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Jaime Sommers has not received any gifts yet
The Bionic Woman is an American television series starring Lindsay Wagner that aired for three seasons between 1976 and 1978 as a spin-off from The Six Million Dollar Man. Wagner stars as tennis pro Jaime Sommers who is nearly killed in a skydiving accident. Sommers' life is saved by Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson) and Dr. Rudy Wells (Martin E. Brooks), by bionic surgical implants similar to those of The Six Million Dollar Man Steve Austin. As the result of Jaime's bionics, she has amplified hearing in her right ear, a greatly strengthened right arm, and stronger and enhanced legs which enable her to run at speeds exceeding 60 miles per hour.The series proved highly popular worldwide, gaining high ratings in the US and particularly so in the UK (where it became the only Science fiction programme to achieve the No.1 position in the ratings during the 20th Century).
What is it like to be a cyborg? In his last regular column for BBC Future, Frank Swain explores the biggest misconceptions about bionic limbs, microchip implants and beyond.
At the height of summer, when London was baking in unseasonable heat, I made an ill-fated trip to the Serpentine lido in central London. The Serpentine is a small lake in the heart of the capital where bathers have cooled off since the 18th Century. Leaving my clothes by the side of the lake, I plunged under into the refreshing water, only to hear it crackle around me in a peculiar way. I’d forgotten to take out my hearing aids. And just like that, the greenish waters of the Serpentine washed away my new-found hearing.
The next day the devices were still lifeless little pebbles, one red and one blue, and I was lucky that my audiologist had an opening the following evening. I expected to be put in the doghouse when I explained what had happened, but he was delighted. “This tells me your brain has adapted perfectly to the devices,” he smiled.
There’s a cost to this tightened integration, though. My brain is no longer tuned to life without prosthetics. Without my hearing aids, I hear worse than I did before I got them. The little electronic plugs have become an extension of myself. Although I can be physically separated from my hearing aids – I can take them out and hold them in my hand – my sense of hearing is not so easily picked apart. It exists partly in my ears, and partly in my devices.
So I am now a cyborg out of necessity, not choice. Being part machine is my resting state. Yet I don’t feel much like Robocop or the Six Million Dollar Man. If I am a cyborg, shouldn’t I feel more, well, superhuman?
There’s a big gulf between the fantasy vision of cyborgs, and the current reality of being dependent on an implant or a prosthetic in day-to-day life. If we’re to separate the two, we ought to pay close attention to those who are living in that world already.
For this last column in my Beyond Human series, I spoke to a variety of very different people who I encountered this year. Each have embraced the idea of human enhancement, from an artist who hears colour to a man who can start a motorbike with a chip implanted in his hand. What secrets can they share about life as an enhanced human?
Scientists have created a bionic hand which allows the amputee to feel lifelike sensations from their fingers.
A Danish man received the hand, which was connected to nerves in his upper arm, following surgery in Italy.
Dennis Aabo, who lost his left hand in a firework accident nearly a decade ago, said the hand was "amazing".
In laboratory tests he was able to tell the shape and stiffness of objects he picked up, even when blindfolded.
A blind man from Minnesota has been able to see his wife for the first time in a decade thanks to a device his doctor has described as a "bionic eye."
Allen Zderad, 68, began losing his sight around 20 years ago, due to a degenerative, incurable eye disease, retinitis pigmentosa. By 2005, he had lost almost all of his vision and had to stop working.
But this week Mr Zderad was able to see again, thanks to a groundbreaking procedure performed by surgeons at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
Mr Zderad was fitted with a Second Sight implant, which bypasses the damaged retina and sends light-wave signals to the optic nerve. Mr Zderad also had an electronic chip embedded in his right eye, which works in conjuction with a prosthetic device set in a pair of special glasses.
The patient was soon able to make out shapes, human forms and his own reflection. When he saw his wife sitting in front of him, the pair burst into tears.
'When he heard his first words I was just so overcome I went into the next door laboratory and wept for joy.'
Professor Graeme Clark had since the 1960s been engaged in intense research into the areas of otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat surgery) and the human brain's response to coded sound. His PhD from 1969 reflected a keen interest in finding ways to improve, restore and even introduce hearing to patients. From here he started investigating methods to electrically stimulate the auditory nerve. Clark's research led to the development of the cochlear implant and the means to implant the device in human recipients. In 1978, assisted by Dr Brian Pyman, Professor Clark successfully performed the world's first cochlear implant operation on Rod Saunders at Melbourne's Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. Clark further developed the cochlear implant to a 22-channel device and children became recipients of the cochlear implant for the first time in the 1980s. The 1980s also saw the Australian company Cochlear Pty Ltd produce the implant for recipients worldwide. Lauded both nationally and internationally for his research, Clark led the development of a device that the US Food and Drug Administration estimates has been implanted to approximately 219,000 people worldwide.
Gleaned from two separate retrospective profiles on the life and career of Graeme Clark, this clip shows him at work, family home movies, and historic photographs. Of great interest is the rare footage of the first hearing test for Rod Saunders, recipient of the world's first multi-channel cochlear implant in 1978. Listen as Clark also discusses his motivations for entering medicine and assisting the hearing-impaired in particular, and how nature helped inspire his vision for the development of the cochlear implant device.