Thursday, June 06, 2013

Inspiration for the Holodeck

In 1965, Ivan Sutherland imagined the goal of virtual reality with his 'ultimate display,'

The ultimate display would, of course, be a room within which the computer can control the existence of matter….With appropriate programming such a display could literally be the Wonderland into which Alice walked.
Sutherland 2002, 256 

Many people might have assume that Sutherland’s  was the inspiration for the ‘Holodeck’ featured in the television series, Star Trek the Next Generation. However, according to the Wikipedia entry for 'Holodeck,' this is not the case. Gene Dolgoff, the inventor of digital projection, claims to have suggested the idea to Gene Roddenberry in 1973, when the two spent the day together. The source for the Wikipedia article linked to a netcast for a show called ‘Home Geek Theater,’ where Dolgoff made that claim, but I could not find the actual mention of holodecks transcribed anywhere. So I decided to rectify that for other net surfers who may travel the same journey as I did.

(It would be nice btw, it the person who provided the account of the meeting of Roddenberry and Dolgoff would add a citation for the source of their information).


Transcript (49:51 – 51:46)

Scot Wilkinson – So I’m just gonna ask you one more question about 3D and that is the future of 3D. I know you wanted to spend a lot of time on this and we don’t have a lot of time, but I would like to get you hit on, um, ah, you mentioned we would eventually see our 3D displays go towards holography and this is very exciting to me. Of course I watch Star Trek and most of our audience probably does and they know of the holodeck, where you go in and it looks like you’re actually in an environment which is holographically generated, ah, I don’t imagine we’re gonna see that any time soon, but, ah, ah, I have seen some prototype holograph displays that were not very impressive, they were like just line drawings or dot drawings. You seeing the potential for something better than that in the foreseeable future?

Gene Dolgoff – Yes, let me first say that the Holodeck was my idea.

Scot Wilkinson – What?

Gene Dolgoff – Yeah, I worked with Gene Roddenberry, ah, back in ’73, I think it was.

Scot Wilkinson – No kidding!

Gene Dolgoff – Um yeah, I showed him holographs, I told him all about holography and I specifically explained to him, when he had the first Star Trek, ‘Look, this is the future and the future’s gonna have holography and you’re not depicting it in the show, that’s not right.’ And so I spent a lot of time brainstorming with him and, er, we came up with the holodeck idea. Er, I took it further and I said, ‘Not only that all the displays of the ship should be holographic.’ He said ‘yeah, but how we gonna show that on the show?’ So it just stayed the holodeck the way it is, the way you go inside it you see another reality, but yeah that was my development.

Scot Wilkinson - That’s incredible, that’s incredible.


Sutherland, I. E. (1965). ‘The ultimate display.’ In Packer, R., & In Jordan, K. (2002) Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality. New York: Norton, pp. 252-6. Available online from:

Wilkinson & Dolgoff (2011) ‘3D Mayhem’. Home Theater Geeks Episode 74: Retrieved 06 06 13 from

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