We often see characters working on various "programs". Sometimes this is as complex as the EMH, where it's often mentioned that program stability is difficult. Other times, it's a few taps on the console and "I've applied Borg signal processing algorithms" and suddenly the sensor data makes perfect sense.

Is there an explanation of how programming works in the Star Trek, Voyager era? Are there computer languages? I can imagine that lots of the grunt work is done for them, and perhaps "applying signal processing algorithms" really is as simple as a few keystrokes, as it would be today using a scientific computing engine like MATLAB. On the other hand, someone has to write the stuff that it's all based on.

  • 3
    Does this answer your question? Are there any programmers in Star Trek?
    – JayFor
    Commented Feb 28, 2023 at 15:13
  • @JayFor no, but it is interesting. That question answers whether there are people who program in Star Trek. I'm asking about how those people go about their work Commented Feb 28, 2023 at 15:19
  • Yeah sorry, in retrospect it's not a great match, although Stick's answer does speculate about how programming might work in practice.
    – JayFor
    Commented Feb 28, 2023 at 15:23
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    Part of the problem is that you're assuming consistency or association where none exists. The two examples you present are nothing more than literary macguffins used to set up the story the writers wanted to tell. One of the dangers of trying to rationalize fiction in the Real World is that fiction doesn't usually care enough about the Real World to let that easily happen. Now, if we simply propose an idea, programming is about the balance between abstraction and convenience. So I can rationalize an easy-to-apply algorithm vs. a highly abstracted EMH.
    – JBH
    Commented Mar 1, 2023 at 18:49
  • I was going to say this is a duplicate but technically this is a how question not a what question. The posted question by JayFor is a who are the programmers question.
    – Byrd
    Commented Mar 6, 2023 at 17:39

1 Answer 1


They are literary macguffins like JBH said.

If you want a more fun in-canon answer, it's all implied and not explicitly stated how it works.

I do know that Seven of Nine is a cyborg so she probably has a repository of already written code (She might actually think in some fancy borg code.) that just needs to be downloaded. She's a workaholic and a nerd so it's implied she probably has already altered it to fit the Voyager's operating system. As far as the actual language I'm sure they use a lot of different languages since different languages are good for different things. There is an example in Star Trek: Discovery 1x03 "Context is for Kings" where they use something lower-level like C++ that they actually have to allocate memory. (This answer) In TNG there were those Bynar people so we do also know that all the hardware is still using binary too.

As far as something like the holodeck it probably works like ChatGPT does. In every episode it's used, it's given a novel of words to translate into a computer language. It compiles and runs the program. It also creates 3D models using composites like current AI does now for creating images of people who don't exist.

If you've ever used ChatGPT you'll also find that it sometimes spits out great code or you have to tell it to try again with new parameters. This could be causing the instability in the EMH. It's probably safe to say the AI generated code probably isn't great to use unless you're a programmer and know what it's actually doing even in Star Trek. The computer screens that are used by officers in Voyager to fix the EMH often look a lot like a UML design or a node system that something like Unreal Engine might use.

Subroutines; Harry Kim's hand

Pre-constructed customizable code carefully constructed to control a hologram. I can't think of an example but, often times officers having to service the EMH complain about all the sub-routines added in making the EMH unstable so I have a feeling that the AI code that's generated is similar to how ours is created.

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