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Old October 17 2013, 01:41 AM   #16
Chuck4
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Re: Are communicators and tricorders anachronistic now?

I think the likely course of technological development seen from today would be contrary to the ethos of Star Trek. For example, I think interstellar exploration will almost certainly be conducted almost solely by automated probes, and would be the far better done because of it. I think modern neural and computer science increasingly point to the fact that human have nothing unique that can not be surpassed by machines, so the omni-emphasis of Star Trek on "command decision" and "human intuition" is itself an anachronism.
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Old October 17 2013, 02:02 AM   #17
Wingsley
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Re: Are communicators and tricorders anachronistic now?

Who is to say that a TOS-era communicator isn't, in a sense, a 23rd-century talkie? Keep in mind that "non-smart" cell phones are still quite common, as are two-way radios. (Not everyone wants to spend big bucks to get an iPhone of Galaxy S that they have no use for; and there are still plenty of areas where no cell phone will work, regardless of cost, brand-name, feature set or color).

A Federation Starfleet-issue communicator isn't really the equivalent of a "smartphone" anyway. Cellular phones rely on cell towers and a terrestrial communication grid to operate. Communicators are built to work reliably far from home, on the frontier, where there are presumably no network towers to "call home".

Look at it this way: if smartphone technology were the answer, don't you think today's soldiers on the battlefield would simply trade in their radios for smartphones? Obviously they won't. That's because battlefield situations tend to be in places far removed from the comforts (and technological networks) of civilization.

The same could be said of communicators. They aren't phones. They're walkie-talkies, built to be easy-to-use, easy-to-maintain, and easy-to-repair/repurpose in the field. How many smartphones could be modified to emit sonic vibrations to cause a landslide? ("Friday's Child")

The TOS-era tricoder would be a tougher one to justify. It's easy to see a heavily-modified iPad Mini as a tricorder. (Presumably, the Starfleet-issue tricorder is more powerful than any modern mobile device, with the ability to scan and analyze various forms of matter and energy ("Obsession"), as well as to detect when a starship is missing from orbit. ("That Which Survives").

Actually, TOS really doesn't bother me that much, tricorders aside. TOS tended to rely on voice-recognition-techology, hooded viewers, blinking coded lights and sound effects rather heavily.

TNG built on this, but began making other assumptions that look rather odd. Picard's rather bulky desktop display is an example of what people thought computers should look like before laptops ever hit the mass market. And in "Contagion", there was a major plot point that the Enterprise-D's computer system was actually a mainframe. While mainframes have not completely faded away, that centralized model of computing has obviously been overtaken by networked microcomputers ("PCs"). Where would that lead in a few centuries? Who knows?

One great thing about TNG was the re-invention of the "communicator" as a badge with only a tap-and-voice-command interface. Nothing seen before or sense could beat that. (TNG's fold-up tricoder, on the other hand, was obviously their attempt at an iPad Mini!)

So both TOS and TNG had their triumphs and their foibles. You can point and laugh if you like, but JJ Trek doesn't seem to have done anything revolutionary to change that.

If you want to talk about re-imagining or re-invention, look at the TOS bridge or other control sets. Look at all those control panels with all those knobs and switchgear. Now imagine fewer buttons and more liberal use of iPad-like touchscreen surfaces like TNG. That would make sense. Most of the basic premise of TOS and TNG still looks great today. The "point and laugh at" needs for change might be significant, but may not be the items you suggest.
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Old October 17 2013, 02:07 AM   #18
Wingsley
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Re: Are communicators and tricorders anachronistic now?

Chuck4 wrote: View Post
I think the likely course of technological development seen from today would be contrary to the ethos of Star Trek. For example, I think interstellar exploration will almost certainly be conducted almost solely by automated probes, and would be the far better done because of it. I think modern neural and computer science increasingly point to the fact that human have nothing unique that can not be surpassed by machines, so the omni-emphasis of Star Trek on "command decision" and "human intuition" is itself an anachronism.
Or, perhaps like the TNG "Interface" probe, space exploration would be done virtually with the probe being guided/interfaced by a living human who could be light-years away. This would eliminate the need for starships, starbases and a space armada. (Though it would not sidestep the notion of human colonization of distant star systems, would it?)
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Old October 17 2013, 05:26 AM   #19
Chuck4
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Re: Are communicators and tricorders anachronistic now?

Wingsley wrote: View Post
Chuck4 wrote: View Post
I think the likely course of technological development seen from today would be contrary to the ethos of Star Trek. For example, I think interstellar exploration will almost certainly be conducted almost solely by automated probes, and would be the far better done because of it. I think modern neural and computer science increasingly point to the fact that human have nothing unique that can not be surpassed by machines, so the omni-emphasis of Star Trek on "command decision" and "human intuition" is itself an anachronism.
Or, perhaps like the TNG "Interface" probe, space exploration would be done virtually with the probe being guided/interfaced by a living human who could be light-years away. This would eliminate the need for starships, starbases and a space armada. (Though it would not sidestep the notion of human colonization of distant star systems, would it?)
No, if humans want to live in moderate comfort for several thousand years more, they would need to colonize. But except in setting grand strategy, their decision making or presence, tele or otherwise, would be increasingly superfluous and harmful towards attainment of tactical objectives.

There might still be a need for an armada, so long as there might be civil war amongst humans or possible hostile aliens. but it would likely be almost totally automated and AI controlled, with human input at grand strategic level at most, plus a safety kill switch.
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Old October 17 2013, 09:23 AM   #20
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Re: Are communicators and tricorders anachronistic now?

Wingsley wrote: View Post
Look at it this way: if smartphone technology were the answer, don't you think today's soldiers on the battlefield would simply trade in their radios for smartphones?
A smart phone falls from a coffee table on to a carpet and it breaks. In Afghanistan, my brother once had a field radio fall three stories to a concrete sidewalk and it worked just fine.


And in "Contagion", there was a major plot point that the Enterprise-D's computer system was actually a mainframe.
Server farm.

This would eliminate the need for starships, starbases and a space armada.
It would also eliminate the "need" for an audience. Karl Urban's new police show "Almost Human" has his character paired with a robot cop (yes, this again). If it was a show with just robot cops I doubt too many people would watch it.

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Old October 17 2013, 11:06 AM   #21
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Re: Are communicators and tricorders anachronistic now?

Mark_Nguyen wrote: View Post
These days, everyone's smartphone has effectively become the equivalent of these devices. Even in the military, smart devices and tablets are linked to portable sensors, GPS-enabled hardware and even weapons systems to run diagnostics or control their functions. Trek has had PADDs forever, and now we have them everywhere.

Perhaps this is something for the Future of Trek forum, but I wonder if people will see some future incarnation of Star Trek, and seeing the ubiquitous communicators or tricorder, they will point at them and joke about how old-fashioned they will look... Thoughts?

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Old October 21 2013, 11:36 PM   #22
publiusr
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Re: Are communicators and tricorders anachronistic now?

And you want gear task specific in some respects. A smart phone screen can be a flashlight--and give you away--and distract you with apps. I would want gear that doesn't promote distraction.
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Old October 22 2013, 12:39 AM   #23
MacLeod
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Re: Are communicators and tricorders anachronistic now?

Sure there is something to be said for devices capable of multi-functions, but then again there is something to be said about devices build to do one thing.

A device capable of doing many functions has in theory more that can go wrong with it. So it makes sense to have more specialised devices that do one task very well, rather than several tasks ok.
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Old October 23 2013, 03:30 PM   #24
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Re: Are communicators and tricorders anachronistic now?

I always did think the tricorder should also be useful as a communicator... especially in TNG+. After all, if the little badge is so capable, why can't that capability be incorporated into the tricorder body. How much bulkier would it need to be? And, yet, I can't recall ever seeing someone communicate via their tricorders.

Now, I wouldn't replace communicators entirely with tricorder units, as the combadge is pretty convenient, but I would like to see the tricorder get this capacity also.

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Old October 23 2013, 05:01 PM   #25
MacLeod
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Re: Are communicators and tricorders anachronistic now?

It's likely the Tri-corder has some sort of communication system build in to it. So when a ship is in orbit/nearby it can use its computer to help process the information.
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Old October 23 2013, 06:44 PM   #26
Crazy Eddie
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Re: Are communicators and tricorders anachronistic now?

Mark_Nguyen wrote: View Post
My point is, SHOULD the vision of the future as represented in Trek be updated to reflect how far we've come? Everyone does stuff on their phones today - and through 2005 and the end of "Enterprise" we could text people or receive emails if we were lucky. Should the traditional "kit" of Starfleet away gear be updated beyond the usual communicator, tricorder and/or phaser?
The interface needs work. Mass Effect seems to have tackled that with the Omni Tools, which is basically just a holographic touchscreen that wraps around your arm. The omnitool itself is built into the user's clothing and/or surgically implanted in his arm and it basically functions as a combination tricorder/communicator/replicator/melee weapon.

In Star Trek's case, it needs to be realized that your basic communicator is limited by the fact that it has no screen, no buttons, no real way to interact with it other than flipping it open and talking to it. The tricorder has the same problem: even the TNG version has no keyboard and the button layout is pretty limited. For both devices, I could see having a device that you flip open and it immediately creates a holographic display either in the air in front of you, or a virtual display that only the user can see (via contact lenses or implants or whatever). Communicators might even allow visual communication this way, and tricorders could -- through a lot of fancy touchscreen work in a holographic interface -- be programmed to do some pretty fancy things without the Trekian cringeworthy "push four buttons in seemingly random combinations" programming technique.
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Old October 23 2013, 06:50 PM   #27
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Re: Are communicators and tricorders anachronistic now?

Unspeakable wrote: View Post
If it was a show with just robot cops I doubt too many people would watch it.
Depends on the robot.
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Old October 24 2013, 12:14 AM   #28
jayrath
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Re: Are communicators and tricorders anachronistic now?

This comes up every so often. Regarding multi-use, I, for one, wouldn't want to command a crew that had sidearm/tricorder/communicators somewhere on their persons at all times -- especially since, in TOS at least, landing parties are so often separated from their communicators. Hopefully there is gun control in the 23rd and 24th centuries.

And remember that we view it all on TV in 2-D. For all we know, bridge viewscreens and tricorders offer 3-D imaging. And communicators have Dolby surround!

Anyway, when someone invents a cell phone that is able to transmit my coordinates down to the molecule, via "subspace," so that my body can be converted to energy for transport, without towers or satellites, and we have hand-held ray guns that can stun or vaporize, that combine handheld computers (in a pinch with some vacuum tubes and platinum) which can scan and deliver newspaper clippings from alternate timelines centuries ago, which can also scan spaceships in orbit from the ground, then yes, all Trek devices will be anchronistic.
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Old October 24 2013, 05:21 AM   #29
B.J.
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Re: Are communicators and tricorders anachronistic now?

jayrath wrote: View Post
And remember that we view it all on TV in 2-D. For all we know, bridge viewscreens and tricorders offer 3-D imaging.
Actually, it's been pretty explicitly shown in at least some TNG episodes that the viewscreen *is* 3D.
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Old October 29 2013, 04:53 PM   #30
Lance
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Re: Are communicators and tricorders anachronistic now?

I always find it interesting to see how modern technology continues to head towards what Star Trek postulated as mere fiction 50 years ago. With each new development, I've always been able to turn to a friend and say, "Star Trek had all these things five decades ago you know".

People keep mentioning Picard's desktop computer. One thing I found interesting that I'd never noticed before until a recent rewatch is how Patrick Stewart changed how he operates the prop as time went on, as technology like laptop computers started to become more mainstream. In the beginning he was just kind of gingerly tapping it's single button interface as if to imply that's how it cycles through options. But there's a point around the early 90s where he really does begin to operate it more like a real computer, using its single control button in a manner suggesting that he's moving a mouse pointer around the screen. Just a little observation, a case where Star Trek's future began to catch up with our present rather than the other way round.
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