TOS Microtapes: help me settle a debate!

Discussion in 'Star Trek - Original Series' started by Mr Awe, Dec 12, 2012.

  1. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    In reality, it's because that kind of computer networking wasn't anticipated at the time. In universe, let's say that Uhura delivered the tape to Spock manually because she wanted an excuse to flirt with him. ;)
     
  2. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    I'd take that more as "Here's a taste of what we have, and if you want more, you can tie in to all the tapes in the library".

    Actually, I see this done a lot today with memory sticks. It was less common with floppy disks, because the process of uploading data to them was clumsier, but the point is that you prepare a package for your colleague, something he can (theoretically) carry with him wherever he goes. His workstation is but one of the places where the package travels with him.

    Sure, you could prepare virtual packages in a "cloud" environment or whatever, and access them anywhere. But that's still too "cloudy" in the real world today - people I know are not comfortable with it, and yes, that does include them young whippersnappers. And it's actually very rarely that you get to properly access such virtual packages, due to software shortcomings and piss-poor connectivity and compatibility, whereas a memory stick basically always works.

    Plus, anything that's virtual still has higher odds of getting misplaced, abraded at the edges, corrupted or stolen. That despite the existence of pockets-without-zippers, coffee mugs, and pets. Physical packages provide security, even if it's purely psychological.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  3. Robert Comsol

    Robert Comsol Commodore Commodore

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    You make it sound like optical discs are part of this progress / evolution which they are not necessarily.

    It is my understanding that programs (e.g. DVD masters) are still being archived on digital tape because it is the more reliable medium with longevity.
    And for films I've heard they are seriously considering (or already doing it) conserving it on conventional camera negatives because, again, it is the more reliable storage medium (but I'm sure Maxwell Everett could tell you more about these things).

    So it's not over for digital tapes, yet.

    Bob
     
  4. BoredShipCapt'n

    BoredShipCapt'n Commodore Commodore

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    There's always the possibility that they're some other kind of storage medium but everyone just calls them "tapes" out of old habit, much as we may still speak of "taping" a show off TV, or for TV, when it's not really tape being used. (Like "dialing" a phone number when there's no dial.) That would, of course, require that tapes had been used fairly recently as a storage medium, which we would have to imagine being necessary for some science-fictional reason. But once you've done that, why assume they're not still using tapes?

    We never really get to see if there's actual tape inside. That said, I very much like the idea that there is.
     
  5. cbspock

    cbspock Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    There was no disk, floppy disk etc, terminology in pop culture at the time TOS was on. Everyone had seen computers with the big real to real tapes, so they just used the language of the day. When TNG was on we already had memory chips so isolinear optical chips wasn't so foreign.


    -Chris
     
  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Well, yes, of course. I don't think anybody here is claiming that we believe there "actually" were tapes inside the cartridges. We're not pretending the Trek universe is real and trying to rationalize it; we're talking about the thinking of the people who lived in the 1960s and created a work of fiction called Star Trek. The point is that they assumed they would be actual tapes, because at the time they were writing these scripts, magnetic tape was the vanguard of computer technology.

    You see the same shortsightedness about progress in a lot of science fiction. Read SF novels and stories from the '40s or '50s and you'll see the writers assuming that people thousands of years in the future will still use punch cards or wire recorders or microfilm, or that computers would always be vast, room-sized agglomerations of vacuum tubes. Aside from Murray Leinster's "A Logic Named Joe," which kind of predicted the Internet, most SF writers assumed that an entire country or planet would have a single, gigantic central computer that would act as an oracle granting answers to questions put into it, usually in punch card or magnetic tape form. They were generally as bad at predicting the advance of computer hardware as they were at predicting the advance of gender equality.

    Although the problem isn't limited to that era. TNG predicted the tablet computer (the padd) and the flash drive (the isolinear chip), but it didn't predict wireless networking; people still carried padds or chips around physically to deliver data to each other. Nor did they predict that the functions of communicator, padd, and tricorder would end up being combined into a single device.
     
  7. SchwEnt

    SchwEnt Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    ^^^ That kind of thinking was behind much of the early spaceflight concepts. Man would be in space because he'd have to be on-site to swap out film canisters and magnetic reels and other manual labor duties regarding cameras and computers and sensors.

    Technology swiftly became digital and automated and concurrently man frequented space much less often.
     
  8. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Didn't TOS do that with the wedged sided "clip boards?"

    There are rec room/mess hall scenes where crew members are eating and looking at this device on the tabletop in front of them, making it at least some kind of e-reader.

    And there are scenes where people would seem to be making entries into it with a stylus, but not just using it to write things down.

    In "The Corbomite Maneuver," navigator Bailey was employing one of these boards to figure the cube's range and position (why he didn't use his console I don't know).

    In "The Alternative Factor," Lt. Masters would look at a wall display, do something with her board, and then look back at the wall display again. Apparently using the board to effect some kind of change. A wireless control panel app?



    :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2012
  9. Navigator_NCC2120

    Navigator_NCC2120 Captain Captain

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    However, people who worked with mainframe computers in 1966 certainly knew of disks since the first commercial digital disk storage device was the IBM 350 which shipped in 1956 as part of the IBM 305 RAMAC computing system, 10 years before TOS premiered.

    Gene Roddenberry may have been informed about mainframe computer disks by one of the technical advisers from the Rand Corporation that he spoke to back then too, but decided to use the more popular term "tape" instead for naming the "microtapes".

    Excerpt below from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disk_drive

    Navigator NCC-2120 USS Entente
    /\
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2012
  10. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Granted, and I thought of mentioning that, but it didn't fit the narrative I was constructing at that moment. ;) And I think I've read that the people who developed tablet computers were inspired specifically by TNG's padds, even though those were inspired in turn by the "clipboards" (or data slates as they're called in the novels).
     
  11. Elder Knight

    Elder Knight Captain Captain

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    I'm guessing that they're using a storage medium not even imagined in the 21st century -- but calling it "tape" for traditional reasons -- as if somehow, "tape" had become a general term for storage. Perhaps it was deemed the most reliable of all those slow, old types of storage.

    Transferring data by handing off a cartridge rather than sending it along electronically is sometimes used for reasons of security. I suppose that's why Starfleet does it.
     
  12. BoredShipCapt'n

    BoredShipCapt'n Commodore Commodore

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    I didn't mean "actually" actually, only fictionally actually. ;)
     
  13. Mr Awe

    Mr Awe Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    It's quite reasonable to assume today that there aren't actually tapes in there (in the Trek universe, not the props). However, I'm virtually certain that back in the day, the producers pictured tiny tape in them!

    Tape storage was taking off in the 60s. Audio cassettes had come out for the public. The wide usage of floppy discs was just around the corner and no doubt designs were in the works while TOS was on the air.

    The TOS microtapes seem like a logical combination of these things. Just not for the TOS timeframe. They were a pretty good prediction for using floppy discs and flash drives though.

    The observations about data slates and the lack of networking (at least in some cases) are pretty interesting. This has been a fascinating look at the thoughts of that time. While you can predict how some of the technology that will develop, you clearly can't predict how everything will work together.

    Mr Awe
     
  14. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    If we want to talk about dated technological assumptions in TOS, what gets me is Kelso's line in the second pilot about the impulse points decaying to lead. That would mean the "points" were made of uranium and the impulse drive was fission-powered, instead of fusion-powered as is now assumed.

    Then there's the sound the computer made when it was "Working" -- the clunking of mechanical relays. Although I guess a hard drive makes a similar sound as the reader arm or whatever you call it moves across it.
     
  15. cbspock

    cbspock Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    The computers made a lot of noise on all versions of Star Trek. We have already moved beyond the touch panels on TNG.


    -Chris
     
  16. cbspock

    cbspock Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    In Omega Glory / Miri it looked like the portable computers were networked back to Enterprise through the communicators almost like they were used as modems.

    In TNG they didn't even have virus protection, in the episode Contagion it was pretty easy for an alien program to start re-writing the OS.

    -Chris
     
  17. cbspock

    cbspock Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    if you guys want to read a really great book on the apollo program and the human / computer interaction for space flight, read the book Digital Apollo. It goes into the role of the computer vs. the role of the astronaut.


    -Chris
     
  18. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Or the line in "This Side of Paradise" where Kirk is hurling insults at Spock, trying to get him angry enough to shake off the spore influence: "You don't have the brains to understand. All you have is printed circuits." Printed circuit boards were state-of-the-art electronics at the time.
     
  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    We still use printed circuits in just about all electronics. It's not outdated yet.
     
  20. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    And its rather stilted monotone way of speaking (in either universe).
     

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