John Davis and submitted by forum member Trekfan
The Tricorder made its first appearance in the episode “The Enemy Within”. The
original prop was designed by Wah Chang, whose design talents also provided
other familiar items like the communicator and the Romulan Bird of Prey as well
as creatures such as the Gorn and the Salt Vampire. Although Wah Chang’s name
was never featured in the credits, Star Trek would not have been what it was
without his vital contributions.
The first mass market reproduction of a tricorder came in the “Star Trek
Exploration Set” model kit by AMT in 1974. Although the kit included all three
items necessary for boldly going where no man has gone before, they were
drastically reduced in size and the features simplified. The soft detailing was
probably influenced by the look of the equipment in the Star Trek Animated
Series which was running on Saturday mornings at the time.
Remco produced role-play accessories for a number of licensees throughout the
seventies and in 1975 released the Star Trek Utility Belt. This toy set included
a Phaser that fired small plastic disks, a plastic flip-open Communicator and,
of course, a Tricorder. All items were kid sized, and again looked more like
their animated counterparts.
Mego was THE toy company in the seventies, producing action figures and playsets
for everything from Batman to The Dukes of Hazzard. It didn’t take long before
they acquired the license for Star Trek, producing a very successful range of
characters and accessories. 1976 saw the release of Mego’s interpretation of a
tricorder, which was little more than a cassette recorder in the general shape
of the original prop. A flip-up hood revealed the controls, and the middle
section opened to insert the cassette. Included was a tape with thirty minutes
from “The Menagerie” on one side and blank on the other side to record your own
Star Trek adventures. Far from an accurate prop, it was certainly enough to keep
younger Star Trek fans very happy.
Through the late seventies and eighties, there were several fan produced
props available at conventions and through mail order companies
but no further mass market attempts were made until
Playmates picked up the Star
Trek license in 1992.
Starting with action figures
and accessories from Star Trek: The Next Generation, it didn’t take long for
them to move into Classic Trek territory. After
making adequate versions of the
Phaser and Communicator, the Playmates designers
suddenly stumbled with their
release of the Tricorder - it was half the size it needed to be!
At long last, a licensed Tricorder has been released that not only matches the
physical specifications of the original prop, but goes one further with
electronic functions and accurate sound effects. Thank you, Master Replicas, for
your care, dedication, and precision in recreating one of the most iconic props
of all time.
This part added by forum member
made some great contributions to the props. Perhaps the biggest was
Concept drawing of the first Tricorder and a photo of Wah Chang. Click for larger images.
making them all consistent in look and function. For example the Moire Rings
were on both the Communicator as well as the Tricorder. The side rails and
midplates on the
three big props all made them look like pieces of equipment
that belong together. It
is my belief that the Moire rings were actually some kind of data storage device
equipment. If you look closely you can see that the disks (first one anyways)
could be removed. We never saw this feature on film but it is nice to know they
were thinking ahead. There is a
great article on the original tricorder as well as the other props at: