Playmates Tricorder MkVII ver 01

This is the first modification ever done to my Playmates Tricorder more than 20 years ago. It was my pride and joy but during a Prop show to help out a friend’s Cafe, it was never seen again. Even a replacement 2009 Tricorder years later could not salve the emotional hurt. Also, this is a recreated and (updated) page for that Tricorder so I must apologize in advanced for some of the low quality images and videos.


When I had the toy with me, I did not have any proper digital device that is capable of taping proper video and lengthy footage and so, here is one example from YouTube.

TNG Tricorder (Playmates Toys) by rebelsatcloudnine


Ever since I saw the Tricorder in Star Trek:The Next Generation during the early 90’s, I was obsessed in trying to get one. At that time, the only Tricorder that came into the market was a resin kit which was just two pieces of grey resin. No lights at all. At that time, the Internet was still in its infancy and it was impossible to get any information about the Tricorder. Then all of a sudden, a company called Playmates started to produce toys based on the Next Generation TV Series. And one of the toys was the Tricorder. I was so excited that I got it on the spot. Even though it did not measure up to the actual prop in terms of size and lights, I was over the moon. The toy represents the series’s third season Tricorder which was a Mk VII.


Years later, I wanted to make the toy more accurate in terms of electronics. What started as a simple little hobby became a decade long quest. This was mainly because of the fact that it is very difficult to obtain electronic parts here. To house the whole electronics plus the batteries into the toy is the main challenge. This is because the toy, although it looked big, the space inside is quite small for conventional electronics. If I used normal components such as ICs, resistors and capacitors I would not be able to close the cover. Even if I decided to solder the IC directly to the circuit board, the thickness is still there. In other words, I needed to reduce the average thickness from 7mm to at least 2mm. So, after years of saving and R&D, I decided to get a ready made kit from Gerhard Mros (gmros at just replace the “at” with “@”)
Update: Mr. Gerhard Mros can now be reached via Facebook as:


Basically, if you observe closely, the Tricorder runs on a 4-step sequence. This is where I deduced that the show were using the 555/4017 circuit. The 555 Timer IC generates the clock Pulse which then allows the 4017 Decade Counter to light up the LEDs one by one.

This is a video of gmprops’s Playmates Tricorder circuit. as you can see, the sequence is just like the show. During this time, he is and still is, the only guy who does upgrades to the Playmates Toy.
This is the Tricorder Upgrade kit I got from Gerry. All the Parts are there. But by the time I decided to continue the project, I could only manage to find the manual and the three circuit boards.

2022 Update
This image was taken in 2003, which means I had this for years!

The Solution

Gerhard has already made the electronics for the Playmates Tricorder and since I only had less than a month to finish my Tricorder, I decided to order it from him. For you see, we wanted it to be in our Wedding Photo portrait. But it never materialized because the photo turned out horrible due to our tired faces as we were taking actual photos in the day. Anyway, I put the kit aside and got on with my life. It was not until years later, some of my friends decided to open a café called The Outpost that I decided to help out by displaying my Lightsaber and the Tricorder there.

The Lower Flap

Following the manual, modifying the Playmates Toy Tricorder and also inserting the electronics is very easy. However, there are some parts which involves permanently sealing the case and a lot of cutting away. Luckily, the toy is made of soft plastic. But the problem for me is in the flap of the Tricorder. I wanted the LED to light up from the same battery. Previously, I put in a separate LED and battery into the flap but because I put it away in storage and the flap opened a little, the circuit was closed and it ran for months until the batteries leaked. The chemical from the leaking batteries destroyed the stickers and also the wiring. In order for the flap to get the power from the main body, I modified one of the Tricorder’s hinge and inserted the metal eyes.

Tthe Tricorder’s left hinge with four metal eyelets. One pair of eyelet is for one connection, i.e. positive and the other pair is for the negative power.

2022 Update
I do not have more images for this but once I do the version 2 of the Tricorder, I will document this.
I had to go to my favourite haunt, Pasar Road to get these eyelets. While I was there, I could not resist in getting some extra components in case I needed to prototype some circuits fast
Gerry’s PCB boards are very well done. He uses less than 1.6mm thick fiberglass boards. He had soldered all the components and wires for you

2022 Update
At this time post2K, the cost of making a circuit board professionally was unheard of and we made do with the shops etching the SRBP boards for us. Years later, the option of making PCBs came but they would require a 3-figure MOQ (Minimum Order Qiantity) and the 1.6mm board thickness as standard. Also, to start that off, you would need to have a PCB software capable of saving in the file formats they require.

Jump to 12 years later, EaglePCB file formats are accepted and I can even make PCBs as thin as 0.8mm, choose my colours, choose my quantity and with plated through holes as standard.
And all his electronic components uses SMT (Surface Mount Technology) which not only saves space but power as well.

2022 Update
This is where Mr. Mros started to take me to school. But alas, at this time, the Pasar Road does not have much SMD components and the only source was Year later, the AliExpress option has much more selection and this was where they started to become my source of SMD LEDs.


Opening the toy, you can see the battery holder and the speaker on the left. The speaker was mounted in that way to amplify its sound. On the right, you can see the sound chip/three switches PCB, the lightbulb for the screen and also, the power switch. All these will have to be taken out.

2022 Update
Mr. Mros has taught me to remove everything within the Toy and from there, I started to realise that all my electronic designs for the Toy was limited to my thinking of trying to keep the 2x AA battery box intact. Once that part is gone, I was mentally free.
If you have read the manual carefully, you will know why the casing was made so.

2022 Update
In this version 1 of gmprops’s electronics, there was no sound. I ovecame that by modifying the Playmates’s original circuit board. Once I have found it again, I will show you how it is done. Just shorting with a single cable makes the Tricorder Warble play in loop mode.
I lost the original labels printed by Gerry and so I had to improvise with a Laser Colour printout. Unfortunately, the printer guy refused to use any paper thicker than 80gsm. So, the black masking section did not work at all.

2022 Update
A decade later, I designed my own Label using Inkscape and found a nice sticker like material which was naturally a light blocker. This sticker was also great for the screen.
The Tricorder is finished but because of the improvised label, the masking was not effective and so, most of the lights from the LEDs bled through.

2022 Update
This is the issue I have with the ‘tools’ available in Malaysia. Those who has it, would just run them as they were shown. Anything outside that would be risky. In some cases, they are acceptable to my suggestions and although it did not improve their business much, I got what I needed.
This is the template I wanted to laser-cut it for the Tricorder . The design is such that when you glue all the pieces together
it would clip into the square hole in the toy. The extra long oval piece is for the green LED sensor area
In the end, it would look like the shape you se on the top left of the picture I also designed the black vinyl sticker for the Tricorder’s sensor area. Alas,
when I ported the design to the laser-cutting centre, the measurement was out of by abour 18%. We could not figure out why. So, in the end, I had to
re-design the template from scratch. But until now, its still waiting to be done. Yep, I need more time. It will be done. Soon. ish. Maybe 2008

Sadly, on December 2017, I realised my Playmates Tricorder was never to be seen again.