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Old July 27 2013, 05:11 AM   #1
Fleet Captain
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Location: New York State
The Computers of Star Trek

Sci-fi from the time of TOS often used real computer hardware. Check out "The B-205 in Movies & T.V." link on this page:

Only computer-savvy viewers, who were very rare at the time, knew that those photogenic panels of blinking lights were already obsolete by the mid-Sixties. That's what made used units affordable as studio props.

And some of that stuff still looks really good to me. It's ironic given how primitive they were, but late-1950s institutional computers, from certain angles, are gorgeous.

Star Trek went another way of course, building most of their computers from scratch with varying results. Spock's built-in unit at the Briefing Room table is nice and sleek, but the judicial computers in "The Menagerie" and "Court-Martial" are boxy and clunky, and other desktop units throughout the series seldom look very good.

I'd say the best-looking computers were the M-5 in "The Ultimate Computer" and the Beta 5 in "Assignment Earth," while the worst was Landru in "Return of the Archons."

One of McCoy's little computers was actually a slightly modified portable radio if I'm not mistaken. It's at the bottom of this image:

There's a 7-part feature here on the "PC Props of Star Trek" that illustrates a lot of things:

Having to portray things way beyond current technology prevented Star Trek from using much real hardware. Sometimes a great look was achieved, but at their worst, Star Trek computers looked a lot less real than the used business machines on other shows, but no more futuristic.
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