life imitates art (or: I don’t know much about brain scans, but I’ll help you fix your computer.)

Earlier today, I got an email from a Star Trek TNG cast member who will remain nameless. I've chosen the pseudonym Jonathan Frakes for the purposes of this post.

"Jonathan Frakes's" email had been compromised, and I'd gotten one of the things it sent out, so I pinged him and offered to help him fix it, if he needed assistance. "It turns out I still have a little Wesley Crusher in me," I typed. Then I thought for a moment and added, "…eww. That doesn't sound right at all."

I walked him through scanning and removing spyware and malware, mostly via text messages… which was hilarious to me, because my text message alert tone is the original Star Trek communicator sound.

It all ran smoothly, but "Frakes" was concerned about his CPU maxing out. "It's using all the power," he typed to me. Then, and I swear to whatever god you believe in that this is true, he followed that up with: "I'm givin it all I can, Captain!"

I typed back, "Okay. Run a level five diagnostic and emit an inverse neutrino pulse through the main navigational deflector."

A moment later "Jonathan Frakes" replied, "All done! It worked. Thanks for your help."

"Any time," I replied. Then I collapsed into a fit of giggles.

This was funny to me, because we're two Star Trek guys (with magnificent beards), making contextually-relevant Star Trek jokes with each other. More significantly, though, is that we did this using handheld computers which were inspired by the show we were on twenty-five years ago.

Finally, in a nice, poetic bit of closing the circle: twenty-five years ago, I helped Patrick Stewart set up his first Mac II computer. It was an incredible technological marvel, that blew me away… and it didn't have a fraction of the computing power or memory of my four-and-half ounce smart phone.

I love living in the future.

74 thoughts on “life imitates art (or: I don’t know much about brain scans, but I’ll help you fix your computer.)”

  1. At the pace computers and software are progressing, sometimes I am amazed that the computers in Star Trek weren’t able to do more.

  2. This made me happy in my geeky places. Twenty five years ago, TNG was part of what kindled my interest in a career in technology.

  3. Ya know what I love.. as geeky as that is.. and as much crap as “Trekies” get for our geekiness.. the fact that 2 people, who CREATED the thing by which we are geeks.. are themselves GEEKS! No insult intended, I love it. I am honored by it. Having met the both of you, I am safe in my love of the show and you guys.

  4. Awesomeness. I have little events like this every few days in my business. I love stories like this.
    I have found Join.me to be a life saver. Though it assumes that the pebkac on the other end of the phone is actually capable to going there with web broweser, clicking a download link, running it, and reading me a number, and then clicking “allow” when i try to take control of their screen.

  5. Yes Wil -
    It’s fun to be silly! Thanks for sharing the technological “tongue in cheek” geekdom!
    Have a Great March. :D
    This is NOT a fish! —–> < º(((((>< ~ The OTHER* Wil W. ~
    *Preceding

  6. That’s awesome. My text message ringer is the comm badge signal from TNG (it used to be Worf saying “Captain. Incoming message.”) and my email ringer is the pre-announcement whistle from TOS. Yeah, I think I’m pretty cool.

  7. As long as we are on the Star Trek geek thing, I’m going to give away an idea.
    Someone make a Bluetooth microphone/speaker that you wear on your shirt like a broach and uses capacitance sensors so you can answer your phone (that is in your pocket) simply by touching it.

  8. Great story; I too find myself in a state of wonder about the little computer I carry in my pocket and how it runs circles around the ones I grew up loving.
    Of course if you give me a choice there’s a non-zero chance I’d pick the old machine, just to be that kid again…at least for a little while.

  9. I just read this on my tablet, on a network named NCC-1701, with an ID of “PADD.” Thanks for the inspiration, Wil.
    And for the beard, “Frakes.”

  10. I use TOS Communicator sound for my text messages, too. It is really effective in cutting through any background noise and I know for sure, in most mundane situations, that it is my device.
    I loved this exchange. Good thing that you changed the name to protect Jonathan Frakes.

  11. This makes me feel incredibly warm and fuzzy. I love how “meta” it is on so many levels. Sometimes when I’m holding my iPhone in my hand and thinking “THIS? This has more computing power than the computers on the Apollo spaceships that took men to the moon.” it gives me chills. My kids are nine, my parents were born in 1917 & 1922 (2 stretched out generations in a row will do that). Even as a kid in the 1960s (yes I watched & loved the original Star Trek as a broadcast show) I was in awe at how much the world had changed since my parents were young. And when I think about it compared to NOW? It boggles my mind.
    My kids of course don’t quite get it, the non-digital world being completely unimaginable their little plugged in minds. My lifetime has spanned a world significantly transformed. I am excited (and a little frightened) to see where my kids’ lifetimes will take us. To the stars? You never know.

  12. Ha! I think I’ve figured out how you devised the pseudonym “Jonathan Frakes”. You took the English alphabet and applied a 26-letter shift.

  13. “I helped Patrick Stewart set up his first Mac II computer. It was an incredible technological marvel, that blew me away… and it didn’t have a fraction of the computing power or memory of my four-and-half ounce smart phone.”
    but you could play crystal quest on it…IN COLOR!!!!
    ahhhh!

  14. I am deeply amused that your text message tone is the original Star Trek communicator noise, since that’s my twitter sound and my text message/gchat sound is Mr. Worf saying “Captain, incoming message.”
    I love living in the future, too!

  15. They made food out of thin air and translated every alien language they encountered and navigated through space and time. What more were they supposed to do in the 60′s?

  16. Crusher/Riker 2012 – Quantum Change You Can Believe In
    Cabinet:
    Sec. of Defense…………..Warf
    Sec. of State…………….Troy
    Sec. of Energy……………Laforge
    Sec. of Transportation…….M. O’Brien
    Sec. of Commerce………….Quark
    Sec. of Homeland Security….Yarr
    Sec. of Treasury………….Zek
    Sec. of Interior………….Boothby
    Sec. of Agriculture……….Baris
    Sec. of Labor…………….Nerys
    Sec. of Health & Human Svcs..McCoy
    Sec. of Housing & Urban Dev..Mudd
    Sec. of Education…………K. O’Brien

  17. Transporters, replicators and warp drives were enabled by advances in physics and not computational science.
    At the very least I would expect more low level service robots.

  18. Oh, inverse neutrino pulse through the main navigational deflector, is there anything you can’t fix? :-)
    Star Trek cast members making relevant and enormously funny Star Trek references while performing computer diagnostics . . . if we go any deeper, Leonardo DiCaprio will spontaneously appear.
    Seriously, that is not just awesome, but Double Beard Awesome.

  19. As an IT tech and life long TNG nerd – thank you for sharing and, nicely done! I’m in the process of packing up and moving to another state for an awesome new job and to help pass the time I’ve been watching seasons 2 and 3 of TNG…no matter how many times I’ve seen each episode I still enjoy watching them today.
    Mac II…what a beast that thing was…16 mhz of pure processing power…all for the mere price of $5,000. ^_^

  20. Arg….
    Damn double post!
    Anyway, I am always amazed at the level of technology available today. To think just a decade ago the notion of streaming so much information was just a dream.
    BTW – totally stealing the TOS communicator idea. I’ve been using the Station 51 klaxon since 2003 and needed and “update.” Although this update predates Emergency! How odd.

  21. As a long-time-lurker, nil-time-poster, I had to sign up to say – Awesome, I have the same message alert tone as Wil Wheaton! Or does he have the same alert tone as me? Either way it makes for a great start to my day!
    Now all I need is for Mr Wheaton to send me a text, which would arrive with that tone, and I can die a happy geek!

  22. Thanks for reading, and for commenting! I have no idea how many people actually read this, unless you join the conversation, so thank you!

  23. That is fantastically, frakkingly fabulous. And I’ve been thinking about downloading the communicator sound for my ringtone, so this clinches it. Someday I’ll be on a bus and hear someone else’s phone do the same thing and we’ll wink and nod, knowing we’re all Wheatonites.
    On another note, I realized awhile back that when my youngest daughter (Happy Birthday tomorrow, Gillian!) turns 21, it will be the year 2032. That’s not the past’s version of The Future; that’s like we’ve been living in the future for twenty years and everyone just accepts that, and it’s not The Future, but the present, and how quaint that our computers used to be 8×10 screens that you’d have to swipe. With your hand.

  24. And thats one of the reasons I enjoy reading your blog, you are the kind of guy that will take the time to reply to such a post as mine, welcoming me in even with my rather stalker-esque plea for a text message!

  25. Too funny, this mirrors a conservation I had yesterday with a friend while working on a smart phone. Not near as cool, but funny none the less. Wil, you have a gift with your humor and writing. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.
    Oh and keep posting.

  26. I’ve been making my living working with computers since the early 80′s, and my mom asked me probably 20 years ago what I thought computers would be like in the future. I stand by my original answer: ‘smaller, faster, and less expensive. Aside from that, I have no idea.’

  27. Except the Apollo computers the crew on the flight knew exactly how to debug and fix their computers if something went wrong. I don’t think we can say the same things about modern smartphones.
    BTW, there are emulators of the Apollo flight computers if you’re a glutton for punishment.

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