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Go Back   The Trek BBS > Star Trek TV Series > Star Trek - Original Series

Star Trek - Original Series The one that started it all...

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Old December 14 2012, 04:33 AM   #31
Elder Knight
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Re: TOS Microtapes: help me settle a debate!

I'm guessing that they're using a storage medium not even imagined in the 21st century -- but calling it "tape" for traditional reasons -- as if somehow, "tape" had become a general term for storage. Perhaps it was deemed the most reliable of all those slow, old types of storage.

Transferring data by handing off a cartridge rather than sending it along electronically is sometimes used for reasons of security. I suppose that's why Starfleet does it.
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Old December 14 2012, 02:45 PM   #32
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Re: TOS Microtapes: help me settle a debate!

Christopher wrote: View Post
BoredShipCapt'n wrote: View Post
There's always the possibility that they're some other kind of storage medium but everyone just calls them "tapes" out of old habit, much as we may still speak of "taping" a show off TV, or for TV, when it's not really tape being used.
Well, yes, of course. I don't think anybody here is claiming that we believe there "actually" were tapes inside the cartridges.
I didn't mean "actually" actually, only fictionally actually.
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Old December 14 2012, 04:01 PM   #33
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Re: TOS Microtapes: help me settle a debate!

Elder Knight wrote: View Post
I'm guessing that they're using a storage medium not even imagined in the 21st century -- but calling it "tape" for traditional reasons -- as if somehow, "tape" had become a general term for storage. Perhaps it was deemed the most reliable of all those slow, old types of storage.

Transferring data by handing off a cartridge rather than sending it along electronically is sometimes used for reasons of security. I suppose that's why Starfleet does it.
It's quite reasonable to assume today that there aren't actually tapes in there (in the Trek universe, not the props). However, I'm virtually certain that back in the day, the producers pictured tiny tape in them!

Tape storage was taking off in the 60s. Audio cassettes had come out for the public. The wide usage of floppy discs was just around the corner and no doubt designs were in the works while TOS was on the air.

The TOS microtapes seem like a logical combination of these things. Just not for the TOS timeframe. They were a pretty good prediction for using floppy discs and flash drives though.

The observations about data slates and the lack of networking (at least in some cases) are pretty interesting. This has been a fascinating look at the thoughts of that time. While you can predict how some of the technology that will develop, you clearly can't predict how everything will work together.

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Old December 14 2012, 04:32 PM   #34
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Re: TOS Microtapes: help me settle a debate!

If we want to talk about dated technological assumptions in TOS, what gets me is Kelso's line in the second pilot about the impulse points decaying to lead. That would mean the "points" were made of uranium and the impulse drive was fission-powered, instead of fusion-powered as is now assumed.

Then there's the sound the computer made when it was "Working" -- the clunking of mechanical relays. Although I guess a hard drive makes a similar sound as the reader arm or whatever you call it moves across it.
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Old December 14 2012, 04:44 PM   #35
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Re: TOS Microtapes: help me settle a debate!

The computers made a lot of noise on all versions of Star Trek. We have already moved beyond the touch panels on TNG.


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Old December 14 2012, 04:45 PM   #36
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Re: TOS Microtapes: help me settle a debate!

In Omega Glory / Miri it looked like the portable computers were networked back to Enterprise through the communicators almost like they were used as modems.

In TNG they didn't even have virus protection, in the episode Contagion it was pretty easy for an alien program to start re-writing the OS.

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Old December 14 2012, 04:51 PM   #37
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Re: TOS Microtapes: help me settle a debate!

if you guys want to read a really great book on the apollo program and the human / computer interaction for space flight, read the book Digital Apollo. It goes into the role of the computer vs. the role of the astronaut.


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Old December 14 2012, 06:10 PM   #38
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Re: TOS Microtapes: help me settle a debate!

Christopher wrote: View Post
If we want to talk about dated technological assumptions in TOS, what gets me is Kelso's line in the second pilot about the impulse points decaying to lead.
Or the line in "This Side of Paradise" where Kirk is hurling insults at Spock, trying to get him angry enough to shake off the spore influence: "You don't have the brains to understand. All you have is printed circuits." Printed circuit boards were state-of-the-art electronics at the time.
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Old December 14 2012, 06:33 PM   #39
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Re: TOS Microtapes: help me settle a debate!

We still use printed circuits in just about all electronics. It's not outdated yet.
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Old December 15 2012, 03:47 PM   #40
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Re: TOS Microtapes: help me settle a debate!

Christopher wrote: View Post

Then there's the sound the computer made when it was "Working" -- the clunking of mechanical relays.
And its rather stilted monotone way of speaking (in either universe).
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Old December 15 2012, 06:27 PM   #41
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Re: TOS Microtapes: help me settle a debate!

Mr. Laser Beam wrote: View Post
And its rather stilted monotone way of speaking (in either universe).
At the time, that monotone fit the general public's idea of a "robot" or "computer" voice -- even though ten years earlier, Forbidden Planet's Robby spoke fluent conversational English with normal inflection and pitch variation.

(And 187 other languages along with their various dialects and sub-tongues!)
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Old December 16 2012, 12:48 AM   #42
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Re: TOS Microtapes: help me settle a debate!

Christopher wrote: View Post
"If we want to talk about dated technological assumptions in TOS, what gets me is Kelso's line in the second pilot about the impulse points decaying to lead. That would mean the "points" were made of uranium and the impulse drive was fission-powered, instead of fusion-powered as is now assumed."
But...in this particular, same pilot they arrive at a "lithium cracking station" (Delta-Vega). One of the components in our (still) theoretical designs for fusion reactors is "cracked lithium".
Thus it would appear that they were aware of fusion power unless it's a collossal coincidence.

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Old December 16 2012, 02:58 AM   #43
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Re: TOS Microtapes: help me settle a debate!

Christopher wrote: View Post
You see the same shortsightedness about progress in a lot of science fiction. Read SF novels and stories from the '40s or '50s and you'll see the writers assuming that people thousands of years in the future will still use punch cards or wire recorders or microfilm, or that computers would always be vast, room-sized agglomerations of vacuum tubes. Aside from Murray Leinster's "A Logic Named Joe," which kind of predicted the Internet, most SF writers assumed that an entire country or planet would have a single, gigantic central computer that would act as an oracle granting answers to questions put into it, usually in punch card or magnetic tape form. They were generally as bad at predicting the advance of computer hardware as they were at predicting the advance of gender equality.
True story: Several years I edited a collection of classic 1950s sf stories by Pauline Ashwell. With Pauline's permission, we updated some of the more dated stuff regarding both computer hardware AND gender equality!

At one point, in the one of the original stories, a computer fell over--and crushed two people! I can't remember how we fixed that, but we did.

(I also changed bits of casual sexism like "the senators and their wives" to "the senators and their spouses" and so on.)

Getting back OT, it can be a challenge sometimes to strike the right balance between what saw on TOS and our modern sense of how a sophisticated Starfleet computer system ought to work. Why exactly is that yeoman stumbling across the bridge in the middle of a space battle just to transfer a microtape from one station to another?
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Old December 16 2012, 04:49 AM   #44
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Re: TOS Microtapes: help me settle a debate!

Of course, magnetic tape was the state-of-the-art for data storage in the later 1960s, and tape in a tiny cartridge did seem like a dream of the future, so the writers went with that. But they spared themselves some embarassment, probably unwittingly, by not showing actual tape in side the device. We can now assume that it may be solid state or ions or bubbles or something, just called "tape" for traditional reasons.
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Old December 16 2012, 05:15 AM   #45
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Re: TOS Microtapes: help me settle a debate!

Greg Cox wrote: View Post
At one point, in the one of the original stories, a computer fell over--and crushed two people! I can't remember how we fixed that, but we did.


A server farm, I'd imagine if one or more of these racks fell over on two people it might kill them.

Maybe the colorful squares aren't "tapes," but instead T.A.P.E.'s, a four letter acronym?

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