It happens sometimes in Star Trek that the quality of video chats is too bad. Why don't they switch to audio or text only? This would save bandwidth and they would communicate better.

  • 1
    @anaranjada In my opinion Star Trek in many technical things very logical, e. g. Heisenberg compensators. But why no here? – Motte001 May 3 '16 at 16:06
  • 4
    Klingons don't use Unicode. – John Sensebe May 3 '16 at 16:17
  • 3
    @JohnSensebe: well, you can’t blame them. The Unicode Technical Committee has no honour! – Paul D. Waite May 3 '16 at 16:19
  • 1
    There are occasions where, for whatever reasons, communications come only as "messages", which seems to imply text. – Ellesedil May 3 '16 at 17:12
  • 1
    Emojis are universally understood. A pile of poop is a pile of poop after all. That would start a war with the Klingons. – iMerchant May 3 '16 at 20:17

People don't switch to text communication because they prefer video, even when the video is of low quality.

We know that text communication is possible, because the bridge receives messages without using the screen from time to time. For example, there is the time that the Enterprise D received 285,000 hails at once from Enterprises from parallel universes.

So why don't ships in Starfleet use this method of communication more often?

This could be a matter of personal preference for Starfleet officers. In Star Trek, video communication is ubiquitous. People grew up with it. It's fast and almost always reliable over vast distances. In the rare situation where the video starts to break up, it would be more efficient to switch to text communication, but people aren't used to doing that. Instead, they keep using their video screen, repeating themselves as necessary.

It's a bit like trying to talk to someone in person in a noisy environment: if you both have phones or something to write on, it would be simpler to communicate via text, but it's common to simply raise your voice and repeat yourself as necessary. In Starfleet, even when text communication would be more efficient, everyone expects to use video, and so they stick with it. If it works at all, people will use it.

Presumably, if the video and audio cut out entirely and can't be reestablished, people would switch to text communication. I can't think of any examples of this happening at the moment. Also, if video and audio communication is impossible, there is probably an emergency situation in progress, so the crew needs to focus on correcting the situation, possibly neglecting to maintain text communication with other ships.

  • 2
    I suppose it's possible that the communications officer maintains text communication with other ships while the captain is yelling for evasive maneuvers. Uhura at her console: "The aliens are shooting at us again LOL" – Molag Bal May 3 '16 at 19:46
  • 2
    On multiple occasions in DS9, Sisko coordinates fleet attacks on enemy ships without the conn officer getting on the blower. Clearly text communication is pretty common, they just don't point it out. – Valorum May 3 '16 at 20:00

You’re assuming that the video connection quality is bad because of lack of bandwidth.

It’s possible that within the universe of the show, the bad quality is actually because of interference with whatever signals are being transmitted between the ships, and that this interference would still cause problems for text- or audio-only transmissions.

Or maybe the universal translator only works with audio.

  • 1
    @anaranjada: well I only said “possible”. I’d be delighted if someone with actual knowledge of communication between spaceships jumped in. – Paul D. Waite May 3 '16 at 16:22
  • agree w/ Paul here - communications in universe are occurring via subspace so if there is interference with the video the same interference would apply to the audio signal (generally). There are instances where the ship receives "audio only" but that may be more on the sender's side of things – NKCampbell May 3 '16 at 16:25
  • 4
    Subspace hates a texter. – John Sensebe May 3 '16 at 17:20
  • 4
    I don't think we can appeal to some unexplained in-universe effect. It violates basic logic that you could have some transmission technology capable of transmitting 3D hi-res video images (remember you see a side profile when you see a side view of a conversation), that when degraded can still transmit some noisy video but can't transmit text which requires less than one-billion this information. You have to just chalk this up to out-of-universe hooey. – ThePopMachine May 3 '16 at 17:48
  • 2
    @anaranjada: I'm saying that is not possible. Forgot talking a the tenets of information theory. You could use a garbled video transmission to send Morse code as long as you can tell a very bright image from a very dim one. There's just no possible in-universe hand-wavy explanation in-universe unless you want to ignore basic reasoning. – ThePopMachine May 3 '16 at 17:56

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.