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Old January 28 2014, 03:43 PM   #1
Lieutenant Junior Grade
In-Universe Explanation for TOS Retro Tech

Has anybody bothered to formulate a plausible in-universe explanation for the crude analog technology in TOS-- specifically the panel and computer interfaces?

If we assume the Prime trek universe is, in fact, our universe, this seems like a tall order. It would require rationalizing a complete reversion of materials, interface, and culture from today's tech back to 60's tech in the 23rd Century. How and why would that happen? That's a larger philosophical question that-- while probably a stretch-- could be attributed to the fact that tech is increasingly driven not by function, but style. I suppose it's possible that, just like photography trends now, that design culture drove a stylistic reversion to knobs and switches.

Of course that doesn't explain why Spock must look into the viewfinder to read scientific data, or what that round, b&w kaleidoscopic screen tells him, or how the navigator gleans a detailed planetary analyses from the static, screenless console.

Fans like to play the duotronics card at this point, which I find lame. So you've transitioned to a totally different computing paradigm, fair enough. Why should that require a functional devolution? Why the dot matrix printers, tapes, various cartridges, and room-size computers?

It gets even worse (or better, depending on your POV) in the movies when each console is decked out with wheel-spoke Lite Brite panels. Eventually we transition back to touch interfaces and digital read-outs. By the way, I loved Voyager's nod to the knob and switch era with the Delta Flyer. Nicely handled there.

This brings up a separate question about production. Did the producers intend to make the interfaces as plausible as possible, based on their best guesses about futuristic technology and budget constraints? Did they expect the audience to "believe" the science officer could plausibly glean an atmospheric analysis from an array of 4 multicolored lights? Or did they take the more theatrical approach, purposely using simplistic interfaces and expecting the audience's imagination to fill in the gaps?

Don't get me wrong, I love the retro tech (RIP, Cage gooseneck viewers). I just think it would be fun to postulate on the reversion from an in-universe perspective.

Last edited by BMariner; January 28 2014 at 03:46 PM. Reason: Formatting
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