Star Wars' impact on the world of film cannot be ignored, but George Lucas' iconic sci-fi series has also been a significant player in the world of tech since 1977.

From sound design to special FX, via computer games and CGI and from laser disc through to holograms, Star Wars has always been close to techradar's heart.

So, with Star Wars VII nearly here, we've combed through our archives and put together an alternative list of Star Wars facts to fascinate and enthrall you like C3PO to an ewok.

And while you're here, remember to check out our Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailers, news and rumors

We've got a good feeling about this.

1. BB-8 was actually a whole army of droids

From the moment the first Force Awakens trailer was released, BB-8 began to steal the hearts of Star Wars fans. Starting life as a back-of-a-napkin sketch from director J. J. Abrams, the little rolling droid eventually became an army of real-life droids, each with a different purpose.

Only a quarter of BB-8's onscreen shots were digitally created – the rest were made using a combination of high-tech props and puppetry. While puppets were used for those shots where BB-8 showed off her quirky personality, the most tech-heavy BB was the one that would actually roll around the set remotely.

While her full design is a closely-guarded secret, the Sphero BB-8 toy tells us a lot about how the full size droid probably worked. With a combination of gyroscopes and motors propelling her, the opposing forces of magnets allow BB-8's head to stay bobbing along up top without creating too much friction against the rolling body.  

2. Star Wars special effects guru Dennis Muren is backing a holographic version of Star Wars

Dennis Muren - not a hologram

Dennis Muren – not a hologram

Muren is often asked about the inevitable re-release of Star Wars on every single new format, but he told techradar that he was kinda okay with all of that adding: “If there is a way in the future to do a hologram version [of Star Wars] and the fans want it then it should be done.”

3. Sebulba's pod racer uses the sound of a Ferrari, and Anakin plumped for a Porsche

Star Wars sound mixing - fascinating

Star Wars sound mixing – fascinating

The sound design for Star Wars has been a source of fascination for years – most Star Wars fans could tell you that the lightsaber noise is a mixture of a TV cathode ray tube hum and film projector hum, for instance. But did you know that for the pod races, nasty Sebulba was all Italian sports icon but Anakin's self-built offering was a bit more Bavarian hot rod?

4. It was seven long years before you could buy yourself Star Wars on VHS

Star Wars - we played our VHS copy so much it broke

These days you can practically buy yourself a copy of the film before it hits the big screen, but there was a time when you had to be little more patient. The rental version of Star Wars appeared in 1982, but it was apparently a couple of years down the line before you could spend your hours rewinding the R2D2 Jawa bit until you could perfectly mimic the noise he makes when he's hit by the stunner.

5. The Xbox 360 was redesigned as R2D2 to launch Kinect Star Wars

C3PO Bling - R2D2 win

C3PO Bling – R2D2 win

The game might have been a bit, well, Jar Jar, but when we're looking back at the greatest console designs of all time there might well be a place for this droidified bit of kit – we're not so convinced by the C3PO blingpad however.

6. Darth Vader selfie launched the official Instagram account

the rear camera is weak in this one

We wanted to roll our eyes, but we secretly loved it.

7. Seven formats and counting

Survivor of both the Clone and Format wars

Survivor of both the Clone and Format wars

By our reckoning, even without the remasterings and generally tinkered-with editions, Star Wars has managed to get itself onto at least seven different home entertainment formats: VHS, Betamax, Laser Disc, V2000, DVD, digital and Blu-ray. 3D Blu-ray and UHD is yet to make an appearance – but we might just wait for Muren’s Holographic version for now. Don’t even get us started on streaming…

8. Maz Katana was a digital dream made real

It seemed initially like a waste to cast an amazing actress like Lupita Nyong'o in the Force Awakens…and then hide her behind a CGI character. But it was hard to argue against the onscreen effect – her fully computer generated alien counterpart, Maz Kanata, was a joy to watch.

Tracking Nyong'o's performance in the Medusa Performance Capture system, developed by the Disney Research team in Zurich, every micro expression was recreated onscreen for a remarkably lifelike performance. It showed (as with The Force Awakens as a whole), that the best use of special effects is when practical and digital tools are both employed in perfect harmony.

9. Not making lightsaber noises under your breath is *actually impossible*

Bzzzt thrrp!

Even the consummate professional Ewan McGregor couldn't stop himself from hmmzzzing as he swung his laser sword around. They had to edit out his noises in post-production.

10. Spielberg's War of the Worlds owes a debt to Revenge of the Sith

Steven Spielberg - another tech trailblazer

Lucas had hoped to get his mate Spielberg into the director's chair for Star Wars but it was not to be. The Jaws and Indiana Jones director did help out with Episode III however – including the Anakin and Obi-wan lightsaber duel, which was one of the high points of the prequels. Apparently Spielberg took that knowledge of modern visual effects into his next big thing, War of the Worlds.

11. Episode III had more special effects shots than the first two prequels put together

Digital FX are increasingly prevalent in the prequels

350 visual effects in A New Hope gave way to 2,200 digital effects shots in the last of the prequels to be released – and yet Revenge of the Sith is the only Star Wars film not to receive an Oscar nomination for best visual effects.

12. The asteroid sequence in Empire apparently includes a shoe and a potato

And one of these lines is actually a

It's been suggested that Lucas' constant tinkering brought a object protest by the visual effects team – we understand chipping in with a potato, but who throws a shoe?

13. Star Wars DIDN'T introduce Dolby Stereo to the world

Dolby Stereo was a bid deal for early Star Wars screenings

Lucas' original is certainly the film that made Dolby Stereo popular – but the first film to feature the sound tech was actually Barbra Streisand's A Star is Born. Which is a bit of shame because Star Was is a hell of a lot more memorable – probably even in the Streisand household.

14. The dialogue on the Blu-ray edition is as close to the original sound as you're ever going to get

The original tapes

The original tapes

Star Wars sound maestro Matthew Wood told us: “On this Blu-ray release one of the things that came available to us that we found deep in our archive was the original production rolls. These were the rolls that were used for the original dialogue recording, and the entire production recording that were done on the set.”

15. You can buy the graphics cards being used for Star Wars 7's effects

Nvidia Quadro M6000

JJ Abrams might not be the biggest proponent of digital film (he's gone back to proper film stock for the new film) but he is a fan of digital effects and you can own the Nvidia Quadro M6000 graphics cards being used in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

A word of warning – they aren't cheap…

16. The mixing desk at Skywalker Sound cost a million dollars

Skywalker Sound

“It's a few years old now, but brand-new it cost $800,000. But that's before installation,” one of the sound engineers at the Ranch told techradar earlier this year. “After everything is said and done it costs around $1 million.”

Article first published in May 2014. New facts added Dec 2016