9 Incredible Predictions of Future Tech in the 80s Cartoon Inspector Gadget

Inspector Gadget was not only an awesome cartoon series but it made some incredible tech predictions of the future.
Christopher McFadden

Any child of the 1980s fondly remembers inspector Gadget, but did you know it might have also been a window into the future?

1. Inspector Gadget predicted laptop computers



Inspector Gadget first hit the airwaves in 1983 and made some interesting predictions of future technology. One of which appears to be the laptop.

If you've never watched the series, it centers around the adventures of a powerful, if dimwitted, cyborg police inspector called Inspector Gadget. He is tasked with investigating, and putting a stop to the maniacal machinations of one Dr. Claw and his criminal organization MAD.

However, behind the scenes, the real crime fighters are Gadget's niece, Penny, and her dog, Brain. These two consistently thwart the plans of MAD and often save Inspector Gadget from disaster in many episodes.

Part of Penny's toolkit includes a special book that she uses much like a laptop computer. In the real world, laptops wouldn't actually hit the market for another 4 years after the initial release of the cartoon series.

2. Digital Cameras were predicted by Inspector Gadget

9 Incredible Predictions of Future Tech in the 80s Cartoon Inspector Gadget
Source: Inspector Gadget

In one particular episode of Inspector Gadget, "The Infiltration" Penny Gadget uses a device that looks suspiciously like a digital camera. The handheld device is hooked up to her awesome computer-book and is used to take pictures.

Whilst it failed to predict the use of either internal memory or memory cards, we think we can give them a pass on that minor point. Whilst it is clearly modeled on an "Instamatic" style camera of the period, its size is not too dissimilar to some of the first consumer digital cameras of the 1990s.

One notable example being the Apple QuickTake 100 which made its market debut in the mid-1990s.

3. Inspector Gadget also predicted Wi-Fi and the internet

Inspector Gadget Tech Predictions WiFi
Source: Marco Paköeningrat/Flickr

Penny Gadget's special book was well ahead of its time as it also appears to have Wi-Fi capability. On many an occasion, her book seems to be able to hook up to a wireless network to retrieve information.

Using this, Penny was often required to search for information relating to the case at hand and looking for possible solutions. This is eerily reminiscent the internet of today.

In the real world, the internet as we know it today first came into existence in 1990. As for Wi-Fi, it wouldn't really become a thing until the mid to late 1990s with the 802.11 standards being formulated in 1997.

4. Penny Gadget's book had digital maps

Inspector Gadget Tech Predictions digital maps
Source: Inspector Gadget

Digital maps akin to the modern-day Google Maps or Sat Navs, appear to have been predicted by Inspector Gadget, too. On many occasions, Penny found herself in need of finding her way around a new location.

Whether that be a pyramid or other building, she would consult her computer-book to help guide her way. After a click of a few buttons, she was always presented with a digital map and handy navigation functions to get the team out of a fix.

She could even hook her book up to Gadget's Gadgetmobile to act as an impromptu Sat Nav. 

Today we don't think twice about firing up our real world Sat Nav devices, or opening Google Maps on our smartphones, to help guide us to our intended destination. Whilst this technology can't yet tell you how to guide yourself around a particular building, it's not inconceivable this will become a feature in the future.

After all, some airports currently provide navigational apps to help you find your gate.

5. Self-driving cars were predicted in the series


Any fan of Inspector Gadget will fondly remember Inspector Gadget's awesome Gadgetmobile. Not only was this vehicle packed with fantastic gadgets, as you'd expect, but it also had an autopilot mode very reminiscent of modern autonomous vehicles.

The Gadgetmobile could also park itself which is a ubiquitous feature of many luxury cars today. However, it did also have a fully autonomous driving function, as seen in the episode "Monster Lake."

What's more, this same episode predicts our reliance and trust of modern day technology. In it, Dr. Claw manages to fool the autopilot by, in classic cartoon style, changing a road sign.

This throws off its advanced navigational systems, for some reason, and sends the Gadgetmobile driving itself over a cliff.

6. Inspector Gadget also had Predictive text

Inspector Gadget Tech Predictions predictive text
Source: Google

Not only was Penny Gadget's insanely cool computer book ahead of its time as a laptop with WiFi and internet it seemed to also have predictive text. She would only need to punch in a few keystrokes for the book to know, almost intuitively, what she wanted to know.

This would imply that the computer-book had some form of predictive text akin to Google's function almost 20 years earlier. Quite an amazing prediction of the future that may even have inspired the founders of Google several decades later.

Some fans also believe that the data pages the book displays after a search also resemble the look of Wikipedia. But we'll let you be the judge of that one.

7. Voice-operated devices were also predicted by Inspector Gadget

9 Incredible Predictions of Future Tech in the 80s Cartoon Inspector Gadget
Source: Inspector Gadget

Another incredible future technological prediction made by the series was the voice-activated command. In one particularly notable episode, "Gadget's Replacement", Gadget is replaced by an automated Crime Computer.

This device is able to respond to Police Chief Quimby's commands in a similar fashion to modern day voice-operated devices. The last few years have seen an explosion in similar technology the likes of Apple's Siri, Google's Home, and Amazon's Echo.

Interestingly, much like it's modern, but considerably smaller, equivalents, the Crime Computer often has some trouble understanding commands to the letter. Perhaps this is its most notable prediction of today's technology.

8. Drones were one of Dr. Claw's favorite toys

Inspector Gadget Tech Predictions drone
Source: Inspector Gadget

In the Inspector Gadget Series, Dr. Claw seemed to have a penchant for using drone technology. From robotic sharks to Incan warriors to even a Loch Ness Monster, he relished deploying them in an attempt to take over the world.

All of these were often seen remotely controlled from a distance from his secret hidden base.

Although forms of remote-operated vehicles have actually been in military use for some time, they have become very widespread in the last few decades. The ethics of this aside, especially in warfare, they will become a more common part of our daily lives in the years to come.

9. Penny Gadget also appears to have a smartwatch



Inspector Gadget's creators either had some insider knowledge of up and coming tech or they truly were from the future. 


Apart from Penny Gadget's amazing computer book with WiFi, Internet capability and predictive text, she also donned a function-heavy smartwatch.

It had video calling capabilities, tracking apps, radiation sensors, lasers, and even a flashlight. While many modern smartwatches can't provide many of these functions, video calling has been available for a few years.

But judging by the advancements being made we can't wait to see them integrate lasers in the smartwatches of the future. We can but dream.

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board