First Replicator Usage?

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by LutherSloan, Sep 4, 2008.

  1. Wingsley

    Wingsley Commodore Commodore

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    What would be the difference, energy-wise between hard-wired transporters for centrally prepared food, versus crude replicator technology?
     
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Except that after Kirk found tribbles in the food slot, Scotty said, "They're in the machinery, all right," and went on to say they probably got there through an air vent. That implies they weren't beamed.

    If you've got transporters, you've already virtually got replicator technology. The only thing you need to add to a transporter to make it a replicator is enough stable computer memory to store a pattern indefinitely, plus a hardware/software tweak to let it materialize that pattern from a stored matter source rather than the original. (Indeed, we've already seen a TOS transporter function as a replicator; it replicated Captain Kirk in "The Enemy Within," though where it got the extra matter supply is mysterious.)
     
  3. Wingsley

    Wingsley Commodore Commodore

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    It could be that the tribbles get into the machinery of an automated central food preparation room/complex located at one or more locations of the starship, through an air vent, and got beamed into the food slots in the mess hall from there.
     
  4. Tigger

    Tigger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    The problem I have with the Tribbles being beamed is how TNG noted that the replicators and (at the default setting) cargo transporters use "molecular level" beaming, which is good for inanimate organic objects, but insufficient for living tissue.

    Now I admit this is a TNG thing, but since TNG ships likely have more available power then a TOS ship does and TNG ships use the lower-resolution technology, why wouldn't the TOS ships do so?

    As such, if the tribbles were beamed, they should not have arrived in the exact same state they departed in... :eek:
     
  5. shipfisher

    shipfisher Commander Red Shirt

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    I'm painting with broad strokes here, but even if the "proto-matter" based genesis cycle of the 2280's was officially a failure, it stands to reason that matter manipulation tech got a shot in the arm during related research. Dr. Carol Marcus (Markus?) may well have been the "mother" of what became the TNG replicator.

    It's always nice to try and tie a little established trek lore into such speculations.
     
  6. LutherSloan

    LutherSloan Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Well, we know that a lot of Trek technology uses the transporters. Replicators are one, but the holodeck is another.
     
  7. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    It's a bit unclear whether transporting matter "as is" is the more difficult feat, or altering of the details of matter.

    I mean, the former would seemingly require knowing the matter down to the absolute finest detail - but the transporter could well "cheat", moving the matter in "lumps" that already contain a lot of information. It's not as if an automobile needs to understand quantum physics and scan the passengers down to quantum level in order to get them from A to B at "perfect resolution".

    In contrast, creating modifications at resolution X would seem to require resolution X or better in all circumstances. Even if one introducted the modified matter in a "lump", making it fit in the intended place would seem to call for resolution X at the edges...

    Thus, the A-to-B transporter might be invented significantly earlier than the device that can manipulate matter, biofilter it, turn yeast into turkeys and so forth.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  8. Gagarin

    Gagarin Commander Red Shirt

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    About TOS replicators or TOS food processors using mini-transporters - I just don't think so. The series and movies gave me the impression that it used a lot of power - slow, big light changes, 'transporter power is down to minimal!' lines and all the transporter malfunction episodes.

    Making of Star Trek states that the food slots are mini-turbolifts that go to and from a central facility. There's a supply of food in some form that's worked on through machinery and automation, and for speed-sake, there's probably lots of 'quick' items that are always on call. Coffee, chicken sandwich (favorite of Kirk's?), etc. And depending on how you layout the ship, the food conveyer's may not have needed to go very far. If the mess is on 7 or 8, and the food prep center is on 7 or 8, and the transporter is on 7 or 8... -it might not be that big of a deal. I do like the 'dumbwaiter' vending machine idea, too, for remote areas of the ship (on call engineering break areas). Those things could be easily re-supplied via carts. Someone needs to give all those red-shirts things to do between suicide missions.

    You could go back and just say 'well let's make it a replicator, they already have transporters!' but that seems to seriously underplay what can happen in 75 years of advancements. If they even had replicators or mini-transporters all over the 2266 ship - what was left to do by 2370 then? I also think we seriously over estimate how 'good' replicated food is compared to the real equivalent. We have lots of food science in our own time and many of us don't know what the 'real' versions of different things taste like: sugar cane Coke vs. corn syrup Coke, 'oil-based' popcorn butter vs. , uh, actual melted butter. McDonalds hamburger compared to a real piece of never frozen meet on a freshly made kaiser. It's a hamburger, for sure, but it's not the same. But the former would be good enough for a starship.

    Saying Transporter = Replicator, to me, is like saying 'Celluloid Film Projection = Interactive Movie, afterall they're both moving pictures on a screen'.

    Maybe the 23rd century transporter is an 'analog' technology and is 'digital' in the 24th? It seems to me that some kind of breakthrough happened that allowed practical replication.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2008
  9. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    Then again, a starship would have power to burn, and it wouldn't make any real sense to try and save it pennywise when the warp engine already burns it poundfoolish.

    And transporters don't seem to require that much power: they are available aboard small craft, they can be operated even by badly battle-damaged ships like the Enterprise and Reliant in ST2, and it seems Rona Dagar manages to activate one by using the batteries of a hand phaser in TNG "The Hunted"...

    That would work. Building dumbwaiter chutes to distant random locations would not. Whether transporter rooms count as "distant random" is arguable - they don't strike me as locations sorely in need of food slots, really, so I'd infer from the presence of a slot there that other, more deserving locations such as high-end crew cabins are also being supplied.

    Not that we'd ever have seen a food slot in a crew cabin, of course. And in, say, "Enemy Within", "Obsession" and "Amok Time", the bringing of food to a cabin (in the latter case, to a definite high-end cabin of a top officer) furthered the plot... But of course people still bring bottles and other presents to each other in the TNG era where replicators are everywhere.

    Indeed. Which is why Janeway might refuse to call the TOS era replicators by the name "replicator", because they represent a significantly more primitive and limiting version of the basic technology.

    Said breakthrough didn't seem to affect the workings of transporters themselves much, tho. Perhaps the TOS versions didn't have biofilters or comparable manipulators, since none were mentioned, but otherwise we're hard pressed to see a difference.

    And as many have pointed out, both the TOS and TNG transporters were able to duplicate the objects being transported, in some "fault situations". The creation of an object out of nothingness, or out of a weeks-old pattern, didn't appear to be an option when using the basic transporters of either era, though - only "simultaneous" duplicates were allowed.


    Timo Saloniemi
     
  10. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    How exactly does it move matter in lumps? How do those "lumps" get from one place to another? When you see someone beaming down to a planet, do you see big gory chunks of meat descending from the sky and being slotted into place? The whole idea is that a transporter breaks matter down into a stream of subatomic particles and then reassembles them exactly as before. That absolutely does require quantum-level information, along with a Heisenberg-compensator cheat to get around the Uncertainty Principle (something that could be accomplished by quantum entanglement with a reference object, which is what I assume a Heisenberg compensator is).

    Besides, as I said above, we've already seen a TOS transporter function as a replicator -- when it replicated James T. Kirk in "The Enemy Within." And since neither copy of Kirk was half his normal mass, we can assume that it assembled the second copy from some matter supply that wasn't normally in the configuration of a human being -- say, maybe it beamed up a quantity of atmosphere and soil and rock from the beamup site, superimposed the temporarily stored Kirk pattern over the air-soil-rock pattern, and reassembled those particles in the shape of Kirk, but with enough errors in the neurological pattern to result in an "evil" Kirk. (With complementary errors in the original assembly causing the "good" Kirk's brain to be lacking in certain functions as well.)


    I don't buy that argument at all. A starship is a closed system in which conservation and efficiency are critically important. For one thing, there's no way of knowing how long it will be between refueling ports or how much power it might be called on to use, so it's thoroughly reckless to say, "Oh, we can waste as much power as we want because we can be sure it will never become a problem."

    More fundamentally, there's the simple question of heat. A starship is surrounded by vacuum, which is a superb insulator. Heat can only be radiated from the ship at a limited rate. And the more power gets used within the ship, the more waste heat inevitably results. "Power to burn" is a fitting choice of words, except it's the crew that gets burned -- or baked -- if power is generated too profligately.


    It's a non sequitur bringing 24th-century transporter tech into a discussion of what 23rd-century starships would've had. Obviously 24th-century beaming tech is efficient enough to allow for replicator use, but the question is whether that was so in the 2260s. So only TOS-era evidence is valid. And in the TOS era, we never saw a transporter aboard a shuttlecraft or got any indication they could be found on small scout ships. And we saw a number of episodes where Scotty or Kyle needed "more power" to successfully reintegrate someone in transit. (TAS: "More Tribbles, More Troubles" makes it explicit that a transporter is a high-power device, since it's one of the systems frozen by the Klingon stasis field, while low-power systems are unaffected; however, the episode later contradicts itself on this point by having the transporter unaffected the second time the stasis field is used. Maybe it takes more power to beam something into the ship than out of the ship?)


    We saw one in Kirk's quarters a few times, although it was only used to make drinks.

    The FJ blueprints put the transporter rooms on deck 7, right? That was just one deck above the food processing machinery, and between that machinery and the crew-quarters decks.

    And I can see why it would make sense to have a food slot in the transporter room. Heck, the poor guy who needs to stand there by himself for 8 hours at a time is gonna need at least the occasional cup of coffee. Also, what if there's a contamination issue and the people beamed to the transporter room need to be kept in isolation for a few hours while medical tests are done? Remember, they didn't have biofilters at the time. In that case, it might be necessary to have a way of delivering food to the transporter room without any direct interaction between the quarantine subjects and the rest of the crew.


    Exactly. The advance is in the storage capacity for large patterns. The difference between a transporter and a replicator is like the difference between (pre-digital) broadcast TV and videotape -- the former can have a much higher image resolution because it doesn't have to store the information, just pass it through and move on to the next bit. (You can send a lot more water through a length of pipe than you can store in a bucket of the same volume. But now I'm making an analogy for an analogy.) Of course, transporters are able to store the information long enough to hold a pattern in stasis for several minutes, but it seems to be a volatile, ephemeral sort of memory that degrades over time. The key to practical replication was developing a memory capacity sufficient to store at least molecular-level patterns permanently, as well as reducing the energy demands of the transporter system sufficiently to allow a ship to have dozens of mini-transporters rather than a few main units.
     
  11. shipfisher

    shipfisher Commander Red Shirt

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    Never been fond of that whole transporter creating life thing when people get duplicated (ie. Kirk, Riker). This is a big reach (I am fond of those), but in a universe full of strange aliens lurking nearby in subspace or an alternate dimension of the week, I can see one being "overwritten", either inadvertantly or by choice, by a transporter used in appropriately eccentric local conditions.

    As to how much info storage a transporter needs, it's easier to see a "pattern buffer" as a sort of holographic storage device (and none too shabby starting point for a holodeck) that stores the quantum wave pattern intact. This means that technically no atomic bonds have been broken (ie. you haven't destroyed the transport subject more completely than any weapon system) and Lt. Barclay still retains some aspect of himself for grabbing things in transit in that TNG episode (The Greatest Fear?). If you just temporairily remove the matter "slurry" (ie. the "particle" side of things) from the pattern and make a gross adjustment to its quantum characteristics so that it's more at home at the other end of the transporter beam, the pattern can be "re-imposed" on it at the target point. I can see that up and running in the mid 22nd century without needing to store all the info to reproduce something or someone atom by atom. Sufficient info storage and manipulation tech for biofilters, replicators and holodecks can be left to the mid 24th century or so.

    On a related note, you'd could say that 22nd century "protein re-sequencers" are simple matrix precursors of full blown replicators which require a fixed input medium to which a single phase, fixed molecular "re-alignment" is applied. As an unsavoury yet green side note, I got the impression they tied into the NX-01's waste treatment system. :eek:
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2008
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Heck, nature works the same way. What do you think fertilizer's made of? And on a closed system like a starship, waste has to be recycled as completely as possible. That's undoubtedly true on starships of any century. (Hmm, makes me wonder if 24th-century toilets dematerialize instead of flushing...)
     
  13. Plecostomus

    Plecostomus Commodore

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    Back in the day when I played Star Trek tabletop RPGs we postulated that the technology on Kirk's Enterprise and any earlier ships (remember this is early TNG era we're talking!) were mechanical in nature. The food was prepared below in a kitchen and delivered via a system of penumatic tubes and micro-turbolifts. Later ships had the food beamed into the slots instead of the cumbersome and cranky mechanical systems.

    Around the period of what would be TOS Season Four/Five and prior to TMP an experiment took place to convert inorganic matter into organic matter using a novel energy transformation wave pattern. The project was ultimatly abandoned when it was found to be unstable on a large scale... however the lessons learned in Project Genesis Phase One led in just a few short years to the ability to re-arrange matter on a small controled scale.

    While it wasn't possible to make a solar system, it was possible to create tea... earl-grey... hot.



    Mind you that was from our RPG and strictly non-canon and the product of my imagination. :)
     
  14. shipfisher

    shipfisher Commander Red Shirt

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    The logical end of the road for this would be a transporter/replicator/re-sequencer that simply gives one a bowel or bladder "beam-out". This would come in handy when an emergency situation keeps the captain in the big chair when a call of nature is summoning him/her to the "throne" as it were. :D
     
  15. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    Any manner wherein the particles of the matter continue to "see" each other would qualify. And we already know that the particles of transporter-phased matter do continue to observe each other and interact, so that people can perceive themselves as intact when transporter-phased, and can move about and interact.

    This would massively simplify the task of transporting, as the interactions would be memorized by the matter itself, and there would be no need to decode them at near-infinite resolution, store them in a separate place, and then recode them into the matter at the destination. Your own analogy of TV transmission seems to describe this aptly, as does Shipfisher's commentary.

    Why, by being beamed, of course! ;)

    It seems nicely analogous to a mathematical transform to me. Take a waveform - say, a tune or a color - and try to move it to the next room. If you move it "as is", you have to carry it on a piece of paper or perhaps hum it. If you Fourier-transform it, you can carry it as, say, a fistful of pebbles, the number of which gives you the component frequencies. Or you can carry it as a Morse code that you rap onto the separating wall. Etc. The available modes of propagation would radically change once you Fouriered the waveform. That's what I assume "phasing the person into a matter stream" does to the options available for propagation, too.

    I don't think you grasp the degree of poundfoolishness here. Probably we should not be talking about pounds at all, for clarity - but about pennywise vs. theGNPofabignationfoolish.

    Out of the many variables involved in optimizing a Trek starship, power consumption simply cannot be anywhere near the top of the list. Granted that many an episode suggests shifting power from life support to combat systems, as if the magnitude of ventilation or heating or plumbing mattered, but OTOH and IIRC there is never any suggestion that transporters or replicators would go down when power wanes - and certainly not when there is still enough power to maintain propulsion or shielding. Transporters and replicators only go down when directly damaged, or when there is an extreme shortage of power as in "Night Terrors".

    But again it appears that our heroes, who know these things much better than we do, are not concerned about the use of secondary (or eleventeenthary, really) systems during combat or propulsion. Indications are that one could run all the non-primary power systems of a starship at full power many times over and still not come anywhere close to affecting the power balance (or heat dissipation) of the vessel as defined by the use of primary systems such as warp drive or shielding.

    Sure, these eleventeenthary things may register somewhere at the fifth digit of power consumption or heat buildup. But an engineer or commander who minds that fifth digit should be fired at once. It would be like forbidding your troops from digging foxholes because their spades might be dulled, or firing their rifles because the stocks might be compressed, or throwing their grenades because the recoil of the throw might compromise their stability.

    Good reasons as such - but by those same tokens, areas like the bridge, or main engineering, or shuttlebay, should be similarly served. Many of those might even take precedence. At some point, the expense of installing and operating physical chutes would start to surpass the cost of installing and operating millimeter-thick waveguides.

    Now that's something I definitely want to fight from the saddle of my hobbyhorse. What are the odds that Trek 23rd century technological marvels would still go for solutions familiar from the 19th century? Even today, it's often cheaper and more reliable to use high technology than to apply the theoretically more affordable and rugged mechanical alternatives - say, a digital control panel with LCD numbers and touch contacts is preferred over a mechanical turn-dial, not (just) because it looks cool, but because our kind of society is more at ease with producing the higher-tech system and maintaining it. It might take superhuman effort for the 23rd century folks to manufacture mechanical things in place of the standard duotronic ones, just like we are hard pressed to create medieval mechanisms now.

    IMHO, we should look beyond the cardboard walls of TOS and see the underlying high tech wherever we can. And when we see something we recognize as 1960s high tech, we should assume that it is "actually" higher than that many times over still. Not only does it add brightness to the shiny future, it helps us with a persisting storytelling problem: it lets us accept that a futuristic screwdriver might suffer from more dramatically interesting limitations than a screwdriver from today would...

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  16. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    That possibility occurred to me last night when I remembered that the 24th-century term for a bathroom is "waste extraction." Hmm...


    Again, it's totally missing the point of this discussion to bring in 24th-century examples. That's like making an argument about the capabilities of a 1958 Edsel by citing the satellite navigation and computerized traction control in a 2008 Taurus. We're talking specifically about the power requirements of transporters during the time frame of the Original Series. Remember, the question on the table is whether it makes sense to assume the TOS food slots used microtransporters or dumbwaiters. Since we know that TNG replicators are transporter-based, it is a given that TNG-era transporters use little enough power for that to be practical. The question is whether the same was true in the 2260s specifically. Only evidence from TOS itself is relevant to the question of how advanced the technology was during TOS itself.


    As I said, the transporters are only one deck above the processing machinery and between them and the crew quarters. So it wouldn't incur any additional cost to put a slot in the transporter room if the dumbwaiter system already goes by there anyway. Even if the dumbwaiters are limited exclusively to decks 5-8, it's still feasible for there to be one in at least one of the transporter rooms.


    That's a ridiculous attitude, that technology from the past must inevitably be replaced. Do you use ducted fans to lift your car off the ground, or does it have wheels? Do you wear plastic sheets as clothing, or is it woven from fibrous threads? Do you have shoes that can morph to mold to your feet, or do you tie them with string? Do you cook your food with lasers, or do you use fire? You yourself still make everday use of technology that is tens of thousands of years old. The details are different, but the core principles, the basic engineering and mechanics, are still the same. Because it works. It is absurd to say that something that works perfectly well has to be abandoned just because it isn't flashy and new. That's a common conceit in sci-fi, but reality says different.

    Besides, Trek itself contains a counterargument to your proposal. By your standards, they shouldn't use turbolifts to get around the ship, but should use mini-transporters to beam themselves instantly from one room to another. But they don't. They use elevators. Why should it be any different for moving foodstuffs than it is for moving people?
     
  17. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    Now that presupposes that TNG and TOS transporters are sufficiently different to require separate attention. Why presuppose such a thing, if "technology from the past mustn't inevitably be replaced"? But all right...

    Instances where lack of power precluded use of transporters in TOS: none. Loss of primary energy circuits and propulsion in "Court Martial" still allowed Spock to evacuate the luminaries via transporter - or would have, had they not declined. In "Return of the Archons", Landru's attack badly drained the ship's power, but once the attack ended, Scotty was immediately ready to beam up the landing party. Vaal's power-draining antics in "The Apple" were never directly established as a cause in the failure of the transporters, either.

    Instances where lack of power shut down other systems in TOS are rare enough, for that matter. "Doomsday Machine" features the "drained" phaser banks, but combat damage is likely to be the root cause of most of the ills aboard the Constellation.

    All right, that seems acceptable enough. It's still quite a bit of bulk for a system that apparently sees little other use.

    ...Or does it double as a means of waste removal? Is that how the phaser in "Conscience of the King", dumped in a slot on the inside curve of a saucer corridor, ended up exploding harmlessly, presumably somewhere outside the ship? Too bad the system isn't seen tripling as tube-mail, by which e.g. McCoy could distribute his newest potions to distant locations.

    By the conceit that the food doesn't mind if it ends up a bit scrambled. Transporter technology would become more and more prevalent by first seeing limited, niche applications, and then gaining in reliability and repute until cleared for human applications and perhaps even more intricate operations. That's how the "broadcast" transporter is described in ENT, as having only recently been cleared for humanoids - and that's how I'd assume the "cable" transporter to develop as well.

    Really, I still find it distasteful to go all steampunk on TOS when the show indeed is set in a fantastic future. Okay, so perhaps there are a few examples of old tech in use - but dumbwaiters sound like a dumb choice, considering they aren't that hot even today. We prefer microwave ovens and minibars, and strive for in situ synthesis machinery of all sorts - technologies that did not hold much promise in the 1960s yet but that could easily be reinterpreted as having been part and parcel of TOS.

    I could see dumbwaiters as a backup system in case "cable" transporters fail, but food delivery doesn't sound like something you'd bother to back up (unlike, say, communications where hardwired intercoms would still be very handy). OTOH, I could in general see food production in TOS as multilayered, with replication, protein resequencing, and onboard cultivation of vegetables all playing their part, and with both automated and manual elements to food preparation. Delivery would also be at least three-tier: an efficient automated mode for serving the action stations, a social mode for mess hall dining, and a private mode wherein foods and beverages are delivered by hand. But there would always be room for both high-end and low-end interpretations of the technologies involved.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  18. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    It doesn't "presuppose" a damn thing. We don't know the technology was identical, so it's dishonest to assume it was, especially when that assumption forces the conclusion you want to arrive at anyway.

    Don't give me straw-man crap like that. There's nothing "steampunk" about a remarkably advanced computerized food-processing system that can miraculously preserve all kinds of foods, even fresh vegetables, far longer than modern freezers can, process it into completed dishes without human hands touching it, and cook it far faster than any microwave oven. The system proposed in TMoST is still very futuristic, so it's disingenuous in the extreme to call it "steampunk" just because it doesn't use transporters.

    I'm done debating this with you. There's no point if you're going to be this unreasonable.
     
  19. Plecostomus

    Plecostomus Commodore

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    The Enterprise is supposed to be out there away from support for five years. If your uberfoodbeamingwonderzapper breaks down and you are two years from help, you are screwed. There is a limit to the amount of spares a ship could carry and its not possible to stock every component of every system... You'd want a simple mechanical system that could be rigged and repaired and totally bypassed if need arises.

    Later on as the technology progresses you can get away from the mechanical system and go solid-state but only after it proves 99.9999999999% reliable 99.999999999% of the time.
     
  20. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    Food dispensers aren't a system that would require such idiotproof backups to idiotproof backups, tho. And there are limits to how much historical ballast you can carry on your ship before it sinks under the weight.

    Indeed, saving of weight might be a good reason to go for modern rather than old solutions. Saving of space would be another. And both might take precedence over saving of energy, on a ship that by definition has shitloads of it available in all survivable circumstances.

    It's a matter of speculation which old technologies would be ditched and which would be preserved. We don't and can't use 17th century food preservation methods on today's ships even though those might save lives when modern fridges break down. We opt not to have mechanical backups to electric flight controls on modern jets, realizing that the benfits of such backups would be mariginal at best, and that the .04% improvement in survival chances isn't worth the extra weight and bulk. Yet we have piezoelectric phones and even plain old shouting tubes aboard many modern warships as backup when the standard electric intercoms break down.

    Dumbwaiters on TOS ships are perfectly plausible, then - just like swords in Dune, or message scrolls in Foundation. They are an aberration, but futuristic universes are tolerant of aberrations, just like our reality is (or else we wouldn't be using perverse things such as water closets any more). But they are also a symptom of a problem: of sticking to an interpretation that was made before the Trek universe around it had taken its full current form. TOS technology looks dated on the surface, which is a good reason to choose and interpret as much of the subsurface things as futuristically as possible. That way, we're still left with plenty of delightful anachronisms such as tinny-voiced computers, unworkably clumsy spacesuits, lack of visual contact with landing parties etc, but we have at least made an attempt to balance the equation. And we can keep on balancing it if it e.g. turns out that in our universe's 2020, devices that look almost exactly like TOS food slots are in general use and are based on photolithographic techniques or hyperaccelerated growth of foodstuffs. We just substitute the futuristic technology there, and then declare that the TNG replicators are more advanced still by a wide measure - even if this is not evident from the episodes, and as long as it is not contradicted by them.

    Timo Saloniemi