1

The communicator in the original Star Trek TV series is very similar in design to a flip phone? Was there product development done for the communicator before it was made? Who designed and created the communicator and why that particular design?

enter image description here

enter image description here I added this picture of this Ribbon microphone from 1934 RCA PB90 to show what some of the communicator was made from. It may signify the intent for the purpose of the upper part of the communicator.

enter image description here

I found this picture of Wah Chang the creator thanks to help. His other art work is so different in the 1960s and a really close replica of a cell phone for 1964. To bad he is dead I would ask him his interpretation of this prop.

closed as off-topic by Snow, Vishwa, Meat Trademark, J M, sanpaco Sep 12 '18 at 5:45

  • This question does not appear to be about movies or tv within the scope defined in the help center.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 3
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is more about real world tech than movies/TV. – Meat Trademark Sep 10 '18 at 17:16
  • you should stop "improving" your question because you're just transforming it into a completely different question where the current answers are useless. You should get your changes and make it into a new question – Luciano Sep 13 '18 at 14:18
  • ...and the primary answer is Wah Chang as found on Wikipedia... – Paulie_D Sep 13 '18 at 14:39
  • @Paulie_D very upset that he is dead. I would have loved to asked him what was his inspiration. – Muze the good Troll. Sep 13 '18 at 14:43
4

At least one phone is possibly inspired by the Star Trek communicator. Perhaps not the first, but one of the most recognisable. Back in 1996 Motorola came with the StarTac flip phone:

  • It flips up, with screen and controls on the bottom half
  • It's called StarTAC... They obviously couldn't register StarTrek, so that's as close as it gets.

It can't be just a coincidence. I mean, look at this thing:

enter image description here

On the other hand Wikipedia says:

While it has been stated Cooper's vision for the device was inspired by Captain James T. Kirk using his Communicator on the television show Star Trek, [Martin] Cooper himself (the creator of the StarTAC) later said that his actual inspiration was Dick Tracy's wrist radio.

  • Dick Tracy's wrist radio? That doesn't even make sense! – user1118321 Sep 11 '18 at 2:08
  • @user1118321 I think he meant the functionality not so much the look. – Muze the good Troll. Sep 11 '18 at 3:29
  • Fair enough, but it just sounds like a dodge given both the name of StarTAC and how much it looks like a Star Trek communicator. – user1118321 Sep 11 '18 at 4:03
  • @Muze your attempt to edit my answer removes the image of the StarTAC which is the main point of this answer, so I rejected it. – Luciano Sep 11 '18 at 8:19
  • 2
    It even uses the Star Trek insignia as the speaker holes! :o) – Johnny Bones Sep 11 '18 at 14:00
2

There's only so many ways a "flip" can open.

Why flip up?

  • Right = hits and blocks your thumb if you're righthanded
  • Left = hits and blocks your thumb is you're lefthanded.

The only logical direction for a mass-produced device is upwards or downwards. Both variants exist for phones (down, up)

Since the Star Trek communicator flip cover is metallic, I wonder if it's used as an auxiliary antenna. That could be a reason why it specifically flips up and not down.

Why flip?

When closed, the flip acts as a cover. In Star Trek, it prevents you from pressing buttons (the classic butt dial, or simply prevent you damaging the buttons, or the buttons hurting you when the device is in your pocket).

On flip phones, it protects the screen and minimizes the phone's size, making it easier and safer to carry in a pocket (more spherical, as opposed to a long object).

Why a flip hinge?

  • If you don't attach the flip to the device, it may get lost. You also need to put it somewhere whenever you open the device.
  • If you loosely attach the flip, it's going to flop around when you're moving around. This may damage the flip/device/surroundings.

The only logical decision here is to use a hinge. It's sturdy, ensures you never lose the flip, and prevents it from flopping around. It also helps one-handed use of the device, compared to a cover that clips on and needs to be taken off.

Additionally, in the phone's case, the hinge is big enough to allow for the video cable to go through the hinge from the device to the screen.


Note that phones experimented more: flipping, sliding, unfolding, ... Comparatively, the Star Trek communicator lacks variation.

  • This answer completely undermines the idea that no form of communication device prior to Star Trek had a design like this. While it may seem like a "no brainer" right now, this answer doesn't touch base on the probability that at least one of the designers of the modern cell phone thought, "I bet we could make it look like the communicator from Star Trek..." – Johnny Bones Sep 10 '18 at 15:07
  • 1
    @JohnnyBones: (1) I'm not undermining anything. I'm merely considering the ergonomics of handheld devices, given the anatomy of a human hand. Whether older designs (fictional or real) exist is irrelevant to my answer. (2) I can't prove (nor do I claim) that it's impossible that flip phones were designed to look like Star Trek communicators. But that's because I can't prove a negative (the absence of an intentional reference). Do you have any evidence that proves the designers of the flip phone decided to intentionally reference Star Trek communicators? If so, that'd make a fine answer. – Flater Sep 10 '18 at 15:11
  • 1
    @JohnnyBones: (3) Even in the absence of an intentional reference, it could still be subconscious if the designer just happens to have seen Star Trek. We can't prove a subconscious connection. (4) Without actual evidence as to an intentional link between the two, the only reasonable answer we can conclude with is "not provably so, but also not impossible", in other words: "maybe". – Flater Sep 10 '18 at 15:16
  • 1
    You've been here long enough, Flater. You just described every reason why this shouldn't have been posted as an answer. – Johnny Bones Sep 10 '18 at 15:17
  • @JohnnyBones: If you have any evidence that proves an intentional reference, please post an answer. I do agree that Word-Of-God is a better answer than logical deduction. In absence of any evidence, however, my point still stands about the ergonomics and practicaly of "flip phone" design for a handheld device. Also, I'd appreciate it if you didn't resort to an ad hominem. – Flater Sep 10 '18 at 15:22

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .