The 5 Science Fiction Tales That Made Us Love Virtual Reality

For almost as long as there has been science fiction, there's been virtual reality, teaching us about worlds inside machines before we even knew what the internet was. Here are five of the earliest, and best, VR stories we grew up with.

Doctor Who

Was "The Deadly Assassin" the inspiration for the Wachowski Brothers? Probably not, but The Doctor's 1976 jaunt inside a virtual reality called The Matrix - with a psychedelic world constructed by The Master; Who loves to use that definitive article - may have been the first use of VR that many people ever encountered. Of course, this Matrix was more like a surrealist's nightmare constructed on a drama school budget, but Tom Baker managed to make you believe with his usual sense of glee.



To this day, the definitive virtual reality movie for many people, the 1982 weirdly Disney-esque anthromorphisation of computer programs (Yes, I know it was made by Disney; I mean it in the sense of, making computer programs into people seems very similar to giving animals human mannerisms and language) made an entire generation wish that they, too, could be zapped inside of a computer and ride around on awesome-looking virtual motorcycles.

Star Trek: The Next Generation

One of the first mainstream suggestions that VR could be fun and not a sign of some nefarious plot - even if it did keep breaking down, TNG's holodecks were, in fact, a holdover from the ill-fated late 1970s Star Trek: Phase II series. Needless to say, fans came up with the idea of using the ability to create lifelike duplicates of real people for purposes not suited for family television long before Quark's holosuites hinted at it in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.


Red Dwarf

Despite the science fiction on the British series often being more or less a disposable addition to the very traditional sitcom element of the show, 1988's "Better Than Life" introduced the concept of a "total immersion video game" that was so indistinguishable from reality that you could never be quite sure when you were actually in the game, and when you weren't, making it seem as scary as it did exciting - especially when the game could pick up on your subconscious self-loathing without your realization.


The Lawnmower Man

Ah, the early 1990s, when virtual reality really crossed into the mainstream, and we almost believed that it could (a) make you smarter, (b) give you psychic powers and (c) allow for melty virtual sex, just as this movie promised.


Of course, the technology wasn't there just then - or now, for that matter - and the disappointment turned us all into Jeff Fahey, going from this:


to this:


We await the day when virtual reality becomes all we've been promised by all of these shows and movies, if only for the ability to make the above change again, in reverse.

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