"...the space defense initiative drove the USSR bankrupt, and it originated at my house in Tarzana."
Okay, tell the truth: when you first watched Star Wars, did you carefully scrutinize the area underneath the landspeeder? It looked distorted, like heat waves on a hot pavement.
This device is one of the simple ways (although it wasn't so simple to film in those pre-CGI days) that Lucas establishes that you really are in a galaxy far, far away.
(Model landspeeder from Star Wars movie parked in suburbia)
If you are interested in the subject of hovercraft, be sure to see the entry for hovercraft from Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibson. He didn't invent hovercraft, but he did make them look cool.
Finally, check out the original idea for this kind of craft - the flitter from 'Doc Smith's 1941 story Vortex Blaster.
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