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The "PC" Props of Star Trek TOS, Part 3

Posted by TrekCoreNews, 05 June 2012 · 71,541 views

by Will Smith of http://tosgraphics.com

The third of a seven part series that will analyze and detail the computer props as seen in the original series of Star Trek.

Previously we have looked at both the type 1 & type 2 computer props. For the most part very little changes were made to either of these props throughout the series. Moving on to the type 3 units; now things get a little interesting! The type 3 computers were flat-topped triangular shaped grey units that had identical controls on each angled side. It was a versatile unit designed so that the appearance of it could be altered to make it look like different units. There appears to be only two of these units. One unit appears to be a hero model with working lights and the other appears to be static without any lighting. The control configuration on each side consists of a single raised panel with 6 staggered black buttons; all surrounded with a silver bezel base. Each of these buttons when depressed activated a light behind a long frosted segmented red and green band above the buttons. The red and green band was separated by narrow yellow lines. On the right hand side there were two toggles and on the left side there is a large yellow light. On one side of the unit the two toggles were yellow; on the other side they were black. This was the only difference in the two sides of each type 3 prop. The top toggle switch activated the large yellow light on the left side of that side of the unit. The bottom toggle operated a bank of lights on top of the unit. This unit is interesting because the top was able to be modified into different configurations; something we have not yet seen in our analysis of these computer props.


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The first time we see a type 3 on screen during “Conscience of the King”


The first appearance of this prop was in the episode "Conscience of the King" during the rec room scene while Uhura (while playing the Vulcan harp no less) was singing to Riley down in the engine room. We will identify this configuration as “Alpha.” In this “Alpha” configuration the prop had a long frosted rectangular section on top of the unit with six flashing lights inside on each side (for a total of 12 lights divided by spacers). The edges of the frosted section were outlined in black. In addition on the top above the frosted rectangular section there was a long multi-colored segmented panel (3 rows of 21 sections) that was connected to a clear round acrylic rod on each side. The acrylic rod was connected to the top of the computer by a narrower acrylic rod on each side. Two of these type 3 computers props appeared together for the first time in the same “Alpha” configuration in the episode "The Alternative Factor," again in the rec room.

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In “The Alternative Factor” we see two “Alpha” versions on screen for the first time


The next appearance of the type 3 prop was in the episode "A Taste of Armageddon" as an Eminiar VII computer on the desk of the general council. Here we saw both units; the presumed static and the hero props together in what we will call configuration "Beta." In this configuration all of the top parts had been removed and were changed to a triangular shaped frosted lens that covered the twelve lights on top. The new top piece also extended over the holes where the acrylic rods were connected on the “Alpha” configuration. Throughout this episode in the council chambers we saw them side-by-side but only with one lighted at any one time. At one point in the episode they apparently switched them around; so it appears that the other unit was lighted. We can hypothesize that only one of these units was actually a lighted hero model since we never see both of these units lit up at the same time. It is not unusual that the toggles were such that the unit should be on; but it is not. If they both had lighting it seems unlikely that they would not have them both illuminated. The next appearance of the type 3 also in configuration "Beta" is in "Errand of Mercy" when it was depicted as a Klingon computer. This appears to have been the static version since the toggle position should have turned on the lighting.

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”A Taste of Armageddon” – Notice that only one of these type 3 units are lighted at any one time


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The “Beta” version from “Errand of Mercy.” Notice in the bottom photo that the toggles are in the “on” position but no lights are on. This is most likely the static version of the type 3


The second season debut of the type 3 (hero model) back in its original “Alpha” configuration was during the episode "Who Mourns for Adonais" when it is seen on the bridge next to the helm station. It was the type 3 computer operated by Lt. Leslie that helped Sulu determine where Apollo’s power source was located. In "Amok Time" we saw it in the same “Alpha” configuration but unlit in Spock’s quarters. In one scene the red and green frosted area appeared to be colored black. This was only black gaffers tape installed prior to filming to dampen glare from the over-head studio lights. This was done frequently on the show; most notably on the bridge. You could often see a black panel covering the bridge displays. Next we saw the hero “Alpha” configuration is in the back-ground in the episode "The Trouble with Tribbles." The next variation; configuration "Gamma,” was seen in the episode "The Immunity Syndrome" in Kirks quarters. Configuration "Gamma" is the same as "Alpha" except the segmented panel and acrylic rods have been removed. Silver plugs were inserted into the holes where the rods were attached to the top of the unit. The prop seemed to be getting a little beat-up by this time as you can see the paint is chipped on the edges.

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Pin-pointing Apollo’s power source with a type 3 from “Who Mourns for Adonais?”


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The type 3 in Spock’s quarters from the episode “Amok Time.” In the bottom photo notice the black tape over the panel.


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The first appearance of the “Gamma” version from “The Immunity Syndrome” episode


Finally for the first time we see two different configurations in the same episode in "By Any Other Name." In that episode we see configuration "Alpha" in the rec room scenes both when Spock and Rojan are playing chess and also during the fight scene. It also appears in configuration "Beta" in Kirks quarters. Both units appear unlit but the toggles are in the off position so we can’t tell if either or both are the hero or static version. Next we saw the lighted hero version in its “Alpha” configuration still in Kirks quarters in the episode "The Ultimate Computer" and again in following episode in "The Omega Glory" as part of McCoy's medical equipment. This was the last appearance of the type 3 in the second season.

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In the episode “By Any Other Name” we see two different configurations in the same episode.


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In “The Omega Glory” the “Alpha” hero version is seen on the planet.


The type 3 made it first appearance in the third season episode "And the Children Shall Lead" where we see configuration "Alpha" in the background: unlighted. The next appearance was of the hero version in the same configuration "Alpha" in the episode "Day of the Dove" where the Klingons bring up the diagram of the ship. The last time we see this prop is in "Wink of an Eye" in Kirks quarters also in configuration "Alpha." From what we have seen on screen we can deduce that there were only 2 type 3 computers; a hero and a static version and the tops were changed to the "Beta" or “Gamma” configuration when needed. There is no way of knowing for certain but due to the budget constraints it seems unlikely that there were more than two of these type 3 props used in the show. The fact that its appearance could be quickly and easily changed to give the illusion of different instruments is very logical given the time and money constraints well documented during the filming of the series. Even though these versatile units didn’t get a significant amount of screen time; the flexibility of changing their appearance added to the production value of the show by keeping this basic design visually interesting.

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The type 3 helped the Klingons with the layout of the ship in “Day of the Dove”

The type 3 computer appears in these episodes:
13 - Conscience of the King
20 - Alternative Factor
23 – A Taste of Armageddon
27 – Errand of Mercy
33 – Who Mourns for Adonais?
34 – Amok Time
42 – Trouble with Tribbles
48 – Immunity Syndrome
50 – By Any Other Name
53 – The Ultimate Computer
54 – The Omega Glory
60 – And the Children Shall Lead
66 – Day of the Dove
68 – Wink of an Eye
Coming up next – the type 4A (http://theomegasecto...rek-tos-part-4/)




Terrific stuff. Interesting that in the first 2 caps the grid of red-blue-yellow lights on top looks to be turned upside-down. Obviously that bit could come off and go back on either way, but they had no real reason to dismantle it between those eps.
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Since its first few appearances were in rec room scenes, it seems like it was originally intended to be some kind of game console. Maybe the grid of colored squares on top, between the acrylic pegs, was a game board of some sort. (It looks a bit Tetris-like, come to think of it.) But if that was the intent, it was forgotten later on, since they often used the "Alpha" configuration in non-recreational settings.
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