Followup to: Why is there no combadge lag on initiating inter-personnel comms?

Many misunderstood the previous question, so I'll try to rephrase it.

  • Sometimes we see Riker's perspective: his badge blips and it says "Picard to Riker", and he answers "Riker here".

  • Sometimes we see Picard's perspective: he taps badge and says "Picard to Riker" and the immediate answer is "Riker here"

Previous question:

Until Picard has said "Riker", the system can't route the call. It would have to record "Picard to Riker" and replay it. Riker must start hearing "Picard to--" after Picard has finished saying "Riker". So, from Picard's perspective, there must be a delay, at least as long as it takes to replay "Picard to Riker", before Riker could possibly answer. Why isn't there a delay?

(Alright, so, everybody got that? Good! Out-of-universe answer: because nobody cares. Realistic Diction is Unrealistic, as TV Tropes puts it.)

My question:

Starfleet doesn't have a monopoly on communicators. Is this particular time-skip phenomenon ever shown on-screen, other than for Starfleet?

  • 5
    I figure the communication system somehow does know who the call is going to before he says "Riker," and plays the audio on Riker's end in real-time. Sort of like how all the automated doors on the Enterprise somehow know if a person approaching the door intends to walk through immediately or stop right beside the door for a moment and give a parting quip before walking through. The door doesn't open until the person is actually going through. Isn't it amazing what they can do with machine learning?!
    – Steve-O
    Mar 15, 2018 at 20:06
  • @Steve-O Maybe :-) Just wondering if non-Starfleet comm systems have this ability too! Mar 15, 2018 at 20:09
  • 1
    For example, Bajoran Militia communicators?
    – geewhiz
    Mar 15, 2018 at 21:13
  • 1
    @TimeTravellyParadoxySciFiSmeg It's Starfleet operated but it has a Cardassian computer
    – geewhiz
    Mar 15, 2018 at 22:00
  • 2
    It's possible that the computer is smarter than we think and knows, based on the situation, who a particular officer is most likely to contact and this speeds up the process. Also, on ship, the officer might be using the comm system instead of a commbadge-in this case, their could be button presses we can't see. For example, Picard might have a shortcut programmed into his chair to contact Riker
    – geewhiz
    Mar 16, 2018 at 1:11

5 Answers 5


The delay you're talking about is negligible. When human beings were in charge of making those connections ("Sarah, get me Floyd down at the Barber Shop"), it took a second or two, plus the time it took the other party to answer the phone. Using Skype or a cell phone, when you can theoretically make a call to anyone on the earth, the time it takes to get a connection and have that other party answer the call (especially if it's an automated system) is often so brief they don't even waste time generating the ring sound on your side.

On a starship, you're only dealing with a few hundred people, all of which (those wearing comm badges anyway) the computer knows exactly where they are. making that connection to the person's comm badge would be almost instantaneous. Add to that the possibility that there may be "favorites lists" - Picard and Riker connect almost immediately - connecting and finding Ensign Schlabotnik in the turbolift supply depot might take a second or two longer.

All this is over and above the out of universe fact that even the few seconds it might take a person to answer a call can slow down a narrative, so it's going to be skipped.

  • 3
    (1) The delay for Starfleet communicators is not in finding and making the connection, it's in replaying the greeting. That's the previous question. (2) I know the out-of-universe answer, it's in my question. (3) That's not my question. Mine is whether non-Starfleet communicators do this. Mar 15, 2018 at 19:34
  • 1
    The lag you're talking about is fractions of a second, no more than the time it takes a voice to go from speaker to listener on a phone. If a person is talking to someone far enough away, say on a different continent, that delay may be long enough that you can actually hear your own voice bounce back before the other person has time to reply. It's noticeable when you see someone being interviewed via satellite on the news. on the same ship where the people are no further away then people in the same building, the lag is negligible. Mar 15, 2018 at 20:16
  • So to jump past all that and answer your new/other question, since we've seen other races using communicators with no delay, one could assume that they operate similarly, unless they want to make a point that some race have inferior equipment. Mar 15, 2018 at 20:17
  • 3
    I don't think you quite get the question. There is some episode of Voyager where Tuvok and Kim are both on the bridge, and Tuvok wants to surreptitiously say something to Kim. We see Tuvok tap his badge and say "Tuvok to Kim", and Kim hears it as he's saying it. But how can the computer relay the "Tuvok to " part to Kim and only Kim when Tuvok hasn't said Kim's name yet?
    – swbarnes2
    Mar 15, 2018 at 20:18
  • 1
    @VBartilucci - no, really it's not. It specifically has to do with the "Picard to Riker" "Riker here" sequence... Yes, if you know we've seen other races go through that sequence ("Gawron to Martok" "Martok here") that would be helpful. Mar 15, 2018 at 20:22

I'm not sure there's really a delay. It doesn't really take me a full second to say "Picard to Riker", which means, assuming the actual establishing of the communication is almost instantaneous, the actual delay would be between "Picard to Riker" (1s), touch your badge (1s).

Seems to me on most situations the comm will feel immediate even if it isn't fully immediate, generally speaking 2 seconds on the first response feel like nothing, try talking to someone and measuring how long it takes them to respond to you when you first address them.

Now, if there's really a situation on the show where the response is instantaneous I doubt there will ever be any in universe explanation and the only out of universe will be mistake / no one cares. However, as long as the answer comes 2 seconds after is actually reasonable to assume that as a valid period of time.

  • 1
    Agreed it's a second or two, but enough that its absence is noticeable. I'm not asking for an explanation, in-universe or otherwise. Mar 15, 2018 at 23:41

Just playing around with ideas:

Picard says "Picard t" - computer begins opening a connection.

Picard finishes "o Riker" - computer recognizes who is being called and transmits "Picard to Riker" to Riker (it buffered the first part until it knew who to call).

Riker presses the combadge - computer immediately plays recording of "Riker here" and suppresses actual transmission of anything Riker is saying until Picard speaks again.

So Picard hears "Riker here" as soon as Riker presses the badge. Riker doesn't need to say anything in response to Picard - it's just habit (perhaps from before the computers were so efficient). Not the most sensible system, but consistent with what's observed.


Since this question has been resurrected, I'm going to answer also:

There is no delay. Everyone with a live communicator on the ship hears the initial salutation, Avengers-style, at least at some minimal volume. Once the computer figures out who is talking to whom, it mutes all the other communicators, turning a group chat into a one-on-one chat.

This implies that there is more chatter happening at any moment than we are generally shown, but that is because the narrative thrust of the program focuses on the people involved in the communication, and doesn't show us the 400 people in other parts of the ship who heard "Picard to Riker", ignored it because they aren't Riker, and then were muted off of the call.


There was a legitimate goof (or prescient communicator) ONE time. Otherwise I don't see anything that can't be accounted for.

(Edit: On further inspection comment @swbarnes2 Mar 15, 2018 at 20:18 alluded to this incident)

This scene in Voyager had "Tuvok to Kim" play simultaneously on Kim's badge as Tuvok said it. And since they were both on the bridge and we could hear Tuvok from both sources and it was a very noticeable goof.

VOYAGER season 1 episode 5 transcript http://www.chakoteya.net/Voyager/105.htm

JANEWAY: Engines at one quarter impulse. Engage.

(Voyager heads into the pinky purple swirly thing.)

KIM: I've never seen anything like it.

(Tuvok uses his comm. badge.) TUVOK: Tuvok to Kim. Mister Kim, that is a comment we'd prefer not to hear from a senior officer on the Bridge. It makes the junior officers nervous.

KIM: Yes, sir.

PARIS: Density has increased to forty two percent.


PARIS: Not sure. We seem to be drawing some interstellar dust toward us.

JANEWAY: Engineering, could the magnetic field from our impulse engines be attracting this dust?

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