Why didn't communicators work in the 19th century?

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by Nebusj, Apr 21, 2017.

  1. Nebusj

    Nebusj Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Inspired by listening to the Greatest Generation podcast review of Time's Arrow ...

    Once tossed back into the 19th Century, why didn't Data try contacting the Enterprise team on his communicator? And when Picard and company went back, why didn't they signal to him? Granted Data might have tried a couple times off-screen and decided nobody was around yet, but wouldn't there be some protocol to test sending and receiving at some regular intervals? Shouldn't Mister Pikerd have applied that?
     
  2. Idran

    Idran Commodore Premium Member

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    I imagine that essentially the reason is because it would have short-circuited the narrative and drained the dramatic tension; same reason screenwriters hate cellphones today. :p

    Obviously that's an unsatisfying answer from a technological perspective, but honestly based on what we know there's no clear in-universe reason why you wouldn't be right. You could always technobabble some excuse that the Devidian method of time travel would disable the communicators, but you'd need to explain why it didn't disable the phasers and Data himself too. Couldn't be a power drain. Maybe some sort of subspace whatsit that disabled a key piece of the communicator mechanism? I can't immediately think of any references to subspace-related components in either of those.

    Or it could be as simple as the Devidians having some sort of jamming device. Not like anyone on the planet would notice, but we know Earth had visitations during that time period beyond just Guinan, so it'd be the smart move even without them having any idea of the 24th-centuriers around.
     
  3. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Data traded his combadge for three dollars' ante in the poker game so he could win enough money to establish himself in the past. So I presume he no longer had the badge by the time the others arrived.
     
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  4. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Exactly.

    It then pretty much boils down to how inactive commbadges behave. Can they be located with the help of a tricorder (which the rescue posse had)? Or would the current owner need to tap them just right to activate the tracking cue?

    Our heroes sometimes discard their badges when they don't want to be tracked, perhaps suggesting mere applying or not applying of a user command won't shut down the tracking - but leaving the badge on your desk also carries great symbolic value, so this is far from given. And in any case, the tracking resources available in those situations are greater than one tricorder.

    If a passive commbadge can't be located by a tricorder across appreciable ranges, then it makes sense for the theater troupe to not even try. Although they could have made a try or two when we weren't looking; they weren't exactly in a hurry with that, what with time travel and all. We just have to assume circumstances in which they wouldn't misleadingly locate the safe of some victorious gambler who had departed for Seattle or Hong Kong long ago.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  5. Nyotarules

    Nyotarules Commodore Commodore

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    Because there was no signal....'sorry Captain can't hear you, must be that tunnel you entered.'
     
  6. at Quark's

    at Quark's Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Well, after winning some more money with that poker game, he could probably have bought it back just as easily, even if he had to pay 15 dollars in return ...I think would have done so if I thought there would be any chance of my crewmates turning up.

    On the other hand, now I'm stuck with this scene in my head ....

     
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  7. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I'm not saying it makes perfect sense, I'm just saying it was probably the scriptwriters' intended excuse for why Data was incommunicado.
     
  8. Ithekro

    Ithekro Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Wasn't he using it as part of his tracking device thing?
     
  9. Go-Captain

    Go-Captain Commander Red Shirt

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    It could be comm badges don't work without a ship, like cell phones don't work without towers, but that would be disatisfying. Besides, the original idea was that they are more like hand radios, which means they should be completely capable of communicating without an intermediary. If we make the concept fully modern, then they should exploit both preestablished intermediaries and make impromptu networks with themselves as communication nodes. So point to point, as well bouncing signals through non-active badges to act as repeaters.

    I have to side with the idea Data got rid of his communicator, but it doesn't quite make sense because that seems too close risking cultural contamination. So, maybe it really doesn't work without a ship.
     
  10. Idran

    Idran Commodore Premium Member

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    They've used them in episodes where the ship wasn't in orbit, so that can't be it.
     
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  11. at Quark's

    at Quark's Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I can buy the idea that a starship is capable of boosting their range significantly, but not that they wouldn't work at all without a ship in orbit. In that case they would seem rarely any better than the cellphones we have even today (well, except for the recharge times and the inbuilt UT, perhaps).

    Then again, we could postulate a 'triolic temporal inversion field' or some such thing at the location of the cave that renders communicators non-functional in a wide range around it :) A pity we do see Beverly use her combadge in that hospital, though, so that makes this assumption impossible ...
     
  12. Mytran

    Mytran Commodore Commodore

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    By the time Picard and crew arrived, the battery on Data's communicator was flat :wah:
     
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  13. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk The Ghost of Tom Joad Premium Member

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    Data forgot to pay his bill.
     
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  14. at Quark's

    at Quark's Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    How are combadges, in fact (well, fiction :) ), powered ? Can they run out of energy?
     
  15. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    No doubt there's a wireless recharging net available at every civilized location (Data's reputed "My power cells continually recharge themselves" may be taken to refer to this as well). And I think we have never seen our heroes separated from their civilized environs for more than half a week and then using their commbadges (or, in those earlier days, handsets). If they were stranded longer, the use of communicators never arose; say, when "Kirok" awoke from his amnesia, he used Spock's set rather than his own misplaced one.

    Doesn't mean the badges or sets couldn't be in working order after millennia, of course. It's just that the issue never arises.

    Indeed, the only things that ever do run out of power (without the influence of "draining fields" or whatnot) seem to be hand phasers after use against whole regiments of enemies, and starships after sailing in hostile waters for at least months after first spending years crossing the galaxy.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
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  16. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    According to the TNG Technical Manual, a combadge is powered by a sarium krellide power cell, a battery rated for 2 weeks of normal use and rechargeable by induction.

    While we're on the subject, what powers Data? He didn't seem worried about his own energy running out.
     
  17. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I don't recall him EVER worrying about that. My guess is that his power reserves are near-infinite.
     
  18. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Apart from the "my power cells continually recharge themselves" line, we have Data seemingly electrically shorting out in "Thine Own Self" without suffering apparent physical damage of other sort. We don't see how he was resurrected from that one, but this might be taken as his electric charge being lost and then restored.

    Since Data isn't said to ingest any sort of a substance we could consider fuel, and doesn't plug in any sort of cables on a regular basis, induction recharging sounds fine here, too. Although whether the nature of storage is electric or something else that can manifest as blue sparks when shorted by a crowbar, we can't readily tell.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  19. Idran

    Idran Commodore Premium Member

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    His body also managed to short out an electrical arc in "Disaster" without exploding, so whatever energy storage system he's using, it's probably a pretty good one.
     
  20. Ithekro

    Ithekro Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    So he's powered by static electricity like a Dalek?