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In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "A Matter of Perspective", Riker is accused of firing a phaser at the Krieger energy converter thus blowing up the space station. It seems strange that he even had a phaser on the station to begin since it was a peaceful mission.

So why wouldn't phasers just have a log of what time they were fired on them that could easily be referenced if the question of who fired when arises?

Are there other instances in the Star Trek universe where a phaser record log would have solved a dilemma or other indications that they do log phasers firing other than the ship's sensors detecting it?

  • While I agree, I think this might be hard to answer as its currently worded. The first question about Riker may be answerable by citing away party protocol, but the last question is hard to pin down. I've often thought the same thing about shipboard security cams, and the number of problems (and episodes) they would have negated. – Dpeif Sep 16 '15 at 17:58
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    There appear to be two distinct questions here; 1) Why does Riker have a phaser and 2) Why don't phasers log their activities. – Valorum Sep 16 '15 at 18:00
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    I'm sure Spock wished that phasers had internal logs in ST6. – Xantec Sep 16 '15 at 18:09
  • Kira's speech about the relative battlefield virtues of a Starfleet phaser rifle and (I think) a Klingon weapon comes to mind. Keep it simple. – Politank-Z Sep 16 '15 at 18:32
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    @Xantec: If they had, they could be tampered with, as the existing photon torpedo logs also in ST6 showed. – chirlu Sep 16 '15 at 19:29
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From DS9: Return to Grace:

KIRA: This is a standard issue, Cardassian phase-disruptor rifle. It has a four point seven megajoule power capacity, three millisecond recharge two beam settings.

ZIYAL: How do you know so much about Cardassian weapons?

KIRA: We captured a lot of them during the occupation. It's a good weapon, solid, simple. You can drag it through the mud and it'll still fire. Now this. (Federation phaser rifle.) This is an entirely different animal. Federation standard issue. It's a little less powerful, but it's got a more options. Sixteen beam settings. Fully autonomous recharge, multiple target acquisition, gyro stabilised, the works. It's a little more complicated, so it's not as good a field weapon. Too many things can go wrong with it.

While a log system on a phaser would have its benefits, it would also have its drawbacks. Let's picture a Starfleet phaser with a mandatory logging feature. In order to be mandatory, it would have to be tamper-resistant; otherwise, an officer like Riker could easily enough disable or alter the logging to cover his tracks.

These phasers are also meant to serve as battlefield sidearms. For the logging system to have any integrity, attempts to interfere with logging would almost certainly have to render the phaser useless. In Kira's frame of reference, that represents one more thing that can go wrong with it, potentially fatally to the phaser's legitimate user.

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    I believe similar arguments have been made against smartguns that are keyed to their owner (e.g. the officer the weapon was issued to). Sure, there are some advantages, like making it impossible for someone to disarm a police officer and shoot hir with the weapon, but it's not entirely clear the net effect would be positive (though I personally still think it's worth investigating further). – Lèse majesté Sep 16 '15 at 19:50
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    Also, if the enemy captures your phaser on the battlefield, and if he can read its log, mightn't that give him some information that you don't need him to know? – user14111 Dec 28 '16 at 13:19
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As we're talking about imaginary future technology, one can only speculate.

As Politank-Z says, any added complexity creates problems. Every engineering design is a compromise: adding feature X almost always means that some other feature is compromised. At the very least, every new feature is something else that could break. The phasers on Star Trek are military weapons. To a soldier in combat, if having a log of every time he fired his phaser just in case the phaser is used to commit a crime means that there is a 1/2 of 1% greater chance that the phaser will not fire when he is being attacked by the enemy and needs to defend himself, I don't think he'd consider that worth it.

Adding a gadget to a weapon that can detect every time the trigger is pulled and record this on a microchip seems easily within reach of current technology, never mind the technology of people who can build star ships. But could it tell who pulled the trigger? Maybe it could check DNA or fingerprints, but now we're getting more complicated. Adding a switch and a microchip, not too bad. But adding a miniature bio lab? Maybe to this civilization that's trivial, maybe not. What if the person freely admits he fired the phaser at the given time, but claims he was somewhere else and was shooting at a target? Do we need something to tell who or what he was shooting at? More complexity. Etc.

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    The TNG Manual clearly states that the Phaser contains bio-sensors (including DNA and Infra-red) to determine if the user is authorised. – Valorum Sep 17 '15 at 8:37

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