, but this work became the blueprint for “2001: A Space Odyssey.” In all ofClark’s works, we read that man should and must evolve to the next stage of evolution. This can be a natural evolution, or through cybernetics. The rebirth of mankind into a higher life form was put forth in 2001 and 2010 in Clark’s books and was a clear point laid out in them, but the movie version kind of lost the viewer in the effects montages, “Like that was neat, but what just happened?” Reading the book helps a lot.
Clark moved toSri Lankawhen it was still on the world map asCeylonin 1956. He continued to write on subjects like the coming computer age. In1970 he signed a book deal and wrote three books that I have already mentioned “Rendezvous with Rama”, “2001 and 2010”, after the success of “Rendezvous with Rama”, Clark became a notable futurist writer, and in 1974, was interviewed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. One of the questions posed was “What will be the impact of this new personal computer?” Clarkpredicted on-line banking and on-line shopping, and a large entertainment market.
In the 1980s, most people became familiar with Clark as the host of TV’s “Arthur C. Clark’s Mysterious World” and follow-ons, “Arthur C. Clark’s World of Strange Powers” and “Arthur C. Clark’s Mysterious Universe,” in so doing laid out the formats for science-oriented TV shows like “Wormhole” hosted by Morgan Freeman on the Science Channel.
In 1994, CBS aired “Without Warning.” They took a page out of Orson Welles’ Oct. 30, 1938, adapted broadcast of H G Wells “War of the Worlds”. Unlike the 1938 disastrous broadcast where Orson Welles found himself in front of a Congressional Investigation for causing a widespread public panic. The 1994, CBS movie a David L. Wolper production made it plain that it was a movie from the very beginning, but still some wondered. Arthur C. Clark appeared as himself explaining the effects of meteor impacts. This was one of the first “Mockumentary” style TV movies that air during this era of TV, “Special Bulletin, 1983”, “Countdown to Looking Glass, 1984”.
In March of 2008, Arthur C. Clark died of complications from post-polio syndrome inSri Lanka, but his influence is not gone from the world. If you look up in the night sky, about 22,000 miles, just look where your satellite dish is pointed you will find one of many Geostationary Orbiting Seattleites that make GPS, TV, telecommunications, and the Internet possible today, and they all orbit in the Clark Belt.