I'm having a really hard time to describe that thing, but I found a picture on google that shows it:

Spock's thingy on the bridge

enter image description here

He often looks into it and comes up with some data or other information. What is that thing's actual purpose and how is it called?

Furthermore, why does it have this odd shape (instead of an ordinary screen)?.

  • Ack, I've seen the description of it on Memory Alpha before, but can't remember what it was called – Izkata Apr 8 '12 at 1:57
  • @Izkata: Do you mean the article about the science station? – bitmask Apr 8 '12 at 2:03
  • I was just about to post a link there, but I don't think so. I vaguely remember a description of its capabilities/why a viewer like that was later phased out.. – Izkata Apr 8 '12 at 2:04
  • Uhura used one occasionally too. And I think for a while they had them, or a variant style, on the helm/conn consoles. – eidylon Apr 8 '12 at 2:13
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    Whatever it is, its ergonomics are terrible. – Dan Ray Apr 9 '12 at 18:22

The basic idea is that the projecting blue object is a glare hood to reduce distracting reflections on the display below. It's in common use today in a variety of forms

The hood covers a display which shows a variety of sensor information which the user selects.

The little dial thingy on the side is a convenience for the user to manipulate the display settings.

One episode shows another hood on the engineering station on the other side of the bridge, which Scotty uses to scan the internal parts of the Enterprise

In the first movie, we see Spock use the sensor display without a hood.

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    It's also, of course, a great way to avoid having to do a special effect (which would have been next to impossible with late 60s technology and budgets) to show us what Spock is looking at. – Michael Scott Shappe Apr 9 '12 at 15:13
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    @UncleMikey - yes you are correct to point this out. I remember when I figured that out as a kid, and realized that poor Mr. Nemoy had to stare into a blazing blue light while saying his lines. It must have been migraine inducing – SteveED Apr 9 '12 at 16:31
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    @UncleMikey yes. They not only avoided having to provide those special effects on screen, they allowed the audience to mentally insert (through imagination) what they think a sufficiently high-tech scope readout would look like. If they had chosen a specific appearance, it would likely have looked like a 1960's vision of an advanced computer readout and thus been subject to becoming anachronistic. With the way it is, we can imagine that Spock is looking at something a bit more like today's computers. – Robert Columbia Aug 27 '16 at 21:03

It's called a scope. See that Memory Alpha page for details.

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  • ...I'm going to go change the link on Memory Alpha to point there now. Thanks! – Izkata Apr 8 '12 at 2:09
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    Yes, that's it, but I couldn't find in the article, why it had to be shaped like that. I cannot see a reason. Do you know anything about that? – bitmask Apr 8 '12 at 2:17
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    Rather than just posting a link, you ought to answer the questions posted. Wy that shape? What is its purpose? – Reinstate Monica - Goodbye SE Apr 8 '12 at 8:09
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    Whilst this may theoretically answer the question, it would be preferable to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference. This got tweeted and I found myself here looking at a top-voted answer that really isn't an answer. I need to go gain 24 reputation just to vote this down. – Grant Thomas Apr 8 '12 at 11:07
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    This answer (as written) doesn't answer the question asked. – Valorum Nov 1 '16 at 19:34

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