In the opener to the Star Trek: The Original Series episode The Naked Time, we got two tricorders for the price of one for the first time ever on screen. Spock was carrying the heavy-duty version whilst Lieutenant Joe Tormolen, unable to scratch his nose and wear an EV suit glove at the same time, was using the standard tricorder that would quickly come to engrain itself in the popular imagination.
Indispensable to any away mission, the over-the-shoulder black box of magic had simply to be pointed in the direction of any inanimate object, anomaly, or flora and fauna to scan and record a wealth of information. Its library computer system was also mighty handy, if at times a little difficult to access. And if you hadn't been non-invasively inspected by Doctor McCoy's medical model, you were probably missing out.
Never far from Spock's side, the TOS tricorder spawned a plethora of new props in Star Trek: The Next Generation and beyond. They all became classics in their own right and have inspired as many toy enthusiasts as they have engineers and physicians to create the real thing. Although, as Jadzia pointed out, perhaps you can never beat a good bit of 23rd-century design.
Whilst we're all familiar with their form, there is still a lot to learn about their function and their history. So, begin recording as we explore 10 things you didn't know about the tricorder.
10. A Brief History Of The Ones That Occasionally Explode
The world's most famous scanning device had a threefold name, but the story of its creation is twofold. The original impetus for the idea came from Gene Roddenberry as a way to expand the role of the Yeoman. In a memo to Robert H. Justman from 14th April 1966, as cited in The Making of Star Trek, Roddenberry noted:
It has been suggested that she [the Captain's Yeoman] carry as part of her regular equipment […] some sort of neat, over-the-shoulder recorder-electronic camera […]. Haven't given much creative thought to what this would look like.
Such thought went to Oscar-winning artist, designer, and sculptor Wah Ming Chang. As brilliant as he was prolific, Chang had already designed the Talosian heads for The Cage, and later created the M-113 salt creatures, the Balok effigy, the Gorn, the tribbles, the Vulcan lute, the Romulan Bird-of-Prey, the classic flip communicator, and built the phaser props based on Matt Jefferies' design.
For his tricorder design and build, Chang charged Desilu Studios a mere $275 apiece. His initial sketch that can be found in Inside Star Trek: The Real Story is both elegantly simple and finely detailed, featuring the familiar screen, information discs, top pivot, and push buttons that made the device iconic — with or without a certain tendency to explode.