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As seen in the answers to In Star Trek, does the original die in teleportation?, transporter technology in The Next Generation reconstructs a person at their destination using, at least in part, their original particles, making it easy to believe that you get the same person at the start and finish of transportation, rather than a copy.

I'm sure I have heard that this was a deliberate change to how the transporters worked in TNG, to eliminate all of the philosophical questions about whether it's still you or just a copy that arrives at the destination.

All references I can find on how the transporter works (both here and at memory-alpha) cite TNG or later.

So, my questions are:

  • Did early transporter technology work in a way that made it less clear whether the destination receives the original or a copy?
  • If yes, was that still true for early transport of humans?

  • If no to either question, is that consistent with how it was portrayed in ToS or is it a retcon?

  • Ooh. Obligatory Doctor Who reference to Heaven Sent. – Rand al'Thor Jun 13 '16 at 23:54
  • I doubt that people would transport if it killed them. – Ham Sandwich Jun 13 '16 at 23:56
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    In Enterprise (i.e. before TOS) they were hesitant to use transporters not because of this philosophical issue but because they weren't confident they'd arrive on the other side in one piece, so there's one interesting datum. I also checked the ST:TNG "Bible" and while it does have a transporter section, the changes it mentions do not include anything that would affect this question. – Ixrec Jun 13 '16 at 23:59
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    Because it's awesome: CGP Grey talks Transporters – Catija Jun 14 '16 at 0:07
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    "I'm sure that I have heard" seems to be the basis for your entire question. You're operating under an assumption and asking us to explain something about your assumption, without providing any grounds for that assumption. – Paul L Jun 14 '16 at 20:32
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Per the Star Trek Writer's Guide (1967)

TRANSPORTERS

As discussed and described earlier, it is essentially a device which "beams" crew or cargo to and from planet surfaces and/or other space vessels. It converts matter temporarily into energy, beaming that energy to a fixed point, then re-converting it back into its original matter structure. Its range is limited to about 16, 000 miles .

The original is turned into energy and sent to a place along a beam (hence 'beamed'), then recombined into its earlier form. Since the person's matter is sent to the destination, we can surmise that the original does not die, except in the most limited sense that the person was temporarily turned into energy.


For the record, the underlying technology of the transporter did not change between ST: Enterprise and ST: Voyager. It was simply refined and improved upon.

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I realize it's non-canon, but the novel Star Trek: Federation addressed this. In this excerpt, Zephram Cochrane is aboard Kirk's Enterprise in the 23rd century, and has recently had his first experience with being through a transporter:

"So, what's a transporter?" Cochran asked, no longer caring how out of touch he seemed. Information was information, and he'd always been a quick study.

"Matter-energy conversion," the ensign answered. She shifted her arm, apparently trying to find a more comfortable position than the sling would allow. "Converts you to energy, beams you to a new location, reconverts, and there you are."

Cochrane felt his stomach drop out of him, and it wasn't the turbolift. He stared at his hand. It looked like the same one he'd been born with.

"Are you all right, sir?"

"That's terrible."

"What?"

Cochrane was appalled. Had human life become so cheap? So meaningless? "Each time you're converted to energy, you're killed," Cochrane said. "What comes out the other end is just a duplicate that thinks it's the original."

The ensign gave him a wide-eyed look that she might have reserved for a child. "You're thinking about old-fashioned matter replication, sir. In replication, the original is destroyed so that the duplicates can be reconstructed at any time. But the transporter process operates on a quantum level. You're not destroyed and re-created; your actual, original molecules are tunneled to a new location. You're still you, sir. Believe me. We do things differently these days."

Federation was first published in 1994, so well into the run of TNG, but is set (at least partially) during the timeline of TOS.

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    You have my +1. As you say, it's a low-canon source but it does specifically address the question. – Valorum Jun 14 '16 at 21:12

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