Canon Facts  Backstage Info  Speculation

The tricorder  is the standard portable scanning, recording and information processing device for all Starfleet operatives. The initial concept evolved out of a series of scanning devices issued by Starfleet in circa 2230; intended to reduce the size and weight of equipment issued to landing parties, these scanners incorporated both significant amounts of internal data storage and a high degree of processing capacity. By 2240 the various scanning functions of the series had begun to be combined into a single unit; in 2248 a unit was fielded which integrated scanning, processing and communications facilities. Dubbed the "tri-function recorder", the official name was quickly replaced by the more simple "tricorder".

Many dozens of tricorder variants have been fielded over the 125 years or so. Some, such as the psychotricorder, are optimized for specific tasks - but specialization is not in keeping with tricorder design philosophy, and most new models have simply increased the number of functions and speed of the device while reducing the size and mass. Over the decades the tricorder has proved to be one of the most massively useful instruments in service with Starfleet. It's ability to detect and classify a huge range of different types of phenomena has become legendary, to the extent that Starfleet personnel frequently remark that there seems to be little these handy devices cannot do!

Several models are currently in service; the TR-580 issued in 2358 is now being phased out of service in favour of the more modern TR-590 X, recently developed by Starfleet R&D. The TR-600 is currently in the early planning stages; delivery was expected to begin from 2380, but Starfleet is reported to have speeded up the project and requested modifications to increase capability against various types of stealth technology, a measure clearly aimed at the Dominion war.

The TR-580 measures 8.5 x 12 x 3 cm and has a mass of 353 grams. The two-part case is constructed of duranium foam, which is resistant to a wide range of environmental conditions. When opened the tricorder presents a 2.4 x 3.6 cm display screen and a set of twenty four control buttons - the use of a full touch-sensitive screen was avoided to improve ease of use under potentially difficult field situations.

Power is provided through a sarium crystal similar to those used in standard phasers, and is rated as sufficient for eighteen hours of continuous use of all sensor systems. Such levels of use are unlikely within the field, and in fact the average power consumption has been found to be slightly over 15 Watts.

Within the tricorder are sensor assemblies which cover a total of 235 mechanical, electromagnetic and subspace devices. Of these, 115 are located in the directional sensor cluster at the top of the device, with the remaining 120 scattered throughout the body for all-around coverage. The standard tricorder is fitted with a detachable handheld scanner unit which contains 17 high resolution devices for detailed readings. The tricorder can combine input from any or all of these sensors in order to give the most complete possible image of the object being scanned.

Data processing is provided by a distributed network of 27 Polled Main Computer Segments (PCMS) which co-ordinate all tricorder functions. Together these segments are capable of 150 GFP calculations per second; multiple functions can be run simultaneously, limited only by processing speed.

Communications with other tricorders and compatible systems are carried out via a subspace transceiver assembly. Transmission rates are somewhat variable, but achieve a maximum in Emergency Dump mode of 825 TFP. Communications range is limited to 40,000 km - similar to the standard comm badge.

Data storage is provided by 14 wafers of nickel crbonitrium crystal and three isolinear chips; the former total 0.73 kiloquads, the latter 2.06 kiloquads each for a total of 6.91 kiloquads. The swappable library crystal chips are each formatted to hold 4.5 kiloquads.

The TR-590 has now been issued to approximately 35% of all Starfleet vessels and installations; the changeover is expected to be complete by 2376. Compared to the TR-580 this model is somewhat smaller at 7.62 x 15.81 x 2.84 cm and masses 298.3 grams. Part of the reduced mass has been achieved through switching to a polyduranide casing, although this is slightly less resistant to adverse environmental conditions than the duranium casing of the 580. Within the tricorder the layout of buttons and display device is retained, allowing this model to be issued without any changeover training.

The typical power usage is 16.4 watts, a 6% increase over the TR-580; nevertheless, an uprated power cell has increased total endurance with all systems active by 100%. The available sensor units have also been increased to 315, of which 189 clustered in the directional sensor cluster. The detachable high resolution hand unit has been eliminated from the TR-590, the resolution of the onboard sensors having increased sufficiently to make the unit obsolete.

Processing speed has increased to 275 GFP calculations per second, an 83% increase. Total memory has increased by 32% to 9.12 kiloquads.

Last updated : 11th June 2000.
This page is Copyright Graham Kennedy 1998.

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