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As early as the 22nd century, communicators had translators installed, while their wearers kept them out of view, while conversing. However, not all communicators were such. Self-contained systems such as PADDs, tricorders and starship computers did not have automatic translation capabilities. (ENT episodes: "Civilization", "Acquisition", "Precious Cargo")
Translators in the Federation began use as hand-held units, but were eventually adapted as implanted modules that could be subcutaneously located near the ear or placed in the brachial plexus. Like a subcutaneous transponder, an implanted translator was mostly composed of rubindium crystal. (TOS episode & novelization: Metamorphosis; TOS - Rihannsu novel: The Romulan Way; DS9 episode: "Little Green Men")
Brain waves were known to play a role in experimentation of a totally incompatible dialect, and a translator used scans of such to synthesize a suitable voice print to match the speaker's sample. (TOS episode: "Metamorphosis"; TOS novel: First Frontier)
Some Hortas had universal translators attached to them to allow them to easily communicate with other lifeforms. In case of emergencies, such as a universal translator malfunction, Horta were also taught how to burn messages in Federation Standard as an alternative form of communications. (DS9 novel: Devil in the Sky)
23rd century limitationsEdit
Universal translators were sometimes unable to re-produce a dialect without any known syntax of reference, resulting in untranslated speech passing between users. (TOS movie, novelization & comic adaptation: The Voyage Home; TAS episode & novelization: The Counter-Clock Incident; DS9 episode: "Sanctuary")
Jurisdictions outside the UFP often confiscated universal translators from those they captured - as ships could track down their signal and locate hostages. Also, when UTs were used aboard ships - especially in Klingon space - they are easily recognizable on two-way transmissions. (TOS movie: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)
24th century limitationsEdit
UTs are still a progressing art and science, with many new introductions of speech. Damage and incomplete basis or analyses also have been known to cause them to be inoperative. (TNG episode: "Darmok"; DS9 episodes: "Sanctuary", "Babel", "Little Green Men"; VOY episodes: "Hope and Fear", "Nothing Human", "The Swarm", "Think Tank")
In 2374, by switching the universal translator off while playing a recording of Weyoun 5, Jack was able to observe a nuance of verb tense in the original Dominionese speech that the translator had missed. (DS9 episode: "Statistical Probabilities")
In 2376, the universal translator had difficulty translating the D'Naali language. A Pinker-Sato phonology module was used by the crew of the USS Defiant to attempt a translation. (DS9 - Mission Gamma novel: Cathedral)
25th century limitations Edit
When used to translate the speech of Gorn, the original language of the individual was still audible as a secondary track of hisses and growls. (STO missions: "Turning Point", "Second Wave", "Surface Tension")
- This refers to Star Trek Online's voice-overs for Ambassador S'taass, whose Gorn speech is consistently audible when the character's lines are voiced. Other Gorn characters given voiceovers since S'taass have been similar.