The Star Trek Universe Uses a Surprising Amount of Paper

The original Star Trek crew.
The original Star Trek crew.
Image: Paramount Pictures/CBS

In our real-world cyberpunk dystopia, paper already feels a bit outmoded in a lot of life. It’s all screens, all the time. So it’s interesting to examine how sci-fi handles the classic writing surface. And in Star Trek, as it turns out, there’s a surprising amount of it.


YouTuber EC Henry has put together a fascinating little video chronicling the history of paper usage in the Star Trek universe, chronologically moving from the original series up through the timeline and noting how the use of paper changes as time passes. In Kirk’s time, fascinatingly, paper is everywhere, and is regularly used for military purposes, while by the time of The Next Generation such usages have almost entirely vanished.

What this video highlights, for me, is the way “futuristic” tech and old tech often coexist, both in the real world and in fiction. Progress is strange and messy, and sometimes people, well, they just want to use paper. Remember how upset folks were about ebooks? Star Trek probably didn’t intend to model this, but as Henry shows, it did, in a pretty neat way. Check it out.

Star Trek: Discovery is set to come out January 2019, if you’re hungry for more Trekkian insights into the future.

io9 Weekend Editor. Videogame writer at other places. Queer nerd girl.



My coworker and I (both about 40) were just talking about how try as we might, we just can’t ditch paper. From being able to use the backs of documents as scrap, laying out multiple sheets in front of us or various other reasons, we make temporary jaunts to things like OneNote and end back up with paper and pen. I imagine it’ll be easier for those that never use paper as kids, but that seems a long ways out.