How did they fire phasers before "The Adversary"

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by DS9forever, May 20, 2015.

  1. DS9forever

    DS9forever Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I was reading that Ira Steven Behr asked for a trigger on the phaser rifles that first appeared in "The Adversary". My question is, how were phasers and phaser rifles fired before this?
     
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    There was a firing button. The original design philosophy behind TNG phasers was to downplay their gunlike aspects. Presumably what Behr wanted was a more recognizably trigger-like firing mechanism.
     
  3. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    The subdued triggers were always a piece of bothersome futurism - people still debate how the TOS Type 1 phaser was supposed to be fired...

    Every phaser prop nevertheless did have, if not a designated trigger button, then at least a sufficient number of buttons and other features that came to contact with the actors' fingers when firing. Which, while well done in studio practice, might be considered a poor idea in "in-universe" practice, as a trigger has many drawbacks as a triggering mechanism.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  4. Richard Baker

    Richard Baker Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    A lot of times in films the props with functioning triggers have them disconnected in filming because actors keep hitting the buttons, lighting up the prop at the wrong times.
     
  5. Boris Skrbic

    Boris Skrbic Captain Captain

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    ForceGrip (tm) on either handle, just in case it's ever fired one-handed?

    Rick Sternbach might remember exactly, having designed the TNG rifle.
     
  6. Boris Skrbic

    Boris Skrbic Captain Captain

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    I was also curious, so I pointed out this topic to Rick Sternbach via email.

     
  7. Go-Captain

    Go-Captain Commander Red Shirt

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    All the phasers can be seen at phasers.net, and old ones use levers, studs, and buttons pretty much in that order. TNG lacked any sort of obvious trigger mechanisms, even on alien weapons.

    I figured the TNG era weapons use some sort of space magic touch sensitive trigger which somehow reads the user's intent. All of the weapons lack any sort of obvious safety, and generally lack trigger guards, so why not a similarly non-obvious trigger. However, a hidden button does fit better, even if doesn't sit well with me.

    I figure a stud under a diaphragm would lack the tactile feedback of a trigger, making it harder to use.
     
  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    The TNG phasers had firing buttons on top, depressed by the thumb, like a remote-control button. This graphic shows the buttons and their functions. All the 24th-century hand phasers had an array of three buttons -- a rectangular firing button, above which were two square buttons for adjusting beam width and intensity.


    Well, firing is a simple pushbutton mechanism, but I always figured TNG-era phasers must have some kind of built-in sensor to track the user's gaze, since there's no other possible way to aim the darn things. On the show, you frequently see the beams coming out of the emitters in somewhat random directions, and I guess the phasers must be self-aiming based on where the user is looking.
     
  9. Zaku

    Zaku Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    And still they sometimes miss... :lol:
     
  10. Ithekro

    Ithekro Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Eye twitch.
     
  11. Go-Captain

    Go-Captain Commander Red Shirt

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    Oh, yeah, the thumb studs, I was in index finger firing mode. :D Thumb studs are a bad firing method since working the thumb can throw off the hand more than moving the index finger. The thumb goes through the heel of the hand, so moving the thumb inadvertently moves the weapon, but, it may not matter too much with eye tracking, which I agree on.

    The directions they fire aren't actually random at all, the beam always intercepts the expected point of contact which the eyes are looking at. However, the angle of the beam relative to the weapon is fixed during firing; preventing inadvertent sweeping of the beam with wondering eyes. Sweeping the beam is still possibly using hand and arm movement.

    Every single time Riker fires a phaser it supports precision eye tracking, and that one time Geordi is remotely taken over by Romulans, and his arm is pushed asside while firing shows relative angle is fixed during firing and that sweeping works with arm movement.

    Taken together it explains why they have a good hit rate, but still miss. If someone moves as the trigger is depressed, the phaser won't predict a lead, and will end up behind the target in the time it takes the beam to extend from the phaser to the target. Hand movement by the phaser firer can also throw the aim off during trigger depression. Starfleet officers are also likely trained to rely on the eye tracking aiming, and brief bursts of fire, with corrective follow up shots, rather than long duration fire with manual correction. Ithekro is right too, a moment of distraction could throw aim off, but truly random twitches should be filtered out.
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Come to think of it, if phasers did use eye tracking to aim, then Geordi couldn't use one...
     
  13. Mark_Nguyen

    Mark_Nguyen Commodore Commodore

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    ...Unless he had something pre-built into the VISOR? Data too, for that matter.

    Mark
     
  14. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^Data does have humanlike eyes, so I don't see the issue there. And it wouldn't be an issue for movie-era Geordi with the bionic implants. As long as there are eyes with pupils and irises, and as long as they're able to move and point at specific things, there's no problem.
     
  15. Go-Captain

    Go-Captain Commander Red Shirt

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    Geordi's eye balls might have subconsciously looked where he was looking with his VISOR, which might have been enough for the feature to work.

    Has Geordi ever used a phaser outside the averted assassination scene?
     
  16. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    On occasion - sometimes for precision jobs like melting the metal for climbing spikes in "The Enemy", sometimes for downing baddies.

    Perhaps it's not the user that the gun follows, but the target? That is, the gun automatically acquires all the targets in range, and then queries the user as to which ones should go down when the trigger is pushed, by doing a little buzz against the hand of the user whenever his gun points in the approximate direction of a specific potential target. The user then gives either a direct clearance to fire by pressing the trigger fully down, or a permission to lock this target for future use by pressing another button or slightly tapping the trigger.

    So when there's time to let the autotracker do its work, phasers have 100% hit rate without the need to aim. When all the heroes have time for is hip shots, then even autotargeting doesn't help, as it doesn't have the authority to fire autonomously.

    And perhaps it's not targeting that gets locked once the beam actually erupts from the emitter - perhaps it's the beam itself, thanks to the nature of the steering mechanism. That is, once on, the emitter no longer can steer.

    This works fine for explaining phaser behavior in combat situations. It doesn't explain why phasers sometimes fire off-boresight even when cutting through walls (see the two different beam behaviors in "Too Short a Season" when Worf and Yar cut through that metal). But those involve slow action where the user might just as well be manipulating the weapon in subtle ways, perhaps pressing a button that tells the gun to burn a straight line no matter how the hand wobbles.

    Eye tracking has its problems, as per above. The big one only comes with multitargeting/broadbeam, though!

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  17. Go-Captain

    Go-Captain Commander Red Shirt

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    It is stated in DS9 that the Type 3 has multiple target tracking, but I would expect far greater accuracy if that were the case in the Type 2. Vibration as the means for target confirmation would also leave too much room for error in a tight situation, such as a hostage taker holding a hostage, and needing to shoot the hostage taker anyway. Also, it doesn't explain the ability to shoot off bore at random surfaces, such as when Data says they can heat a particular material to X degrees which causes an obscuring vapor or smoke.

    If that were the case then fast shots wouldn't result in off bore shots.
    Ship phasers can steer the beam while firing, and they definitely have automatic target tracking.

    Usually the idea which can explain, in the simplest terms, all the details is going to be the correct idea. Adding details for the sake of manual off bore firing, or to cause a bore line beam, which seems like a pointless feature, is only making this idea more complicated.

    Ah, you mean in TOS. That may very well be a matter of auto targeting, so long as it is hitting every possible target in range. Or it's just random.

    Wide beam though, that's just a wide beam. It's firing every which way so things like automatic targeting and eye tracking don't even matter in that case.
     
  18. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    You know, a lot of things in Trek would make more sense if we could assume the characters all had bionic implants, such as retinal heads-up displays that would interface with hand phasers and project targeting information in the wielders' field of view. Such implants could also be connected to the universal translator and maybe provide text subtitles or annotations to help with communication.

    I've also sometimes thought it would help to believe they were all secretly suffused with nanites for health maintenance. That could explain rapid healing by shining a glowy light on someone -- the medical probe sends out a signal that instructs the nanites to repair tissue. It could also explain those episodes where characters undergo extreme transformations due to infections or mutagenic effects, like "Identity Crisis" or "Genesis" or "Affliction"/'Divergence" -- the nanites could be getting confused instructions from the genes and thus rebuilding and altering tissues.

    Unfortunately, it's been too well-established that Federation humanity does not embrace that kind of transhuman enhancement and that it's a rarity when it is used. So it doesn't really work as an explanation; it's just a wistful might-have-been.
     
  19. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    The dialogue that establishes multiple target acquisition (dunno about tracking moving targets through all the possible motions) does not exclude a similar feature in Type 1 and Type 2 weapons. It only suggests that this feature is absent from the competing Cardassian product (which may nevertheless be capable of single target acquisition).

    True enough, but why would eye tracking be any better? How can the user know if the thing the gun locks into really is the thing he thought he was looking at, any better than with the buzzer?

    Apart from that, why worry about hitting the wrong target in a hostage situation? Shoot them all and let Security sort them out afterwards (as in the one good moment of ENT "North Star").

    True. So the gun might have the authority to target fast enough after all.

    They can also fire FTL or high sublight, while hand phaser beams are limited to paintball speeds. There might be crucial differences in the technologies, explaining why hand phasers are never used in the tactically superior "hosing" mode.

    Possibly so. But is eye tracking a likelier explanation than fully automatic tracking? Hand phasers are good at hitting certain types of target, but they still manage to miss targets in plain sight often enough - say, ones hiding very poorly behind a rock ("Gambit", say). Surely our heroes can see the exposed parts of these targets, so why does the gun hit the rock instead? Artificial intelligence in control, in this case manifesting as artificial stupidity, is always a good bet...

    However, wide beams are just as off-boresight as narrow ones! And have been ever since "Return of the Archons". So, what is the role of the eye there? Does the user select the center of the crowd somehow? Or all the desired edges, simultaneously?

    Strongly agreed.

    How so? Picard had an artificial heart with little comment. Bareil ended up with an artificial (hind?)brain. Anything subtler, that is, less crude and macroscopic, would go unobserved.

    Where does anybody say "We hate implants!", even in the obvious context of the Borg? Conversely, where does cyborg augmentation take our heroes by surprise? A character turning out to be all-robotic when the heroes had a reason to expect biology is a rather different cause for surprise and possible disgust.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  20. Go-Captain

    Go-Captain Commander Red Shirt

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    It's not out of the question that a century from current Trek those things would be completely normal. Attitudes change, even long duration cultural touch stones. In Enterprise they establish that all genetic engineering, even purely corrective stuff was verboten. By TNG, wild genetic experimentation is normal, such as with those kids engineered to have telekinetic powers and offensive immune systems; even though engineering purely to enhance people is looked down on and against Starfleet rules, but apparently not Federation rules.

    Certainly, but it only establishes it for the Type 3, strictly speaking it is not evidence for the Type 2 and 1. Additionally, only the Type 3 has a setup which reasonably allows practical use of that sort of thing, thanks to its sighting mechanism.

    I believe eye tracking is better without a target lock feature. I believe the weapon is only triangulating the point of focus of the user's eyes, and angling the beam to that point. That point can be on a person, a wall, or a cloud, it doesn't matter because it's just a geometric convergence of angles.

    It would be cheap to implement, and effortless to use, because it does not need any sort of target recognition. It also fits all the evidence while adding only a single feature which requires no additional manipulations by the operator.

    Well, they do have stun, but you never know if the enemy is phaser resistant, of if the hostage is sensitive to phaser energy, etc. Precision is golden.

    Lack of hosing - I like that term - probably comes down to lower energy reserves in hand weapons than ships. But, if a target lock were achieved, I wouldn't consider a mid flight aim correction to be hosing. It might come down to the fact that most targets only need a teeny fraction of a second of contact with a phaser to be affected. But, with that, I would expect target lock to include predictions of where the target will be as based on the target's relative velocity at the time of firing.

    Misses like that are a reason why I think autotargeting is less likely, because I believe an automatic aim feature should be better than a manual aim method. Eye tracking wouldn't be perfect, eyes can stray, and if the beam angle locks when firing, to prevent random beam swings from continued eye movement, all the more reason for misses, thanks to less random hand movement. That would be even more extreme if a person needs to constantly pop up from cover and has only a brief moment to pull of a shot.

    Trek computing is very strong, it should be more than capable enough to aim only for exposed bits of a target. But that gets into the issue of target discrimination, and how to choose a target with no visual interface, especially when they overlap. I cannot see how tactile feedback would work for discriminating two overlapping targets.

    Earlier you dismiss the issue in a hostage situation, but in this case the hostage is a phaser proof rock.

    I think the type of aiming doesn't really matter in the case of wide beam, or shotgun style firing. Since the beam is wide, the chance of hitting is higher and any sort of aim correction is redundant, so manual aim - point and shoot - is more than enough. Especially so since wide beam tends to be used at very short ranges.

    Picard's heart is a life saving device. The rest is more like the Amish attitude toward technology - which is extremely funny now that I realize it - if something can be done with baseline human parts then those are the parts which will be used. Even their genetic engineering follows the same thinking: if it saves a life, or replaces a lost ability everyone else has then it is fine, but if it is only to make you better than the rest then it is no good.

    Geordi was blind, got new eyes better than normal eyes; people are fine with it because he started with nothing, and for some reason nothing else existed as an option. Dr. Bashir probably had average intelligence, but his parents got him engineered to be a genius; he was already capable of functioning normally, so people are suspicious of him for needless alteration. Some of that probably comes down to a certain level of egalitarianism, as much as lingering fears and prejudices over genetic supermen conquering everyone.