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When someone taps their badge and talks to say, Riker. Riker and only Riker immediately receives the transmission and replies.

Has there ever (in the series, films or books) been an explanation of how they would resolve more than one person with the same name on the ship?

Do people end up with unique numbers after their name ("Riker123")? Does the computer offer a list and the caller chooses?

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    I would imagine you'd start specifying by rank ("X to Captain Picard"), then if that isn't enough, then rank+first and last name ("X to Captain Jean-Luc Picard"), then rank+full name if they have any more names (which they don't in this case). And if that isn't enough, then you promote one of the duplicate-named people or transfer them off the ship! – Compro01 Nov 5 '13 at 16:31
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    Someone with immediate access to the episodes should watch the episode where Riker gets duplicated by transport malfunction, and the episode where his father is on board and confirm @Compro01 's assertion. Then make that the answer. – DampeS8N Nov 5 '13 at 18:15
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    They work very well. Seriously though; this is a standard problem in any communications system where name is the primary identifier, and every such system has a standard for distinguishing duplicates. – user8719 Nov 5 '13 at 19:49
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    Obviously, some are like w.t.riker@starfleet.net, and others are quark@ferenginet.com, with suitable aliases. Plus, it's a little known fact that Picard has chromedome@yahoo.fed.net – HorusKol Nov 5 '13 at 22:47
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    I think @Compro01 is correct. ___ to Doctor Crusher, after all. – Izkata Nov 6 '13 at 0:31
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As a software engineer and avid Star Trek fan, the day-to-day business-logic demonstrated by the Enterprise-D's computer systems is a constant source of speculation and delight.

Remember when the Captain says "Picard to Riker", it's not a simple shout-and-holler comms system at play. That request goes through a ship's computer that is fantastically more complex and advanced than anything we've got today. There would be a slew of heuristics at play, including:

  • The relative ranks of the individuals involved, and who the Captain is most likely to want to talk to at any single moment, given the state of the ship (alert status, proximity of aggressors, etc.)
  • Duty rosters, i.e. who's on duty at any one time.
  • Proximity. You're unlikely to request comms to a crew-member who's standing in the same room as you.
  • Comms histories for the individuals in question, stretching back, no doubt, to the day they both stepped foot on the Enterprise for the first time.
  • Predictive algorithms. The computer probably knows when Picard will ask Beverley over to dinner better than the Captain does.

It's likely the crew will acclimatise to these heuristics and know when to hint at who they mean. The Crushers must have been particularly troublesome for Picard. It would be interesting to see if he ever said "Picard to Crusher" with no hints given and still got to the right person.

Even better would have been the computer answering to a season one Picard "There are two crew members matching that pattern. Please specify." and seeing that awful impatient streak of his come to the fore!

  • +1: I always meant to get back to answering this question. Your answers are exactly what I would have said. The computer is nearly an artificial intelligence, it would certainly have a number of steps to determine which crew member any other crew member would need to talk to based on relationship algorithms determined by previous conversation, work schedules, proximity, duties assigned, etc. My cell phone can almost do that today... Nicely done! – Thaddeus Howze Nov 3 '14 at 17:49
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In my previous comment, I suggested

I would imagine you'd start specifying by rank ("X to Captain Picard"), then if that isn't enough, then rank+first and last name ("X to Captain Jean-Luc Picard"), then rank+full name if they have any more names (which they don't in this case). And if that isn't enough, then you promote one of the duplicate-named people or transfer them off the ship!

At least the first bit (append rank) has backing. In the TNG episode Second Chance (6x24), at ~15:45 (Netflix version) Commander Riker hits his combadge and starts to ask the computer to locate Lieutenant Riker, just before the latter walks in the door.

The remainder is pure speculation, especially the transfer bit. I do not believe there has been any instance in any of the series where they've needed to differentiate between two people of the same rank and surname in the com system.

  • So they do occaisionally differentiate by rank as well as name, that would hint towards clash resolution. Are there any examples of them getting a 'wrong number'? – Stefan Nov 6 '13 at 10:43
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    Another likely explanation; the computer would prompt you to clarify who you wish to reach if there's a clash in names, and you would get used to calling by that name. The odds of this being a problem aboard one starship is probably not that great, especially in mixed species environments... – Bart Silverstrim Nov 15 '13 at 19:24
  • @BartSilverstrim That's sort of what I figured. I imagine it something like my phone, where it will ask for clarification if it can't decide. I've also assumed that if you do decide on one, you can probably "set as default" for the future, so future calls go to the same person. – Patrick M Nov 28 '14 at 1:02

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