The Stargate Command dialing computer allows for the dialing of a gate without a corresponding Dial Home Device (DHD). While the custom dialing system has certain advantages, one of it's biggest drawbacks is that it takes considerably longer to dial than a DHD, due to having to physically rotate the ring of symbols.

In the episode "Serpent's Song", Samantha Carter modifies the dialing computer program to be able to dial much faster than it used to. In fact, with the modified program it is capable of dialing more quickly than someone using a DHD.

After this episode though, the dialing computer seems to be reset to its old, slow mode of dialing. For example, in the opening of "The Light" it takes at least a minute for the gate to be dialed. Why doesn't the SGC always fast dial after gaining the ability to do so?

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    While it's never been stated, my thought was that it was that she likely dumped a lot of things like error checking and logging and, for safety reasons, it would be a good idea to restore those in the future. Also, I found the dial sequences, overall, inconsistant in length. They'd basically last long enough for whatever discussion was needed before they embarked.
    – Tango
    May 13, 2013 at 0:54
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    @Tango - the inconsistent time could be in-universe: needing to dial symbols that were closer together/further apart would result in variable dial times
    – Robotnik
    Aug 27, 2014 at 23:19
  • they probably decided not to use 'slow dial' as a way to fill time or to have 'important' conversations
    – user48044
    Jul 10, 2015 at 18:08

2 Answers 2


I don't know of an explicitly canonical answer, but this dialog from "48 Hours" might suggest one:

McKAY: The Gate wasn't meant to be used without a dialing device. Your computer system ignores 220 of the 400 feedback signals the Gate can emit during any given dialling sequence. It is a fluke that you picked up the buffer warning. For that matter, I'm surprised that you even bothered to abort the dialing sequence despite the error.

CARTER: What is that supposed to mean?

McKAY: I've read the reports, Major. You've ignored error data and bypassed dialing protocols on several occasions to get a lock.

Perhaps fast-dialing the gate involves ignoring an even larger number of dialing protocols — including ones that Carter, as well as McKay, believes are generally necessary. In "Serpent's Song" the alternative is to allow Sokar to blow the gate up, so it's still worth doing, but that doesn't mean they'd start using it in less time-critical situations.

  • Although not explaining why they go back to the slow dialer when out of the emergency, there's nothing I've seen in-Universe which states the order of symbols is relevant. As long as you get the correct symbols, then you always get the right planet. A rapid dialer would optimize the symbol order to minimize distance between symbols and dialing time. Furthermore, when attempting to beat a dial-in, you'd search your gate address database for the minimum possible dial out time address. Almost any address would do in most cases.
    – Jim2B
    May 9, 2015 at 4:53
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    Well the seventh has to be the home address, but I'm not sure the order of the six symbols can be random.
    – user16696
    Jul 10, 2015 at 18:25
  • @cde - There was an episode where O'Neill downloaded the Ancient's knowledge into his head again, and was able to 'pronounce' the gate symbols. The team figured out that an 'address' was the Ancient's name for the planet/outpost. If that's the case, then there must be an order for the symbols, otherwise the name-to-symbol link wouldn't exist.
    – Robotnik
    Jul 17, 2015 at 1:51
  • @robotnik that means each one of the planets that were automatically seeded by the ancients has a Six letter name? All million of them?
    – user16696
    Jul 17, 2015 at 2:15
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    @cde - Probably more like a 'code', the same way we name new stars/asteroids with numbers, they do so with the pronunciation of gate symbols.
    – Robotnik
    Jul 17, 2015 at 2:26

In addition to what Micah says, there's probably a safe operating level for the dialing engines/components, and using them above those boundaries increased the risk of wear & tear on the components. Even the 'fast dial' sequence still had to rotate the ring, it just did so quicker.

The fast dial sequence makes me think of series' like Star Trek, where they "push the engines to 120% of rated maximum", or "operate the transporter outside of the recommended frequency" - they're risking a lot (blowing out the engines/killing a live transportee) for higher reward - getting themselves out of a sticky situation faster/avoiding capture etc.

In other words, I don't think Carter would've suggested it if there were any other options at the time. I don't think it was considered a wise option to continually run the gate mechanisms in 'fast dial' mode - it increased the risk of mechanical failure.

  • Modern day equivalent "Over-Clocking" your CPU. Performance boost but can go wrong and even is perfect may reduce the lifespan of component
    – user001
    Jul 19, 2016 at 14:09

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