If you are a fan of the many Star Trek television series and movies, you may have noticed how easily the characters communicate with other crew members and the ships’ computers. Their devices work flawlessly unless the current plot requires that they malfunction, are blocked, or are stolen. While the communication devices we use on 21st century Earth are amazing when you think about it, the communicators of the future are so much better.
In the original series, Captain Kirk’s crew members each had a handheld communicator. The communicator went on to inspire the flip phone, so popular on modern day Earth in the nineties. While millions loved their flip phones back then, the phones are now officially outdated: my own father recently replaced his with a modern smartphone. Even Star Trek’s handheld communicators went out of favour eventually. They were replaced with badges as Captain Pickard commanded the Enterprise and, for a short time, a wrist worn device.
One main difference between a handheld communicator and any mobile phone on earth is that communicators rarely get lost. No one asks Uhura, or any bridge communications officer, to ring a communicator to find it. Here on earth, some of us misplace our phones daily. There was a trend for some time to keep unneeded landlines in homes just as a method to locate missing cell phones.
I personally have not seen all the movies and series of Star Trek, so I could be missing something, but I’ve never noticed anyone charging a communicator. Maybe these devices pull electricity from the atmosphere or have a small, long-lasting energy source built inside. (A quick Google search to find out how Star Trek devices are charged just led me to many sites selling blue-tooth replicas instead.) Our devices run out of power at the most inopportune times and must be charged frequently.
Star Trek communicators are very durable. They must survive transporter trips to planets with often hostile environments as well as the occasional phaser blast. Our phones, however, are built to last just a few short years and don’t always survive short falls without cracking the screens. Protective cases are recommended to avoid damage.
In Starfleet, only one type of communicator is available at any given time, but their allies, such as the Bajorans, may have different designs. In our world, there are multiple operating systems, screen sizes, manufacturers, features, and models. Not only is this less efficient, it also encourages us to become dissatisfied quickly and replace functioning devices as soon as something new is available. You’ll never catch Miles and Julian in line overnight at the Deep Space Nine Promenade Apple store.
Someday, we can look forward to amazing communication devices just like they have in the future, or, at least, the Star Trek depiction of the future. In the meantime, we will use our current technology to call our friends, keep track of family, and argue about whether Star Trek or Star Wars is the better franchise.