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A Starfleet intercom from the 22nd century

Ensign Sato listens to a 22nd century Starfleet intercom

Captain Kirk listens to a typical 23rd century Federation starship intercom

An intercom in the alternate reality

An intercom (or companel) was a fixed-location communicator and a user interface to the intercom system.

This type of communications device is referred to as a "communicator on the wall" in TOS: "The Conscience of the King".

Primitive analog intercoms were used as early as the 20th century, at least on Earth. More advanced digital intercoms were developed later.

Although portable, hand-held communicators were available, advanced intercoms were the primary shipboard interface to person-to-person communications systems on the first starships in Starfleet and remained so through the founding of the United Federation of Planets and until the 24th century.

Intercoms were capable of being tied together for uniform ship-wide output. Both Earth Starfleet and Federation ships possessed this "public address" facility. Starship captains would initiate intraship communications by ordering a bridge officer (typically the communications officer, but also the helmsman or the navigator), to open a channel. (TOS: "The Cage", "Where No Man Has Gone Before", "The Corbomite Maneuver", et al.)

In the 22nd century, intercoms were additionally utilized by Tessic's species and Illyrians. (ENT: "Marauders", "Damage")

Typically, intercoms were built into walls and bulkheads or were mounted in workstations and desks. Intercoms could be voice-only or, as they developed into the 23rd century, include both voice data and visual images of the speaker. (TOS: "Journey to Babel", "Assignment: Earth"; TAS: "Yesteryear", et al.) The panels also included a red button which sounded red alert when necessary. (TOS: "The Naked Time", "Balance of Terror", "Dagger of the Mind", et al.)

The armrest of a captain's chair often included a communication panel to allow a ship's CO the ability to easily communicate with the crew. (ENT: "Terra Prime"; Star Trek Nemesis, et al.)

In the deuterium mining colony operated by Tessic's species, intercoms were typically mounted on deuterium pumps. (ENT: "Marauders")

By the 24th century, wearable combadges had displaced the intercom as the main shipboard communications device, although the companels are still available as a backup communication system. Intercoms were ill-remembered by 24th century natives who traveled back in time to ships still so equipped. (DS9: "Trials and Tribble-ations")

In 2371, the Amargosa observatory was still equipped with old-fashioned intercoms. (Star Trek Generations)

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Background information

To recreate an intercom for DS9: "Trials and Tribble-ations", Doug Drexler did a detailed design schematic. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, Nos. 6/7, p. 78)

In scripts for Star Trek: Enterprise, the term "companel" was used far more often than "intercom," with the script of ENT Season 2 installment "Marauders" being the first to use the latter (for the unusual pump-mounted intercoms in Tessic's colony).

The Starfleet intercoms regularly featured on Star Trek: Enterprise were actually non-operational "dummy" units. They could be stuck to the walls of the Enterprise sets wherever needed and were affixed to the walls by double-stick tape. The shiny "speaker" part of each unit was of the same reflective plastic as had been used, in a more "psychedelic" fashion, to make the back wall of the transporter aboard the USS Enterprise, as seen on Star Trek: The Original Series. (ENT: "Stigma" text commentary, ENT Season 2 DVD)

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