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I first saw the holodeck in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Had any other science fiction work used computer-programmable virtual recreation before Star Trek? If so, where was it first used in sci-fi?

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  • It has to be a virtual reality you can physically walk around it, right? Not the kind where you lie down wired to a machine and have sensory inputs fed directly to your nervous system? That kind of set-up goes way, way back.
    – user14111
    Jul 31, 2015 at 9:42
  • @user14111 : That was my interpretation, i.e. not a simulation achieved by direct interface with the brain or nervous system, and not through the use of VR goggles.
    – Praxis
    Jul 31, 2015 at 13:23

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No, and the earliest "holodecks" were the nursery in "The Veldt" and the Surprise Chamber in Moscow-Cassiopeia.

Interestingly, something akin to the holodeck first appeared in the episode "The Practical Joker" of Star Trek: The Animated Series in 1974, 13 years before TNG.

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That being said, Ray Bradbury's 1951 book The Illustrated Man features a short story called "The Veldt", in which a children's nursery can create material objects and environments at the whim of whomever is in the room. I believe this is the first description in science fiction of a programmable, simulated, recreational reality (that doesn't involve direct interfacing to the brain or virtual reality goggles).

enter image description here

The nursery was silent. It was empty as a jungle glade at hot high noon. The walls were blank and two dimensional. Now, as George and Lydia Hadley stood in the center of the room, the walls began to purr and recede into crystalline distance, it seemed, and presently an African veldt appeared, in three dimensions, on all sides, in color reproduced to the final pebble and bit of straw. The ceiling above them became a deep sky with a hot yellow sun...

Now the hidden odorophonics were beginning to blow a wind of odor at the two people in the middle of the baked veldtland. The hot straw smell of lion grass, the cool green smell of the hidden water hole, the great rusty smell of animals, the smell of dust like a red paprika in the hot air...

"Walls, Lydia, remember; crystal walls, that's all they are. Oh, they look real, I must admit - Africa in your parlor - but it's all dimensional, superreactionary, supersensitive color film and mental tape film behind glass screens. It's all odorophonics and sonics, Lydia..."

The nursery in "The Veldt" is technology-based, and you "load programs" with your mind, i.e. the nursery connects to one's mind telepathically. If you want an African savannah, it will give you one. You can adjust the output by adjusting your thoughts / expectations, and so it is programmable in that sense.

If you are looking strictly for a holodeck that has an actual physical computer interface, I believe that the 1973 Russian-language film Moscow-Cassiopeia has the first. The device in the film is called the "Surprise Chamber", which is very similar to the Star Trek holodeck.

enter image description here

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  • Good answer. Pretty sure the "hard light" version of the X-Men's danger room predates TNG as well.
    – Omegacron
    Jul 31, 2015 at 16:47
  • @Omegacron : Thanks! That's a good point about the Danger Room --- I agree.
    – Praxis
    Jul 31, 2015 at 18:09
  • looks like the "hard light" upgrade using Shi'ar technology was in 1991. The previous version with mechanical dangers still used holograms for illusion, though. So it might still count on a technicality.
    – Omegacron
    Jul 31, 2015 at 18:44
  • Does the Krell machine in Forbidden Planet (1956) count? You can consider it a planet sized holodeck with the safeties off...
    – JerryTheC
    Oct 29, 2016 at 14:56

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