Movie Gadget Friday: 2001: A Space Odyssey

Ariel Waldman contributes Movie Gadget Friday, where she highlights the lovable and lame gadgets from the world of cinema.

In honor of the loss of one of our greatest sci-fi heroes, Movie Gadget Friday is paying homage to the inimitable Arthur C. Clarke with a two-part series that explores the future of 2001: A Space Odyssey and 2010: The Year We Make Contact. This week we'll be diving into the luxurious exploration of deep space. Everyone knows HAL, but 2001 also takes an extraordinary amount of time to study the intricate details of each spacecraft -- as such, this week we'll focus on the Orion III and Space Station V.

Space Station V
Serving as a meeting point between Earth and the Moon, Space Station V is a space structure of massive proportions. From the inside looking out, the view might be slightly disorienting, as the station constantly rotates, its rings providing a grounding effect, allowing travelers to enjoy the extravagance of Earth's gravity in space. Upon arriving at Space Station V, visitors are greeted with a standard reception area where they are asked to move through to documentation, which involves a wall-embedded voice print identification system for each visitor. The interior design of each room stays true to its circular exoskeleton, while the furnishings appear to hold closer ties to the 1960s than the early oughts -- just the way we like it. More after the break.

Located in Space Station 5 are multiple PicturePhone stations via Southwestern Bell, for those wanting to video chat with the family back home. (Hey, give 'em a break, Skype doesn't get invented until 2003.) All PicturePhone stations are private with chairs and tactile numeric dialing keys for convenience. The video quality definitely leaves something to be desired, but seems to maintain an transmission stream uninterrupted even by the antsy-button pressing of a little girl. By inserting your credit card vertically into the dock, a brief video call will cost you approximately $1.70 (pretty good considering calling from space is cheaper than most mobile roaming fees). Be warned, though, as the PicturePhone contains paragraphs full of illuminated fine print similar to pretty much every device on deck -- including the Zero Gravity Toilet.

Orion III
A spacecraft with a strong plane-design influence, the Orion III takes the comforts of the friendly skies into space. Pilots are able to make the jump between jet-jockey to space cowboy thanks to the familiar, easy to use plane-like cockpit and controls. Passengers relax in style, traveling in rich leather seats which feature an embedded widescreen display for both entertainment and business needs. The controls appear to be directly beneath each display, so travelers need not worry about fighting for elbow room to reach those primitive armrest-embedded controls. Lined with futuristic velcro technology, the aisle floors are strong enough to hold down the weight of a person when the shuttle reaches zero gravity (also useful for unexpected turbulence). The suspiciously all-women space-flight attendants are also outfitted with white leather apparel and gripped shoes so as to easily serve passengers; we can't help but wonder if anti-discrimination laws still hold up in space.

Next week in our two-part series, we'll jump ahead to two years from now to check out the the gadgets found in 2010: The Year We Make Contact. For more on the spacecraft of 2001, check out 2001: A Scale Odyssey.

Ariel Waldman is a social media insights consultant based in San Francisco. Her blog can be found at