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

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Old September 4 2008, 03:33 AM   #1
LutherSloan
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First Replicator Usage?

Do we have an idea from the show, films, or books as to when the first replicators appeared on Starfleet vessels?
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Old September 4 2008, 04:32 AM   #2
MarianLH
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Re: First Replicator Usage?

It must have been after Star Trek VI, and before the first season of TNG. Beyond that, I don't know of any references, though there may be something in a bok somewhere.


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Old September 4 2008, 05:12 AM   #3
LutherSloan
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Re: First Replicator Usage?

That timeframe sounds right, but I am not sure when it was.
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Old September 4 2008, 06:35 AM   #4
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Re: First Replicator Usage?

In VOY "Flashback", Janeway claims that Kirk and friends didn't have replicators back in ST6. We don't know how literally Janeway should be taken there, though; it's perfectly possible that even Kirk's TOS ship was equipped with devices based on the replicator principle, even though the devices that made Kirk's meals may have been more primitive.

There are no direct references to replicator use aboard the E-B, E-C or Stargazer or any of the other older vessels that made an appearance in TNG stories. Then again, the TNG food replicator prop was used for decorating Kirk's cabin in ST6. Probably it was playing the demanding role of a simple storage cabinet there, though.

So essentially I'm just blabbing, and the answer still remains "between ST6 and TNG and we don't know more".

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Old September 4 2008, 04:55 PM   #5
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Re: First Replicator Usage?

It's not canonical, or even canon-consistent, but the prototype of the replicator idea appears in David Gerrold's 1980 ST novel The Galactic Whirlpool, which is apparently meant to take place immediately before "The Trouble With Tribbles" (or at least, I believe Gerrold has said so in recent years; the only connection is a reference on the last page to setting course for station K-7). He portrayed the tables in the rec room containing built-in devices that used transporter technology to deliver the food (though it took about a minute, and it was unclear whether the food was actually assembled from raw materials or simply prepared elsewhere and beamed to the table). Since Gerrold was one of the developers of TNG, he may have been the one who worked the replicator concept into the premise.

Shane Johnson's 1987 Mr. Scott's Guide to the Enterprise describes a similar technology in use in the movie era, claiming that "Nutritech Corporation's new food processor system" combined centralized "food synthesis machinery" that assembled convincing foodstuffs from basic nutrients (not unlike ENT's "protein resequencer") with micro-transporters that beamed the synthesized food to the various delivery slots around the ship. This was an updating of the food-delivery system described in The Making of Star Trek, in which the food was mechanically prepared from real, perfectly preserved ingredients and delivered to the food slots by a sort of turbo-dumbwaiter system inside the walls. (Although in the light of ENT, we can now assume that protein resequencing was used instead of or in addition to real-food storage.)

Of course the Galactic Whirlpool version can't be reconciled with canon, but if we accept Johnson's premise for the sake of argument, that would mean that they didn't technically have replicators in the movie era, but they had something very close. The main difference between Johnson's food processor and a replicator is that the latter uses transporter technology to create the food (and other objects whose patterns are stored) from raw molecular stock, so that assembly and delivery are combined into a single process. But it seems to me that Johnson's processors would've been close enough to replicators that there wouldn't have been too many decades between them.


It's worth noting that the term "replicator" didn't actually get used in TNG until the second season. According to the twiz.com script database, the term was first used in "The Child," and both its second-season references (that and "Samaritan Snare") are to replicators as devices for creating technology rather than food. "The Survivors" was the first episode to refer to a replicator by name and assert that it was used to make food, with "Hollow Pursuits" being the second. In the first three seasons, the devices are generally referred to by the term "food dispenser," or occasionally "food station" (twice, by Riker) or "food slot" (by Crusher and the computer in "Evolution," and in occasional script instructions through season 5). "Food terminal" was used by Jarok in "The Defector." The transitional "food replicator" was used in "Sarek," but it had just become "replicator" by "The Most Toys" (at least in script directions).
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Old September 5 2008, 02:29 PM   #6
Wingsley
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Re: First Replicator Usage?

Aren't we all forgetting when Transporter Operator Kyle dishes out some chicken soup to that air force guard in "Tomorrow Is Yesterday"? That was obviously a replicator Kyle was using. Same thing happened repeatedly throughout TOS, and not just the mess hall. Back then, these small units were called "food processors", but they used a crude form of replication technology.
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Old September 5 2008, 02:36 PM   #7
MarianLH
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Re: First Replicator Usage?

Wingsley wrote: View Post
Aren't we all forgetting when Transporter Operator Kyle dishes out some chicken soup to that air force guard in "Tomorrow Is Yesterday"? That was obviously a replicator Kyle was using. Same thing happened repeatedly throughout TOS, and not just the mess hall. Back then, these small units were called "food processors", but they used a crude form of replication technology.

We're not forgetting anything. You're forgetting what was said one post upthread:


Christopher wrote: View Post
the food-delivery system described in The Making of Star Trek, in which the food was mechanically prepared from real, perfectly preserved ingredients and delivered to the food slots by a sort of turbo-dumbwaiter system inside the walls.

Not a replicator, just a delivery slot.


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Old September 5 2008, 05:08 PM   #8
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Re: First Replicator Usage?

^^Right. Heck, the chicken-soup delivery in TiY was no more remarkable than a present-day coffee machine -- you push a button and a few seconds later you get a hot liquid delivered in a container. There's no reason the food slots couldn't have various flavors of soup, coffee, tea, and the like kept hot in vats just above the food slot, with clean dishes and utensils being stored nearby as well. It could be achieved with today's technology. No need to assume it had to be a replicator.
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Old September 5 2008, 06:10 PM   #9
Timo
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Re: First Replicator Usage?

...Although no need to stick to the writer intention that it was nothing but a crude mechanical dumbwaiter, either. Just because a science fiction writer from a certain era has a limited imagination doesn't mean that his or her audience needs to self-limit in like manner!

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Old September 5 2008, 06:53 PM   #10
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Re: First Replicator Usage?

The dumbwaiter system was no more "crude" than the turbolift system, just smaller. And I'm opposed to arbitrarily replacing a perfectly functional piece of engineering with something more complex and energy-consuming just because it's more "futuristic." Using a transporter to beam something from one part of the ship to another is quite simply a stupid waste of energy when a nice, functional physical conveyor can do the job far more efficiently, if a tad more slowly. Using transporter power to synthesize a cup of coffee from raw atoms is a stupid waste of energy when you can just have a vat of hot coffee and a cup dispenser behind the wall. Imagination should be balanced with common sense.
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Old September 5 2008, 07:34 PM   #11
Timo
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Re: First Replicator Usage?

Oh, I'm ready to apply the argument both ways. The TNG system might very well feature dumbwaiter elements, or beverages stored in the terminals for immediate delivery (indeed, this would help explain some of the malfuction modes).

It just strikes me as incredibly crude and inflexible that the food slots of TOS would have their own network of frankly rather gigantic shafts capable of accommodating trayfuls of food. If any alternative existed to building that trunkage, I'm sure Starfleet would go for it.

And at some point in Trek history, energy expenses will cease to matter aboard starships. Probably they have ceased to matter long before ENT, really, considering the supposedly fantastic power requirements of high performance warp drives. Out of the parameters to be optimized, energy expenditure is probably among the last and least.

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Old September 5 2008, 10:06 PM   #12
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Re: First Replicator Usage?

What if the TOS Enterprise's food slots were indeed micro-transporters, but of a 'hard-wired' variety? Here's what I'm thinking: (1) you stick your menu disc in the slot at the food slot near you, (2) your food is assembled in the central nutrient processor or whatever wherever it is on the ship, (3) converted to energy, (or maybe these two steps are concurrent?) (4) runs along wires to the food slot you requested it from, and (5) voila is reassembled as your order.

That negates the whole intraship-beaming-as-problem thing as presented in 'Day of the Dove' and makes the technology involved need to be less sophisticated.

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Old September 5 2008, 10:29 PM   #13
Ronald Held
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Re: First Replicator Usage?

Much less energy usage for the microdumbwaiter approach.In the TOS/Movie eras, they seemd to be more energy limited on the ships.
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Old September 5 2008, 10:53 PM   #14
USS Excelsior
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Re: First Replicator Usage?

In answer to the question there's a version of it used on ENT.

"Protein Resequencers"
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Old September 6 2008, 01:03 AM   #15
Wingsley
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Re: First Replicator Usage?

I'm not buying this "dumbwaiter" approach.

All those moving parts, all those chances for something to go wrong en route from the "galley" to the destination. And it took just about five seconds, maybe ten, for Kyle and Nurse Chapel to each access randomly selected food. (Remember, it was the Sergeant's idea to have chicken soup; if it was hand-prepared, how did Sarge know it was on the menu?) No turbolift in TOS ever worked that fast. And lest we forget the quickie drinks that Mirror-Marlena whipped up.

To approach it from the opposite direction... We know that Federation starships use transporter technology and subspace everything, including hand talkies. Why not low-grade ("molecular resolution", to use a Sternback term) replicator/microtransporters?
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