The "PC" Props of Star Trek TOS
For most people back in the 1960's and early 70's the thought of having a portable desk-top computer that you could use to do multiple tasks was unthinkable. During the show we see the crew use these computers to do amazing things. That is what made these computer props from Star Trek so intriguing and just plain cool. During the run of the original series there were several varieties of computer props that were used. There were many different models; the first appearing on-screen beginning in the very first episode filmed and fittingly the same computer also appeared in the very last episode. Here we will document each of these props, characteristics of each and their evolution during the run of the series. There were many different varieties of the computer props. For the purposes of this series of articles we will label them "type 1," "type 2" etc. with variations of each type as "alpha," "beta," etc. as determined by when they first appeared on screen (in filming order; not the order the episodes were aired on TV).
The first appearance of the type 1 computer was in the briefing room scene during "The Corbomite Maneuver." This is probably the prop that got the most screen time because it was incorporated into the briefing room table. It is visible in every scene filmed in the briefing room; mostly because Spock generally operated it. The type 1 would get screen-time along with Spock during these scenes. There appears to have been only one type 1 computer made for the series and it was a hero model (with functioning switches and lights). The type 1 was a blue-grey console with two large black back-lit panels facing the operator. It has 5 toggle switches down the right side (4 red with one white toggle switch in the center). Each of these 5 toggle switches operated a bank of lights located either on the top or bottom portion of the back-lit panels. In addition to the toggles there were 4 colored rocker switches adjacent to them near the bottom right side of the console. The rocker switches from left to right were colored white, blue, yellow & red.
Type 1 Control Functions:
When the toggle switch was
flipped to the left it would light up one of 5 lights illuminating a section of
the computer display panel. Here is the break-down on the toggle functions in
order from top to bottom:
1 – Controlled the light on the top right side.
2 – Controlled the light on the top center.
3 – Controlled the light on the top left side.
4 – Controlled the light on the bottom right.
5 – Controlled the light on the bottom left.
C - (rocker switch) Controls the desk mounted intercom
The rest of the bottom rocker switches appear to have no function as seen in the series.
The type 1 saw virtually no modifications or changes during the entire run of the series. The first time we see a portion of it lighted was a scene from "Mudd's Women" when the bottom right section was lit. The first appearance of it fully lighted was the briefing room scene from "The Man Trap." In the episode "Court Martial" do we see it in two different locations; in the briefing room and also in Kirks quarters on the starbase. This is the one and only time during the entire series that we see this unit outside of the briefing room. The type 1 was most prominently seen with some great close-ups during the second season episode "Wolf in the Fold." In the briefing room scenes from that episode we get a close-up view of it completely lit up and in different configurations. Even though the type 1 computer appears slim at the base it actually extends pretty far below the table top. This was to accommodate the lights that illuminated the lower panel display. The top main portion apparently could be removed (without the bulky lower section that appears below the briefing room table) still allowing the upper bank of lights to function.
In some instances the computer had no power source connected to it at all. We can determine this because of the position of the toggles which would have illuminated some section of the display had the unit been powered.
This prop early in the series defined the power of the computer in a small compact unit and paved the way for its many counterparts that were to follow as the series progressed.
The type 1 computer prop appeared in these episodes:
03 The Corbomite Maneuver
04 Mudd's Women
05 The Enemy Within
06 The Man Trap
07 The Naked Time
08 Charlie X
09 Balance of Terror
15 Court Martial
20 The Alternative Factor
21 Tomorrow is Yesterday
24 Space Seed
29 Operation: Annihilate
32 Fridays Child
36 Wolf in the Fold
37 The Changeling
40 The Deadly Years
42 Trouble with Tribbles
48 The Immunity Syndrome
50 By Any Other Name
51 Return to Tomorrow
53 The Ultimate Computer
55 Assignment Earth
57 Elaan of Troyius
62 Is there in Truth no Beauty
64 The Tholian Web
68 Wink of an Eye
73 Lights of Zetar
77 The Savage Curtain
79 Turnabout Intruder (back portion only)
Next we will visit the type 2 computer prop.