This is a Starfleet Communicator from Star Trek: The Original Series that ran from 1966 to 1969. The device was hugely influential on Martin Cooper, the “father of the cell phone,” who later said he was inspired by this specific device.
The Starfleet Communicator would have appeared as a revolutionary, futuristic technology when it first appeared on screen in 1966. This was long before cell phones of course, and the fact that a tiny handheld device could allow instant communication across vast distances as well as into space must have seemed like a futuristic, next century radio.
The Communicator was designed in the mid-1960s by Wah Chang, a Hawaiian-born American designer who would grow up in San Francisco. He designed a number of devices for Star Trek including the Communicator, Phaser, Tricorder, and the first Romulan ship.
In the Star Trek universe, the Communicator sends and receives its signal over subspace, this allows it to bypass EM interference and transmit near-instantly over long distances with no discernible delay. The device has a flip up top that protects the controls when closed, when open it acts as a a transceiver antenna.
This flip-open design would later be used extensively by mobile telephones in the late 1990s through into the 2000s when the iPhone appeared and changed the format seemingly overnight. That said, some recent mobile designs have once again began using the flip-open design with a full-width screen.
Wah Chang made the Communicators used in Star Trek: The Original Series, they have a textured black ABS plastic shell, brass metal round hinges, the metal cover/antenna, and an aluminum mid-plate with a foil mesh microphone grill and two-stud buttons, a round moiré-patterned bezel, three-posts containing three-faceted gem lights with one-rose, one-red, one-blue, between the bezel and the mid-plate.
The Communicator shown in this article is now being offered for sale out of the collection of Greg Jein by Heritage Auctions. It has a starting bid of $25,000 USD and bidding will close in mid-October, if you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing here.
Images courtesy of Heritage Auctions
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