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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 June 6 2009, 02:34 AM   #1
Gotham Central
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TOS' hostility toward advanced computers

One cannot help but notice that TOS seems to have a distinct hostility toward computers and advanced machines. They are NEVER shown to be useful and are usually depicted as a threat to human life. This stands in stark contrast to all of the later series who had a much more favorable approach to technology.

Most intelligent machines were depicted as malevolent or at the veryleast a malevolent influence

Nomad
M5
The Doomsday Machine
Landru
Vaal

Even Kirk's personal computer was, with its female personality, was depicted as an annoyance. This of course does not include the various androids (which are quietly forgotten in on TNG in order to make Data special).

Why do you think that the show seemd so hostile toward machines? was it simply a lack of familiarity with the technology? (i.e. by the time of TNG people were familiar with computers and thus less afraid of them).
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Old June 6 2009, 02:40 AM   #2
Basil
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Re: TOS' hostility toward advanced computers

At the heart of many TOS stories was the notion that humans, despite their greatly advanced technology, still carried with them the same flaws that had plagued civilization since its beginning. Those who gave into their flaws -- ego, greed, vanity, arrogance, jealousy, vengeance, hypocrisy, and so forth -- were doomed to failure. Thus, it was the human condition that needed to be improved upon. The constant reminder that machines, superior in some ways, were also flawed because they were built by flawed beings was an easy way to drive the point home within a sci-fi context. It was also a trope left over from Forbidden Planet and other classic films.
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Old June 6 2009, 02:46 AM   #3
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Re: TOS' hostility toward advanced computers

These machines though, have usually gone awry...hence the problem they therefore create.
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Old June 6 2009, 02:56 AM   #4
Shatmandu
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Re: TOS' hostility toward advanced computers

TOS was a product of the time, and at the time, computers were new.

Joe, 1101100101000100101000011111
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Old June 6 2009, 02:57 AM   #5
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Re: TOS' hostility toward advanced computers

I wasn’t around back then, but judging by the TV of the day, I get the distinct impression that a fear of the advances of technology was common among the public, and TV simply reflected those attitudes. The Twilight Zone is another series that frequently played off that theme.
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Old June 6 2009, 03:13 AM   #6
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Re: TOS' hostility toward advanced computers

Star Trek was so forward thinking, they were anticipating all the problems with Microsoft products!!
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Old June 6 2009, 03:20 AM   #7
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Re: TOS' hostility toward advanced computers

I imagine that at least some of it was just the writers looking for creative ways to invent antagonists for the stories. Computers, at least, don't twirl their moustaches.

Last edited by Admiral Buzzkill; June 6 2009 at 03:50 AM.
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Old June 6 2009, 03:23 AM   #8
Brutal Strudel
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Re: TOS' hostility toward advanced computers

The Moustachetron 9000 does.

Rey, contrary
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Old June 6 2009, 04:15 AM   #9
Shaw
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Re: TOS' hostility toward advanced computers

It is funny, but while there were a few times where the computers were the problem, more often they were part of the solution. Unfortunately viewers of the show today have computers at their every turn in life so overlook many of the uses of computers in the show that were not only science fiction back then, they bordered on fantasy.

In forty years the fans of the show have taken some aspects of it and made them so common place in todays world as to be practically invisible to 21st century viewers.

For example, most people think of communicators, phasers and tricorders when thinking of TOS props, but this card reader is almost universally overlooked...


This device could be comparable to today's PDAs, iPods or Zunes... with a screen for displaying information of comparable size. One has to wonder why productions like Phase II haven't used this device to have a character watching a movie while relaxing in their bunk?

Or how about comparing two images side by side on a computer screen... with the images stored in memory!


A lot of what happens in TOS happen because of the computers, it is just so everyday for us now that it is hard to see how fantastic it was back then.
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Old June 6 2009, 05:21 AM   #10
AtoZ
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Re: TOS' hostility toward advanced computers

Gotham Central wrote: View Post
One cannot help but notice that TOS seems to have a distinct hostility toward computers and advanced machines. They are NEVER shown to be useful and are usually depicted as a threat to human life. This stands in stark contrast to all of the later series who had a much more favorable approach to technology.

Most intelligent machines were depicted as malevolent or at the veryleast a malevolent influence

Nomad
M5
The Doomsday Machine
Landru
Vaal

Even Kirk's personal computer was, with its female personality, was depicted as an annoyance. This of course does not include the various androids (which are quietly forgotten in on TNG in order to make Data special).

Why do you think that the show seemd so hostile toward machines? was it simply a lack of familiarity with the technology? (i.e. by the time of TNG people were familiar with computers and thus less afraid of them).
I always admired Kirk's ability to outwit or unplug a wayward super-computer.

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Old June 6 2009, 05:29 AM   #11
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Re: TOS' hostility toward advanced computers

I think Kirk was onto something, I wanted to kill my work PC today.
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Old June 6 2009, 05:33 AM   #12
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Re: TOS' hostility toward advanced computers

Computers were often treated as Gods and their defeat represented throwing off our need for Gods/religion.
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Old June 6 2009, 07:10 AM   #13
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Re: TOS' hostility toward advanced computers

AtoZ wrote: View Post
I always admired Kirk's ability to outwit or unplug a wayward super-computer.

The Terminator franchise could stand to borrow him for a bit so Kirk can convince Skynet to self-terminate
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Old June 6 2009, 01:46 PM   #14
Brutal Strudel
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Re: TOS' hostility toward advanced computers

Shaw wrote: View Post
It is funny, but while there were a few times where the computers were the problem, more often they were part of the solution. Unfortunately viewers of the show today have computers at their every turn in life so overlook many of the uses of computers in the show that were not only science fiction back then, they bordered on fantasy.

In forty years the fans of the show have taken some aspects of it and made them so common place in todays world as to be practically invisible to 21st century viewers.

For example, most people think of communicators, phasers and tricorders when thinking of TOS props, but this card reader is almost universally overlooked...


This device could be comparable to today's PDAs, iPods or Zunes... with a screen for displaying information of comparable size. One has to wonder why productions like Phase II haven't used this device to have a character watching a movie while relaxing in their bunk?

Or how about comparing two images side by side on a computer screen... with the images stored in memory!


A lot of what happens in TOS happen because of the computers, it is just so everyday for us now that it is hard to see how fantastic it was back then.
Indeed. Trek was very clear that computers were wonderful tools but that mankind should never be in a position where the tool calls the shots. Spock says that almost verbatim in "The Ultimate Computer."

Dr. Who, by contrast, was somewhat more technophobic: in place of flesh-and-blood recurring adversaries like the Klingons and Romulans, it presented the Daleks and Cybermen. I wonder if this had something to do with how much more traumatic the technologies of the 19th and 20th centuries (from the Industrial Revolution up through Hitler's buzz bombs and V-2s) were to Britain than to America.
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Old June 6 2009, 02:49 PM   #15
Sovay
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Re: TOS' hostility toward advanced computers

I can agree with most points made here.
I'd add that one thing that really comes through to me strongly through TOS is humanism. I think artificial intelligence represents something else, and perhaps in a way it's a cautionary tale. It was a time of enormous advancement, and I don't think people were scared of technology, in fact I think people were rearing for that progression. I think TOS addresses the fact that no matter what we, as humans, create, it will always be subject to our failings. Like kirk told nomad, it's impossible for an imperfect being to create a perfect one.

This being said, I think it was also convenient as a plot device. They never really liked to show Kirk or the others killing if it could be helped, so having machines as the bad guys means the crew can destroy them with far fewer ethical quandaries.
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