TrekTech: Communicators, chat apps, and the future


One of the most ubiquitous pieces of technology in the Star Trek universe is the communicator, be it the “flipper” from The Original Series, the wrist communicator from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, or the combadge from The Next Generation.   These devices allow the characters an immediate and easy way to communicate(when they’re not being jammed by a mysterious force),  and allow the show’s writers an easy way to relate relevant plot information.

The folks over at tech site The Verge, using Star Trek’s communicators as a starting point, have produced a fun and thought-provoking video about how we use technology to relate to each other and how advances might further change the way we communicate, both good and bad.

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Interesting, but not really news.

I did not view the YouTube video because I don’t have the time, but I do think that the sociology of communication devices is a valid topic.

The era of the telephone changed modernity forever. Prior to the telephone, the fastest method of communication was visual — through the semaphore, for example, or the optical systems used aboard ships. Before that, such methods as smoke signally was used even in technologically primitive societies. (Direct optical systems might still be used to maintain radio silence.) This meant that, while in theory, the method of communication traveled at at the speed of light, information was limited by the requirements of prior agreement (e.g., as to how to decode the information), by interpretation, and by line-of-sight.

Further, the democratization of “instantaneous” (speed-of-light or at least speed-of-electrons) communications occurred only after the widespread use of telephony.

“Communicators” as seen in Star Trek are projections of telephony and radio devices (“walkie-talkies”) that we, today, experience already. Your cell phone might not be able to reach other planets from orbit, true. Luckily for you, most of your friends are going to be on the same planet you’re on, so the issue is moot.

The social aspect of it all changes Drastically on board a military vessel or work area. Superiors need to issue orders, know the whole situation on that exact moment so that’s why it’s so sudden. Like Hat Rick says, the whole issue is moot.

Personally, the video is there just to talk about something.

There is a new Phase 2/New Voyages episode out. No review yet?

Abuse of social media… Or sticking your nose in your device 24/7 would be a good subject for a Trek ep, once we get a new TV series. (Kinda went there in ‘The Game,’ but I think there is more to do. I still think the TOS communicator is cool — no satellites, no phone plan, and it always gets through to whoever you want on the first try — no voicemail!!!!

Ya, what happens when you’re on the toilet, or does it use Geofence to know that you’re on the toilet and ignore the call?

Picard to Riker….Picard to Riker (no answer)… Computer, locate Cmdr. Riker..[Cmdr. Riker is taking a dump].

Has the toilet ever been seen on the Enterprise? I seem to remember sinks, and showers. Maybe the ship just *beams* the waste out of your body while you sleep……but where does it beam it to?

With all the cool news about other movie franchises happening lately, it feels like the next Star Trek is not even happening. I mean, there is not even a release date announcement yet! Is it even a thing anymore?

full agreement: nu-trek is (always was) irrelevant… =P

…still waiting for that bluetooth “communicator”… =(

…there is a push-to-talk b/t “comm badge”, forgot who makes it… =P

I briefly had Nextel style push-to-talk on Amp’d Mobile (then they bankrupt)

Trek has the best tech. Kirk and the crew really knew how to handle a mobile, too. How sophisticated!

And look who is leading the US back into space!

No comments on Shatner’s Canadian heritage, Harry. The article mentions that its a Kirk doll. Yes. Iron Man, too. But we know that just because Paramont is helping out with the financing. : )



is there a list of word-fragments which trigger censoring? thanks =)

or is it subjective? =(

10 Herbert. Yes, whatever you type is censored. I wish this would be true…

11. Silvereyes

What’s a Herbert post without a cup of paranoia!

Just kidding, I am no Herbert. Post more!

#5-Mad Mann

I have heard some rumors being circulated by some folks who have connections to the production of Star Trek that suggest that there are some “issues” going on behind the scenes between Paramount and the production company concerning, primarily, the script. I believe also in play is the contract between Paramount, Bad Robot, and CBS concerning licensing and TV production expiring in January. As I said, these are rumors and I am not going to stake my reputation (good or bad, if any) and give a bunch of details that may or may not be true. But I heard this about a month or so ago and noticed that all at once there was no more news coming out.

THX-1138: Thanks for passing the rumor… that is some JUICY stuff! =P

i sure hope someone has seen the light, and is grabbing back the reins! =D

Silvereyes, TrekMadeMeWonder: Please bite me? thanks… ;-)

nu-trek out, and AXANAR in??? =D

Hey…the main reason I still have and still insist upon a flip phone is so that I can have the “feel” of a ST communicator whenever I use it :) .

To this day I am amazed that no company ever produced a phone in the actual shape of a TOS communicator…at least, I don’t remember seeing one made, just an app that could simulate it on a flat phone. It would have been very cool! :)

#2 Hat Rick –

I’m sure you spent more time writing your message than it would have taken you to watch the video! :-D

i wrote a story about MY cool trek flip phone (COMMUNICATOR!)… =D

…but it got censored =(

#16 “nu-trek out, and AXANAR in??? =D”

HA! In your dreams (and my nightmares! lol)

CBS could (should) buy AXANAR, and expand it! =D (spend more money)

#4 harley3k, I have always imagined it is de-materialized and re-materialized into molecules for use in replicators, or de-materialized and sent into space … as molecules. It’s all carbon, innit?

Otherwise, it’s de-materialized from the Enterprise for reassembly in space, and some poor Klingon is grumbling, “Why is my ship always the one near Enterprise when they dump waste!? Sh*te! [Klingon equivalent thereof]”

13. THX-1138

If true…






…if true.

Did anyone notice that ST Phase II mind sifter is available on youtube?

Well, I see the minute Herbert thinks no one is minding the store he’s (she’s??) back on the BR bashing…..

@16. Ironic that you bitch to high heaven about BR Trek being a mindless space shoot-em-up, but you want to replace it with…a mindless space shoot-em-up. Does the fictional docu-drama format really make that much o a difference? No, it doesn’t.

Oh, and CBS owns Trek. You can’t buy back what’s already yours….

@.4 Apparently, s**t on a shingle is a staple in the Enterprise mess hall…

JohnnieHF — that’s true, lol. :)

Actually, harley3k, Scotty is waiting until the Big E flies over your house to beam a big stinky blob just above your roof, so we can all know what happens when the $h!t hits the fan.

7 – Excuse me… What does Iron Man need with a starship?


I am pretty sure that the seat Kirk sits on in Star Trek 5 during the brig scene with Spock and Bones is a toilet, or part of the toilet facilities.

I remember thinking that I liked the attention to detail, although they must have had a day off with regard to other areas of the ship in that film!

One could write a letter. *runs and hides*

24. Dr. What

I appreciate that.


THX, that is simply superb news.

Sell The Whole Thing to Disney, already.

Public domain at this point. Just make more Trek and damned be the consequences.

6. harley3k Hm…

Kirk: ” Viewscreen on!.. o_O … OFF! OFF! SCREEN OFF!!

….in space, altmost any time ‘behind the ship’ can become ‘in front of the ship’…

“8. I am not Herbert – December 3, 2014

full agreement: nu-trek is (always was) irrelevant… =P”

By “full agreement” you mean just you and handful other malcontents? Most people, including the general audience, likes NuTrek.

Somebody goes to the trouble of writing an interesting Trek in the media news piece — for free — and we get the usual whining that there’s no news for a movie that hasn’t even started filming yet. I’m not trying to be a dick here, but this behaviour is lousy.

The site is free, writers are unpaid. Oh, and there’s no Trek news right now. This ‘Star Wars is winning’ nonsense makes me sad to be a Trek fan.

Sorry. Day 3 of quitting coffee. I’m pretty grumpy.

But why this vidcap of Kirk? TOS communicators were glorified walkie-talkies; the TNG iteration was a lot more imaginative. It wouldn’t be because TOS is more popular?

Cell phones are Star Trek communicators as much as a Saturn V is warp drive.

They’re both shaped kind of the same. And (in the case of cell phones, not Saturn Vs) they’re both something you talk into and out of.

43 – the comparison is valid because Earth civilians in Star Trek wouldn’t use cell phones, only communicators of one sort or another, portable or fixed. And the analogy with Saturn V is wrong because communicators aren’t more advanced across the board. A TOS civilian with a smartphone? It would have to be something with fixed physical buttons, visible antenna and speaker, because United Earth just wasn’t there in terms of user-friendly technology, even if it did advance farther in most other respects (subspace transmissions, warp drive, transporters…). A side-effect of 1966, of course, but it’s not like the later series tried to reimagine TOS (well, except for Abramsverse).

Jack, yes, you are grumpy.

As for communicators, the BIGGEST difference between Star Trek communicators and cell phones is that cell phones do not operate from device to device. Communicators can, within a solar system, transmit and receive directly between the devices without the need for a network. Cell phones have to transmit to a cell tower, then to a substation, then a network, then to another station and tower then to the other phone. I hope that we can get REAL communicators some day, one that we never have to pay a bill for since it won’t need a network.

@15. THX-1138 – December 3, 2014

Fascinating. But I am not surprised. With all the news of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, James Bond, etc., it did seem weird that there was no official announcement of the next Trek. I mean, shooting is supposed to start in 2-3 months, shouldn’t pre-production have started already? And Bob Orci has not even been officially named the director yet, even though a few of the actors said he was. That is concerning.

I wonder if when this contract you mention goes up then Paramount can get the TV rights back from CBS, so maybe they are considering a new direction for Star Trek, namely on TV.

@46. I’m not surprised, either. This had to come to a head at some point.

And in other old franchise news…Spectre. Nice to see some people can figure it out.

“26. Dr. What – December 3, 2014

Did anyone notice that ST Phase II mind sifter is available on youtube?”

I did. Wasn’t impressed. However, given the history over this production, and my love for the series as a whole, I am willing to give it a pass.

yeah, no… it should go the other way: CBS should get full control…
Paramount doesn’t know what they are doing… =(

boborci / LDS / bad robot should get the boot… ;-)

we need someone (a fan) in charge who GETS IT… like at Marvel… ;-)

AXANAR for the 50th!!! =D

19 Jon, I had a flip phone and kept trying to do the “communicator flip” but never managed, alas.

41 Jack, two words. Half-caffeinated. Got to wean yourself off of it. Also, I drank decaf for some years, then went back to caffeinated, and it was like the sun came out. There are advantages to it; a cheerful demeanor is one. Maybe switching to half-caf will give you the right balance. Good luck, friend.

49 Herbert, Axanar looks like a good well-produced FAN production. No more than that; i don’t think it would get major corporate support or sell in theatres, and like Phil, I don’t get why you’re looking forward to a whole movie about a war but hate BR Trek for its action/violence elements …?

Bob Orci “gets it.” You don’t. We have it down loud and clear that you hate BR Trek, so please stop repeating yourself, mmmkay?

Which reminds me, “Drugs are bad, mmmkay?”