This is a really lovely Raspberry Pi tricorder

At the moment I’m spending my evenings watching all of Star Trek in order. Yes, I have watched it before (but with some really big gaps). Yes, including the animated series (I’m up to The Terratin Incident). So I’m gratified to find this beautiful The Original Series–style tricorder build.

A what now?

If you don’t know what a tricorder is, which I guess is faintly possible, the easiest way I can explain is to steal words that Liz wrote when Recantha made one back in 2013. It’s “a made-up thing used by the crew of the Enterprise to measure stuff, store data, and scout ahead remotely when exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilisations, and all that jazz.”

A brief history of Picorders

We’ve seen other Raspberry Pi–based realisations of this iconic device. Recantha’s LEGO-cased tricorder delivered some authentic functionality, including temperature sensors, an ultrasonic distance sensor, a photosensor, and a magnetometer. Michael Hahn’s tricorder for element14’s Sci-Fi Your Pi competition in 2015 packed some similar functions, along with Original Series audio effects, into a neat (albeit non-canon) enclosure.

Brian Mix’s Original Series tricorder

Brian Mix’s tricorder, seen in the video above from Tested at this year’s Replica Prop Forum showcase, is based on a high-quality kit into which, he discovered, a Raspberry Pi just fits. He explains that the kit is the work of the late Steve Horch, a special effects professional who provided props for later Star Trek series, including the classic Deep Space Nine episode Trials and Tribble-ations.

A still from an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Jadzia Dax, holding an Original Series-sylte tricorder, speaks with Benjamin Sisko

Dax, equipped for time travel

This episode’s plot required sets and props — including tricorders — replicating the USS Enterprise of The Original Series, and Steve Horch provided many of these. Thus, a tricorder kit from him is about as close to authentic as you can possibly find unless you can get your hands on a screen-used prop. The Pi allows Brian to drive a real display and a speaker: “Being the geek that I am,” he explains, “I set it up to run every single Original Series Star Trek episode.”

Even more wonderful hypothetical tricorders that I would like someone to make

This tricorder is beautiful, and it makes me think how amazing it would be to squeeze in some of the sensor functionality of the devices depicted in the show. Space in the case is tight, but it looks like there might be a little bit of depth to spare — enough for an IMU, maybe, or a temperature sensor. I’m certain the future will bring more Pi tricorder builds, and I, for one, can’t wait. Please tell us in the comments if you’re planning something along these lines, and, well, I suppose some other sci-fi franchises have decent Pi project potential too, so we could probably stand to hear about those.

If you’re commenting, no spoilers please past The Animated Series S1 E11. Thanks.


dinomite59 avatar

Um not forgetting Pioneer’s HHSquared Pi Corder. He He He

BTW is Pioneers coming back.

Tom avatar

I’m in the middle of a pi-corder project myself….. watch this space!

Helen Lynn avatar


Dougie Lawson avatar

This has triggered my “inner nerd”.

I think you’re a bit late to the party with ST:DS9. The tricorder first appeared in ST:TOS S1E5 “The Enemy Within” (from 1970 – when I was a lad)

BTW, that’s Jadzia Dax the eigth host for the Dax symbiont.

The Tribbles first appeared in ST:TOS S2E15 “The Trouble with Tribbles”

Also, Star Trek only embarked on time travel twice (as far as I remember).

Once in ST:TOS S2EP17 “A Piece of the Action”

and once in “ST IV: The Voyage Home”

Helen Lynn avatar

I think you’re a bit late to the party with ST:DS9. The tricorder first appeared in ST:TOS […]

Quite – this particular DS9 ep is relevant to the existence of the kit used in this build, though, because it required TOS-style sets and props and, the originals being unavailable, prop maker Steve Horch supplied some of them. His contributions included, it seems, the tricorder that Dax is holding in that scene. He later used the moulds to supply kits which were sold, and this build is made with one such. Or that’s what I pieced together from the background I had time to look at, at any rate – I have some stuff saved to read later so maybe I will get more details from that.

You can’t catch me out on TOS that easily – I am fresh from bingeflixing every single episode :)

Tony Martin avatar

Dougie, Sorry piece of the action was not a time travel episode but the culture there was based on an old Earth book.

The City on the Edge of Forever with Joan Collins set in New York City in 1930

Tomorrow is Yesterday, back to an air force base in 1969

Assignment: Earth, with the alien Gary Seven travels to 1968

All our yesterdays. Spock “I’m behaving disgracefully. I have eaten animal flesh and I’ve enjoyed it. What is wrong with me?”

W. H. Heydt avatar

I showed this to my wife. She thinks it’s cute. If you recall the original Star Trek Concordance (the large book with a wheel in the cover to dial through stardates), she is Dorothy J. Heydt, who did the compilation of the first two years of data into (then fan) publishable form.

Helen Lynn avatar

I have not seen that book, but I’m super impressed by this!

MOB avatar

I saw all episodes of “Star Trek: The Original Series” (TOS) on a Raspberry Pi 2 last fall and winter. And now I’m into “The Next Generation” (TNG) season 2. I skipped “The Animated Series” (TAS), but maybe I should see it.

Helen Lynn avatar

It took a couple of episodes to grow on me, but I do recommend it now. Obviously, animation allows the scriptwriters to go places they couldn’t easily take TOS. My favourite piece of TAS trivia, which I expect pretty much anyone interested already knows, is that while it’s voiced by most of the original cast, Uhura and Sulu were originally to be voiced by other cast members doubling up. But Leonard Nimoy refused on principle to be involved unless Nichelle Nichols and George Takei were cast in their roles.

wisepick avatar

Agree, I just love the animated series!

Bestolin avatar

Recently attended in a workshop on Rasberry pi. I loved it! Going to design a projector with Rasberry soon.

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