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Go Back   The Trek BBS > Misc. Star Trek > Trek Tech

Trek Tech Pass me the quantum flux regulator, will you?

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Old October 16 2013, 05:56 PM   #1
Mark_Nguyen
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Are communicators and tricorders anachronistic now?

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 16 2013, 06:00 PM   #2
B.J.
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Re: Are communicators and tricorders anachronistic now?

No, I don't think they're anachronistic. There's something to be said for keeping things simple and separated, which would make it easier to repair things in the field if necessary. It also has the advantage of not leaving you without any equipment if that one thing happens to fail.
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Old October 16 2013, 06:25 PM   #3
T'Girl
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Re: Are communicators and tricorders anachronistic now?

My smart phone was useless at detecting lifeforms when my brother-in-law and I last went turkey hunting.

Nor does it have the range to call a orbiting spacecraft.

On the other hand, the "desk top" computer atop Picard's ready room desk does look incredible huge.

>oo<
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Old October 16 2013, 06:42 PM   #4
Nob Akimoto
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Re: Are communicators and tricorders anachronistic now?

There's a lot of infrastructure necessary to use our current smart phones and a sort of delicacy that comes from things like tablets and scanning devices.

For communicators, we have to remember that these things operate without cell towers being located every 500m and instead have subspace transmitters that have ranges of ~couple hundred thousand kilometers that seem to not need any calibration to find the thing they're transmitting to and permit secure transmissions. They also transmit faster than light, so unless we have some sort of quantum entanglement based phone in the next 50 years, I don't think they're likely to be viewed as anachronistic.

Same for tricorders. I mean the only weird thing is their small displays. Everything else about them is still sci-fi, from tracking life forms to scanning the material composition of the ground.
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Old October 16 2013, 09:06 PM   #5
SchwEnt
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Re: Are communicators and tricorders anachronistic now?

^^^ Yeah I was gonna say.
Today's smartphones and other gadgets are heavily reliant upon cell towers and wifi networks and cloud storage and GPS connections and the internet for functionality.
How limited would a smartphone or tablet be without *any* connectivity network support, solely operating on its own?

Communicators and tricorders are largely self-contained units, not needing extensive infrastructure to operate.

Plus, I suppose they are designed not for general public use but for specialized Star Fleet missions.

Exploring strange new worlds, where no man has gone before, you'd want rugged reliable sturdy independently functional hardware. It may not be the latest and greatest that 23rd century tech has to offer, but the best option when needed on the final frontier, well beyond the nearest help desk.
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Old October 16 2013, 09:11 PM   #6
C.E. Evans
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Re: Are communicators and tricorders anachronistic now?

^^^
Pretty much word for word my sentiments, especially with civilians using more advanced stuff at home that may not be as rugged.
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Old October 16 2013, 09:16 PM   #7
Mark_Nguyen
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Re: Are communicators and tricorders anachronistic now?

I'm actually not talking about technical limitations - obviously if in the TNG era a two-inch metal pin can call a spacecraft tens of thousands of kilometers away with perfect clarity, it's not an issue for a phone of that era to do the same.

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?
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Old October 16 2013, 09:35 PM   #8
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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?
Updated how? Look at the dramatic roles each of those tools fills: the tricorder is the way Our Heroes gather information. The communicator is how they communicate that and coordinate with other characters. The phaser is how they act with their setting (typically defensively; occasionally a mild bit of engineering like using it to warm an area or dig a ditch or something).

Replace the things you call the tools if you want, but they're still going to serve those dramatic roles: a way to gather information, a way to communicate information, a way to produce action.

If there is anything missing from the kit it's a way of producing actions that are subtler than phasering someone or something into oblivion, but if you try beaming down with a tricorder, communicator, phaser, and a solar-powered nanite gadget for un-tearing their uniform shirts you're going to draw unwanted giggles from the audience.
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Old October 16 2013, 09:37 PM   #9
R. Star
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Re: Are communicators and tricorders anachronistic now?

Yeah sorry when you can scan everything from elemental compositions to lifeform readings with a smart phone, I'll stop wanting a Tricorder.
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Old October 16 2013, 10:54 PM   #10
Mark_Nguyen
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Re: Are communicators and tricorders anachronistic now?

That's my point - in the future a smartphone SHOULD be able to do all that. It's at this point I wonder whether some future Trek would take a leap and combine all three into a single device - the single thing that scans for stuff AND zaps bad guys AND phones the ship as the need arises. Dramatically, it's all a prop to drive the action forward. And it's not like in the whole history of Trek any of our heroes have been captured, had their gadgets taken away, and then someone giggles and notes that they didn't realize his insignia pin was really a walkie talkie.

Today we have a certain drive to peripherals again - smartwatches and head-mounted displays and what not - but it's all still centered on your phone. I wonder if, dramatically, one do-it-all device can handle all the dramatic AND technological needs of three. After all, the Doctor has his sonic screwdriver and it's done pretty much anything required of the plot for fifty years (like any good magic wand should), so there is a precedent of a sort.

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Old October 16 2013, 11:02 PM   #11
Tosk
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Re: Are communicators and tricorders anachronistic now?

Having a badge on your chest, a gun on your hip, and a tricorder in your hand (or on your other hip ) doesn't seem like too large a load to bear in my opinion.
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Old October 16 2013, 11:15 PM   #12
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Re: Are communicators and tricorders anachronistic now?

Upgrading the communicator from a handheld device to a small pin on the chest was actually a logical upgrade storywise. Scenario: You're captured by an alien race during a first contact mission. They confiscate the phaser because it looks like a weapon. They confiscate the tricorder because it's obviously some sort of electrical device. They don't recognize the communicator pin as anything but a decoration.

Consolidate all those into a single functional item. The aliens confiscate it and you've got nothing.
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Old October 17 2013, 12:30 AM   #13
SchwEnt
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Re: Are communicators and tricorders anachronistic now?

^^^ Something about having all your eggs in one basket.
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Old October 17 2013, 01:02 AM   #14
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Re: Are communicators and tricorders anachronistic now?

And just imagine all the "Starfleet is sooo dumb!" complaints when that one piece of equipment malfunctions and therefore prevents its other uses.
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Old October 17 2013, 01:03 AM   #15
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Re: Are communicators and tricorders anachronistic now?

Multi-purpose use and compactness is a virtue for civilians where they can easily replace things, notsomuch for people out in the middle of nowhere.
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