2021-11-08

The 2260s Starfleet Flashlight

Alternate title:  Matches? We Don't Need No Vulcan Matches!

I seem to have discovered a gaping hole in all the Trek tech geekery currently available online.  But, to be honest, I'd forgotten this existed, too.


For many moons now, my memory was in error . . . for some reason I thought that when Kirk and the gang were skulking about in the US Air Force base in "Tomorrow is Yesterday", that Kirk had merely grabbed a local flashlight.   In my mind I can almost see the corrugated metal of an old incandescent Ray-o-Vac Sportsman or EverReady Captain in his hand . . . about three D-cells for the size of it.   I'm guessing this came from watching some low-res version ages ago and interpolating the pixels as best I could, or maybe it was his brief stop by some random display case and a chuckle, but in any case I queued up the episode the other day amidst a flashlight kick, hoping to identify the now-antique, and blammo, my mind was blown.

Even on super prop sites that can track when a communicator prop got damaged when Takei grabbed it without its consent, there's zip-zilch-zero about what he was actually carrying.


Of course, part of this is that it's relatively uninteresting compared to other props.  The design is somewhat dull . . . it's basically (almost exactly) a smaller version of LaSalle's signalling device from "Squire of Gothos", which is also Kirk's viewscreen fix-o-matic from "The Doomsday Machine), but without the spiky stepped clear part and instead with what may as well be a clear version of a modern plastic soda bottlecap on top.  There are no apparent controls, though there are two red lines that appear to be three-dimensional (i.e. not mere paint) linear structures along the side of the 'bottlecap' lens, which we can assume may rotate for settings.  Underneath that is what appears to be an aspheric (convex) lens for the actual light.

The faked beamshot using a spotlight or similar is well-done, and such a tight spotlight would be a good choice for stealthiness if you're going with a light rather than some sort of light amplification technology (e.g. night vision).   Of course, literally nothing else was stealthy about the landing party, including the officers beaming down in their plain gold duty uniforms with shiny material on them, with no apparent sensor support from the ship, not to mention a flashlight with what today would be a wildly unusual amount of side spill from a 'bottlecap' lens seemingly dedicated to the purpose (which, of course, it was, to ensure that the audience understood a flashlight was in use).   Contrasted with the classic Orilux WW1 and WW2 flashlight's low-observability features, however, this light seems a tad odd. 

(They didn't even bother to use a tricorder to detect the basic electronic indicator of door openings and such, meaning they got defeated by the 1960s equivalent of a modern home alarm system.  Compare this to Enterprise, wherein Archer and team boarded a stealth ship with sensor support from the NX Class ship ("Shockwave, Pt. I"(ENT1)), and Archer's scanner could defeat a 20th/21st Century car alarm ("Carpenter Street"(ENT3)).   Kirk was being curiously amateurish.  But, I digress . . . )

I decided to have a little fun with the whole thing over on Reddit's /r/flashlight subforum.  I ended up just making up some specs myself, for kicks, the the style of one of the flashlight enthusiast review sites . . . 

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*With apologies to 1Lumen.com, I found a light to review myself.   Please note that this is just a "quickie" fake write-up for fun . . . I did no refresher research and no math (not that doing both wouldn't have been fun, just time-consuming).  The below is thus laden with little more than scientificalisms, technobabble, and handwavium, with made-up bits like the tail-switch where, in reality, a poorly-hidden power cable existed.*

1. Starfleet Flashlight (2267)
2. Build Quality
3. Emitter and Optics
4. Size and Comparison
5. User Interface
6. Power Source
7. Performance
8. Beamshots
9. Final Verdict

**Starfleet Flashlight (2267) Specifications**
    Brand/Model        Starfleet Hand Torch-2210/45
    Emitter                 1x laser-initiated microfusion arc light (CRI 100)
    Beam Intensity     Up to 130 million candela (8.7 kilometer range @ 1 lux)
    Power Source       1x Sarium Krellide power cell, deuterium tank
                         (field rechargeable with water source), tritium slug
    Material                Duranium
    Modes                  12 Onboard Programmable, plus external control tie-in
    Blinkies                Programmable strobe/beacon
    Optics                   Fusion confinement, aspheric forcefield, 
                          quantum electrochromic "bottlecap" 
    Waterproof            UFP1589 (vacuum-rated, but deep submersion 
                          in gas giants not recommended)

**Introduction**

At first glance, this light is deceptively simple.  It appears to be nothing more than a very basic truncated metallic teardrop body with a lens up front.  Indeed, whereas most UFP interfaces of the later mid-23rd Century are laden with multicolored buttons, this flashlight has only one, a lightly-recessed lit tailswitch assembly in the smaller rear truncation.

The current tailswitch, a 2245 upgrade from the original powered light within a duranium switch in the original 2210 model, does additional duties as an emergency tritium storage vessel of last resort and as an unpowered 'firefly' auxiliary light emitter.  An additional clear rotating control collet at the front (surrounding the side-spill portion of the "bottlecap" outer lens) offers twelve modes in field use, with additional control options.

**Build Quality**

57 years on, the main body continues the original 2210 appearance of a smooth, bare-metal look, while still being surprisingly grippy thanks to its amphibian-inspired nanopolymer coating.  The design is showing its age aesthetically, however.  While it still looked fresh compared to the phaser pistols of the 2250s, even sharing the rotating control mechanism and shiny metal appearance of certain portions of the pistol, it generally looks out of place in current landing party kit.  Modern tricorders and phasers have generally shifted toward dark tones and even an almost leather-like textured look on tricorder external panels.  However, thanks to the shiny appearance, one is less likely to *need* a tricorder to find the flashlight.

Dated aesthetics or not, being machined duranium, the main body is virtually indestructable, passing shuttlecraft landing pad tests with ease, even with the heavier warp-capable Class F shuttles currently in service.  Early forcefield issues have been resolved, and there have been no instances of the units melting themselves down due to malfunction while in use since the 2220's.

**Emitter and Optics**

Remarkably advanced when it first appeared, the microfusion arc emitter system replaced the older, simpler emitters and radioisotope battery systems that had been used since Earth Starfleet days.  

Once activated, the automatic pre-charge of confined deuterium and tritium stream is struck by pico-second lasers powered by the sarium krellide cells.  The lasers are slightly forward of the main reaction site, near the forward maximum extent of the outermost part of the teardrop body, and pointed slightly rearward to prevent eye damage in front of the unit.  The fusion cycle begins quite quickly but requires a brief ramp-up to reach what some call its "hot idle" state, with enough useful light for most purposes.  (Some liken this to ancient incandescent bulbs.)

At this point, the reaction is generating enough energy to help the power cell sustain a small internal forcefield, shaped to both protect the innards of the light to allow higher power levels and to provide an adjustable aspheric lens effect at the front aperture, allowing for more options in light output selection.  A final physical emitter window on the exterior, surrounded by a rotating collet, rounds out the unit. 

It's here at the end where much of the magic happens.  The rapid quantum electrochromic emitter window, also known as the QE window or "bottlecap" depending on the crewman, is capable of producing myriad effects in concert with the aspheric forcefield.  By default, the forcefield does not allow passage of the more hostile possible radiation and frequencies from the microfusion "lamp", leaving the bottlecap to only need to adjust for diffusion effects.  However, the forcefield can be configured to allow for passage of various parts of the spectrum, with the QE window controlling the colors, color shifting, et cetera.

**Size**

While featureful, the simple fact is that this is not a tiny flashlight, nor is it a good size in modern use, due in part to its deuterium tankage needs.  While a friendly enough size for manipulation by most species, the unit was designed to be carried in the landing party field jackets which recently fell out of general use.  As a result, the form factor is not even as conducive to belt carry as the smaller Phaser One units now in service, meaning a landing party is the odd position of perhaps having to have someone carrying a bag or other storage unit just to have a standard-issue flashlight on-hand, while at the same time they're equipped with a beam-shooting device capable of making rocks glow or starting fires.

**User Interface**

The forward-clicky tailswitch and rotating collet outside the emitter window side spill area are the two easy field interfaces.  In general use, the twelve settings available are usually defaults starting with an automatic output based on a simple passive system of light sensors and room/area size detection.  Further twists (usually counterclockwise) step through five brightness modes up with varying focus and diffusion, two UV and two other colored-light options, a special signalling or momentary-on mode, and field recharge mode.  The collet can be rotated directly to step through modes or pulled out slightly and rotated for mode-skipping.  None of this is revolutionary, and much of it would be familiar to flashlight users since circa the Eugenics Wars and World War III on Earth.

In the original 2210 light, one of the twelve default mode settings could be swapped for a mode group change feature, effectively allowing over a hundred different possible modes.  However, this option was eventually dropped

Computer pre-programming for landing party missions and on-site tricorder programming, signalling, and even active mode selection are also available, and really make the unit shine. For special landing party missions, as an example, one can pre-select modes that might feature only light frequencies that local fauna cannot see, in concert with a wearable system if needed.  Alternately, a strobing action might be included that could affect the brains of opposing forces, replicate firelight, or any other need.  

In the earlier versions of the light the tricorder and light only had to be in close proximity for synchronization and control to be initiated via an active signal from the tricorder.  However, after a 2214 incident with Orion forces featuring advanced signal polling and detection, the twelfth mode setting was reserved for computer control access.  In 2236 this was finally changed to only require direct contact of the light to tricorder or computer terminal, after which control is maintained via rotating-frequency signals.

**Power Source**

The microfusion "lamp" is, of course, a tiny reactor, with the onboard energy recovery system helping to keep the sarium krellide power cells recharged after each power-intensive activation.  The tritium slug and deuterium tanks can allow for a tritium-rich burn producing extra neutrons for conversion of onboard electrolysis-derived hydrogen to deuterium.  For this step, the unit must be submerged in a body of water for six hours at a time for field refueling through filtered ports alongside the tailswitch, powered by the sarium krellide cell, with submersion helping with thermal management as there is no forcefield available for the electrolysis process.

Rapid on-off cycles are, of course, not recommended, as the sarium krellide power cell would be depleted before it could be recharged.

This system also allows the unit to serve as a small generator or power bank to recharge other systems wirelessly, albeit at low overall efficiency.

With a fully charged power cell and full loads of fusion fuels, field recharging not being considered, the power available is up to 1,138 watts (typically lower in use, of course), with a "hot idle" low-output endurance of 47 days.  The tritium tailswitch can, of course, last for years if the main emitter is not in use.  The tritium slug is the only operational consumable that has to be field-replaceable, but landing parties can carry more than one.

**Performance**

The microfusion "lamp" is easily able to blind the user, temporarily or permanently, from uncontrolled reflection.  The aspheric forcefield combined with the quantum electrochromic system can, at the same time, make for a very safe light that isn't too bright to use, and which can even make for a very gentle spot-beam light, similar to an early popular 21st Century light-emitting-diode flashlight or 20th Century stage spotlight.

**Final Verdict**

*Kinda lame; I'll take ten, please.*

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