5 Fictional Inventions From Literature That Became Real

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Long before these modern-day inventions became real, their fictional precursors existed in books, essays, and short stories. Talk about prescient prose!


Texans Lew Hewitt and Dee Horton are thought to have officially invented the automatic door in 1954. But 55 years earlier, the concept of a motion-sensitive sliding entryway first appeared in H.G. Wells’ 1899 book When the Sleeper Wakes. One difference? Wells' door folded upwards instead of moving side-to-side like today’s technology. 


In 1964, Isaac Asimov’s essay “Visit to the World's Fair of 2014” imagined what technology—and humanity—would be like 50 years later. Asimov’s forecast wasn’t entirely accurate, but he did predict the advent of wireless technology, writing that the “appliances of 2014 will have no electric cords, of course, for they will be powered by long-lived batteries.”


Throughout history, many people have come up with the concept of a global communication system. However, Mark Twain’s 1898 short story "From The 'London Times' of 1904" described a fictional invention called a “telectroscope,” which worked as a global telephone. The device made “daily doings of the globe…visible to everybody, and audibly discussable too, by witnesses separated by any number of leagues." Sounds like the Internet, huh?


Not only did Hugo Gernsbacher found the world’s first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, he also provided the world with the very first description of radar in his 1911 novel Ralph 124C 41+. The technology, Gernsbacher wrote, would be “a pulsating polarized ether wave, [that] if directed on a metal object can be reflected in the same manner as a light-ray is reflected from a bright surface or from a mirror…”


In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, a fictional team of inventors use a cannon to shoot a spacecraft into the sky. In 1926, 61 years after the work was published, Robert H. Goddard launched the world’s first liquid-fuel rocket. Thirty-five years after that, Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space, completing an orbit of the Earth in 1961.

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