The world of Star Trek is vastly different from our own, having been inspired by the great Gene Rodenberry way back in the 1960's. As a result, some of the commonplace technology in the world our characters inhabit can seem a little out of date at times. Because of this it's important to remember exactly what everything is supposed to do, so below you will find a moderately detailed list of common 'Treknology' in no specific order.
Computers and Communication
The Library Access and Retrieval System is the standard computer interface for United Federation of Planets computers and used aboard Starfleet vessels since the late 2200's. The system uses sophisticated artificial intelligence routines to understand and execute both vocal and keypad commands a well as the ability to interface with PADDs, tricorders and various remote panels.
Using the touch screen on PADDs and consoles, one can drag around the controls and viewing windows to your own personal preference. By the 24th century, graphical controls housed underneath touch-sensitive clear panels allowed LCARS panels to be quickly reconfigured by users to suit the task at hand, including a tactile interface for visually-impaired officers (VOY: Year of Hell).
Isolinear Circuitry is the basis of much 24th century Federation computer technology, replacing Duotronics which were prevalent in the 23rd century. An Optical Data Network (or ODN), a system of fibre optic cables, allows for efficient data transfer between equipment or terminals and the Computer Core. The number of redundant computer cores within a local system varies; Galaxy-Class starships carry three computer cores, while ships of the Intrepid and Sovereign-Classes contain two. These multiple cores provide redundancy in case one of the cores should be damaged or destroyed.
Isolinear Optical Chips are the primary storage medium used in conjunction with this system of circuitry and are compatible with both PADDs and Tricorders as well as various other technologies. Because of this, almost all consoles or replicators have a slot for transferring data to and from the chips, and computer cores allow them to be inserted directly via a Isolinear Subprocessor (TNG: The Naked Now).
Though normally easily corrupted, chips could be coated with a layer of clear plastic for protection in environments more hostile than a computer core without affecting read and write capabilities; these strengthened chips were commonly used in tricorders, PADDs, and other hand-held devices with isolinear chip drives.
With a maximum capacity of 2.15 kiloquads these compact, and therefore easily transportable, chips are still widely used despite the advent of Bio-neural Circuitry. They can also be readily adaptable for interacting with alien technology.
Chief Miles O'Brien discovered in 2369 when he was tasked with converting Deep Space 9 to Federation technology.
The Cardassians also have a special variation known as the Optolythic Data Rod. These data rods are unique in that they are only produced on an as-needed basis, and information can only be inscribed on them once and cannot be altered thereafter (DS9: In the Pale Moonlight).
As a result, these Data Rods have a reputation for being a secure way to store sensitive data. They are extraordinarily difficult to obtain, and nearly impossible to counterfeit. Optolythic Data Rods are clear with a light blue tint, unlike the regular version which are colour coded; with labels that correspond with what particular information they pertain to. For instance, white-labeled rods contain data relating to engineering system controls while red-labeled contain library and information storage (DS9: Shadowplay) .
The fibres in an individual gel pack were capable of making billions of connections, thus generating an incredibly sophisticated and responsive computing architecture. This kind of organic circuitry allowed computers to "think" in very similar ways to living organisms; by using "fuzzy logic", they can effectively operate by making a "best guess" answer to complex questions rather than working through all possible calculations. This is due in part to the inherent ability of organic neural systems to correlate chaotic patterns that eluded the capacities of conventional hardware. Unfortunately there is a downside to an organic system; the Gel Packs can be affected by viruses and other infectious agents, which compromise healthy tissue of living organisms.
Personal Access Display Device
Larger PADDs can be used for such tasks as drawing up schematics or to create composite images or artwork. They can also be synced with communications equipment to send video and, in emergencies, act as a remote terminal should a console become inoperable. The storage capacity of an individual PADD does depend on its size, however if the device is connected to the Data Net this limitation can be overcome. It is quite common however for people to simply utilise multiple PADDs to avoid this problem and provide themselves with a more tactile access to multiple forms of information.
Their design varies in size, shape and specification, and can often easily be distinguished by the species of their manufacturer or user; Starfleet prefers them to be made generally flat and rectangular in shape, while Klingon and Cardassian devices are often more angular.
Tricorders can be used for a variety of tasks, including recording time trials and playing holographic messages. This model featured a directory structure and built-in universal translator. This tricorder was also configured to perform proximity checks every two minutes and was able to emit a photoplasmic trail to help locate lost crewmembers.
The major difference between the two variations is the addition of a deployable hand scanner. While some standard Tricorders also have removable scanners, the medical device is much more advanced and can provide detailed scans of an entire individual, or give focus to a single area (TNG: When The Bough Breaks). It is not necessary to use the scanner for the Medical sensors to function. The scanner can also be separated from the tricorder, either to feed data to another source or not be attached to the tricorder at all.
A model of Tricorder mounted in an wrist mount can be used in conjunction with holographic isolation suits during a Starfleet mission requiring stealth, such as monitoring the Ba'ku (Star Trek: Insurrection).
Originally implemented on the U.S.S. Enterprise-E as a test bed, the TR-600 range was introduced to the Fleet as a while in early 2380. Like the TR-560 had done before it, this iteration of Starfleet Tricorder departed from the distinct, flip-open style preceding it. Distinguished by a slim, PADD-like appearance, the new Tricorders feature a large touchscreen interface. Silver in colour, it is trimmed with black pads at the bottom and sides for easier handling in varied conditions. Several buttons at the top allow for various changes in configuration. These buttons can then be covered by a small hinged door, lined with indicator lights (Star Trek: Nemesis).
- TR-560 Mark VI, Type A | Circa 2361
- TR-580 Mark VII, Type A | Circa 2366
- TR-580 Mark VIII, Type A (Medical Variant (Red) | Circa 2371
- TR-590 Mark IX, Type A | Circa 2371
- TR-590 Mark X, Type A | Circa 2373
- TR-590 Mark X, Type B (Isolation Suit Wrist Unit) | Circa 2371
- TR-600 Mark XI, Type A | Circa 2380
Since the early 22nd century the Federation has utilised Faster-Than-Light signal transmission as a form of long-range communication. This enables vessels and stations to communicate or transmit data with each other, and planets, at warp speeds rather than having to wait for traditional means of electromagnetic communication to travel the vast distances of normal space. However even with such forms of communication, starships could still go weeks, or even months, without contact; therefore, during the 23rd century it was required of a communications officer aboard a Starfleet vessel to create subspace logs detailing all messages sent and received (TOS: The Man Trap).
By the 24th century, subspace communications were handled through subspace relay networks, replacing previous networking methods such as subspace amplifiers. These networks were maintained, at least in part, by various relay stations (TNG: Aquiel). Depending on the distance between a vessel and the nearest relay station it is possible to establish a real-time communication between two, or more, parties. Various forms of naturally occurring and artificial subspace interference can make communication difficult or even impossible depending on the circumstances.
Utilised by countless species in one form or another, personal communicators have been standard issue among Starfleet personnel since its inception. Derived from the concept of 20th century mobile telecommunications, the communicators of the 22nd and 23rd centuries were light weight, durable devices which were housed inside a flip-top case for extra protection even in the roughest of frontier locations. Their primary function within Starfleet was to provide landing parties with quick access to the personnel and facilities waiting in orbit aboard their starship. It also utilised the universal translator to enable crew members to understand, and be understood, by various alien species (ENT: Broken Bow).
Since the mid 2340's the communicator has evolved from the original hand-held device to become incorporated within the Starfleet insignia, thus becoming a combadge (TNG: Yesterday's Enterprise). Due to the size of the combadge, its working range is limited to five hundred kilometers, although a starship can boost the signal to bridge larger distances (TNG: 11001001).
The universal translator uses a data construct, known as a translation matrix, which facilitates the conversion of symbols and sounds from one language to another by interoperating the brain patterns of humanoid lifeforms. It then provides an approximation of the voice and speech patterns of the subject being translated in real time, making it seem as if the person is naturally speaking that language. Unfortunately this makes the universal translator far less accurate for entirely non-humanoid lifeforms with often vastly different brain chemistry (TOS: Metamorphosis, VOY: Nothing Human).
Perhaps because of the duel meaning inherent in many slang words, the universal translator often struggles to provide a suitable translation (DS9 novel: Avatar).
Other forms of this technology are available and various species utilise a number of different methods, ranging from inexpensive hand-held devises to the somewhat more pricey subcutaneous implants. The Ferengi have been using a system of small devices inserted into the ear since the mid 22nd century however these may be more easily disrupted; for example by radiation from nuclear fission (ENT: Acquisition, DS9: Little Green Men).
Sometimes referred to as the main viewer, the Viewscreen is a staple technology in spacefaring; providing both a means of audio and visual communication as well as displaying various types of images from sensor data and communications signals.
An advancement on the long established Viewscreen technology, a number of Holo-Communicators were deployed among Starfleet vessels in 2370 as a test bed for the system. Among those vessels selected were the U.S.S. Defiant and the U.S.S. Malinche. It was later discovered that the Maquis had been able to obtain a Holo-Communicator of their own (DS9: For the Uniform).