Exploring the stars, thousands of light years away from Earth, sounds pretty great right about now. While Darian Johnson hasn’t invented intergalactic travel, he has created a tiny desktop computer that looks straight out of Jean-Luc Picard’s ready room, letting you at least pretend that you’re safely aboard a distant starship.
It’s a testament to Star Trek: The Next Generation’s production designers, including technical consultant Michael Okuda, that the fictional LCARS (short for Library Computer Access/Retrieval System) operating system used on the computers aboard the USS Enterprise-D still look futuristic, despite the show first airing 33 years ago. Gene Roddenberry himself insisted that the computer screens aboard the ship be as minimal and clean as possible to give the impression of the technology being incredibly advanced, and it’s an aesthetic that many fans of the show are still fans of, including Johnson.
Johnson’s LCARS computer is based on an existing design for a similar TNG-themed alarm clock, which he upgraded with a larger 3D-printed enclosure, bigger screen, and additional components to add considerably more functionality.
Using everything from an Adafruit ESP32 Feather Board to Amazon’s AWS cloud servers, the computer can access and display a host of information, accessible with a series of simple buttons, including the weather, the temperature and humidity of the room, news headlines, calendar data pulled from Microsoft Outlook, fitness info courtesy of Google Fitness, a resistor color code chart and calculator, and even a tool for measuring power and current that Johnson can use as he develops other devices. Geordi La Forge would be proud.
All of the files and schematics needed to create and customize your own are available for free on Hackaday for download, and while you don’t need to be a Starfleet caliber engineer to build one, you will need soldering, electronics, and programming skills to make it so.