Did you know that the flip communicator from Star Trek actually became a real thing? And we’re not talking about that bleeping toy one you have clipped onto your replica Kirk uniform either! This was a functional smartphone produced by Nokia in 2008 in support of J.J Abrams’ reimagining and reboot of the sci-fi movie series.
The flip-open device had the same retro/modern styling of the 2009 movie communicator used by Chris Pine as the future Captain Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Mister Spock – but focused more on replicating the design which first appeared in the 60s series and acted as a precursor some of our earliest mobile phones which would come some 30 years later.
The gadget was essentially a custom Nokia N76 – a flip fronted or “clam-shell” smartphone first seen early in 2007. With a little bit of bulking up on the original streamlined design of the mobile itself and with added detailing straight out of Gene Roddenberry’s sci-fi universe the device included the trademark U.S.S Enterprise “arrowhead” insignia with the familiar brass front from the original series and three coloured LED lights as well as an illuminated outer screen which was a feature carried over from the Nokia mobile’s design.
Flipping open the real brass front section would reveal the functional smartphone – which was accompanied by that iconic sound effect which was omitted by the communicator whenever it was opened up in the original series and movie (cue fanboy squeals). When unfolded the phone featured a main screen on the top section but no regular keys on the lower. This part was based on the design of the communicator when opened and the circle section – traditionally for audio output in the spacefaring adventures – becomes a most unconventional control panel for the device’s functions.
Nokia clearly tried to keep the gadget faithful to its Trek roots but a few modifications were required to turn it into a functional modern smartphone – and it was an attempt that may have proved too much or too confusing to potential buyers, with sadly no more than 14 prototype handsets ever made and these were distributed internally to staff of the Finnish mobile making company.
On the rare occasion one of these communicator smartphones can be spotted on eBay they beam out as quickly as they appeared – fetching big bucks from collectors and fans of the Star Trek!
We need look no further than Star Trek’s 45 year legacy to see the shape the modern technology would take. Medical gadgets and even human interactivity with holograms are the next step in real-life Trek tech and gadget fans and Trekkers may be interested to read of Next Generation actor LeVar Burton’s involvement in a new Apple iPad app!