How do people in Star Trek ever find anything in the computer?

Published: 1st February 2010

If you've seen more than a handful of Star Trek episodes (not including Enterprise, because that doesn't count as Star Trek), you'll almost certainly have witnessed scenes where a crew member needs to access a program they made earlier — a holodeck program perhaps, or something that analyses nebulae. Fortunately the computers all have voice-activated interfaces, so you can easily access your files with spoken commands:

Computer! Run program crusher 1.

Oh really? “crusher 1”? So this is the one and only program that Crusher has ever made? What if he made another program — would he call it “crusher 2”? What happens when he's made thousands of programs .. how on earth would he ever remember what “crusher 6429” is about, or whether his favourite holodeck sex program was “crusher 2846” or “crusher 2847”?

(Deep Space Nine, unlike the Next Generation, was far more realistic, in making the obvious connection that if we really did have holodecks, most people would only use them for having sex.)

But you never, ever see people in Star Trek giving their programs meaningful or useful names, like “crusher-inert-gaseous-nebulae-analysis-program”. And why are programs named after the author anyway, who ever does that? You keep your stuff in your own profile, so you never need to names things after yourself.

Perhaps, by the 24th century, we'll have wireless neural interfaces that know what you want just by reading your mind (we suspect this is true, because the doors always seem to know when someone wants to walk through them!). With that kind of technology, you wouldn't need anything as boring as a coherent file-naming convention, when you can just tell it to run what I want. But then if that's the case, why bother to name anything at all? You may as well just call everything “untitled” ...

Which come to think of it, is what a lot of people do now ... maybe it's not so unrealistic after all!


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