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RIP Fred I. Ordway III (1927-2014)

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Old July 9th 14, 07:33 AM posted to sci.space.history
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Default RIP Fred I. Ordway III (1927-2014)

....I had the fortunate opportunity to meed and chat with Fred back in '02, when he was a guest at a model rocketry convention held here in CenTex. Fred was very cordial, friendly, and above all else forthcoming on any questions regarding "2001" and his participation in the film's design. From memory here's the highlights of our chat:

1) He was sort of surprised that NASA hadn't adopted the "intelligent helmet" design that was shown in the film, with solid-state memory modules pre-programmed for different functions for mission support. At the same time, he was also disappointed that during film production, Kubrick had rejected the idea of the inside of the "intelligent helmet" being able to display data, much in the same way "Google Glass" now harbinger's the capability forthwith. Apparently Le Enfante Terrible didn't believe that an LCD display could be made a) that large and b) that curved by the start of the 21st century, and it should be noted that the term "LCD" didn't even come into the discussion. The displays were all still either rear-projection and/or picture tubes, with flat-panels being something not even conceived circa 1965 when the film was being envisioned.

2) Fred did say that the helmet's memory modules were, in retrospect, a prediction of what we now call USB flash drives. However, in 2002 - just one year after "2001" became "speculative alternate history fiction" - "USB" still stood for "Useless Serial Bus", a term that I quoted to Fred which had him laughing so hard in agreement he damn near fell off the chair. As Peter Alway was present for this one, he can feel free to stand up and vouch for this one, as even his ribs were hurting

3) The decision by Kubrick to destroy not only all the props but the concept drawings was something that was pretty much universally disliked by anyone involved in the film's production. Granted, they understood the artistic reasoning behind his decision, but from a historical standpoint it ranked right up there with taking the Venus de Milo's arms and deliberately smashing them to bits just to enhance the mythos behind the statue. There were some who ignored the edict, tho; hence the drawings we do have, and the lone surviving "intelligent helmet", not to mention the transluscent version of the Monolith, but not enough of the behind-the-scenes materials survived. Were it not for creators like Fred Ordway and Doug Trumbull, and the efforts of historians like Jerry Agel, Underman, Piers Bizony, Jay Cocks, Robert Kolker, and Simon Atkinson, there would be a *LOT* of holes in the history behind one of the inarguably greatest pieces of cinematography in motion picture history. I was privileged to have the opportunity to thank Fred for being part of that information treasure trove, and to shake his hand for it as well.

....Fred was a visionary of the type we needed in those halcyon days of model rocketry and space exploration. His passing is a loss that's deeply felt, and one that will continue to be felt for quite some time. Still, each time someone puts on Kubrick and Sir Art's Magnum Opus, or launches a cardboard tube with an Estes "D" shoved up its arse, Fred Ordway will live on in spirit. The fact that he died so shortly before a day when thousands, if not millions of rockets of various designs, scales and especially reports will be launched into the heavens, is not one that should escape any sort of significance. On the 4th of July, we not only celebrated US independence from political tyranny, we marked the passing of someone whose visions helped point the way to freedom from the tyranny of Newton's Law of Gravity.

Rest in peace, Frederic Ordway. And thanks for sharing your visions of the future with not only my generation, but those who follow who need the inspirations now more than ever.


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