2009-08-14

Star Trek Hall Passes

In numerous Trek episodes, we've seen folks with padds.

Usually this makes sense, and was even hella-cool at the time.   Instead of the little swiveling desktop unit Picard had in the ready room or the same concept Kirk had in his quarters, the padd was a nice and simple handheld computing device.  Some padds were quite large, but several were probably smaller that even a modern netbook.

However, there are a number of occasions were possession of a padd does not make sense.

1.  "Good Shepherd"[VOY7]

Seven enters some non-critical information into a padd, hands it to a lowly Starfleet person, and orders them to take the padd to Engineering.  Torres notes the information, hands the padd to someone else, and we follow it to Deck 15, where some smarmy twit punches a few buttons on his console upon receipt of the padd.

Seriously?

I can see having a detailed record-keeping process at non-alert conditions using thumbprints or whatever, but when you only have a crew of 150 normally, then assuming only 50 are on duty at any given time (with probably a dozen on the bridge and in engineering combined) then that padd maneuver just cost you two people for several minutes.  Sure, a walk and change of scenery (such as you can have on a starship outside the holodeck) is nice, but you just dropped your manpower by four percent for a few minutes, in non-break conditions.   Torres, after all, seemed really busy.

1a.  "Tapestry"[TNG6]

In a modified present, Picard is a Lt. and astrophysics dude, carrying a padd to be delivered to La Forge.   As Q describes it, it is Picard "carrying reports to your superiors".

Seriously?

While I appreciate the idea and possibility of sensitive information being carried by print-out ("Encounter at Farpoint"[TNG1]) or otherwise not merely stuck in the ship's database, it seems that an assistant astrophysics officer would not be likely to be carrying data that was sensitive to that degree.

2.  "Heart of Stone"[DSN3]

Nog is handed a padd and tasked with doing an inventory of a cargo bay.   He does so after a few hours.  In the process, he did so well that Dax mentions he even found a few things that real station crew had missed in their last inventory.

Seriously?  

I mean I know tricorders can be spoofed, and on a station dealing with foreign cargo all the time it can't hurt to look, but he wasn't even carrying a tricorder.  If we grant the idea that they're looking to avoid tricorder spoofing, we're left to assume they assume no holography.  What?

And what's this about missing stuff in the last inventory?   Did they not have tricorders then, either?  

Tricorders are ubiquitous in Trek.  Why would they not be used as timesaving logistics devices?  We do this now with RF tag equipment and barcode scanning handheld units.  You're telling me a doodad capable of telling you what I ate yesterday can't figure out what's in the crate?

3.  "True Q"[TNG6]

Not quite a padd example, but Crusher assigns a student the task of checking medical tricorders before they're put into supply containers by scanning herself with them.

Really?   No remote self-diagnostic on the tricorder?   Or even an onboard trustworthy diagnostic?   You just make sure it sees you and then go on about your business?

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This all seems to point to the idea that there's a fair bit of make-work going on aboard Federation ships.  Sure, carrying padds around can give the opportunity for face-time, but it seems that oftentimes folks have padds for no reason they themselves are aware of.   I'd imagine (or at least I trust) that they dispense with such pleasantries in alert conditions, but if not then damn.

Can you really imagine in the modern era someone carrying around a Pocket PC or a Kindle or an iPhone in a hospital or aboard an aircraft carrier, with their sole purpose in life at that point to give the information on it to someone?   Of course not.  It would be e-mailed or otherwise transmitted.  

"But that's not fair," you say, "those are expensive whereas padds are like paper to them.  And people carry paper around, so there!"

Yeah, we carry paper around, but not if we don't have to.   That's the point . . . these padds are being carried about when there's no evidence they have to have it that way.

Just a thought.
 

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