“One of the historically more significant shifts in sci-fi visual design occurred when Star Trek replaced controls based on mechanical, lighted buttons in the original TV series with the backlit touch panels in its first sequel series, Star Trek: The Next Generation. The new interface was striking not just for its visual distinctiveness but also for its comprehensiveness, extensibility, and influence.
The reason for this change was the TV series’ budget: the creators simply didn’t have the funds to recreate displays and controls made from so many separate buttons across the vast surfaces of the Enterprise’s bridge. Production designer Michael Okuda and his team needed a much less expensive alternative.”
— Charlie Jane Anders quoting Nathan Shedroff’s book “Make it so“
Science fiction is very often perceived as the infinite realm where all the crazy stuff can happen if you can imagine it. Quite, but not completely: once you move from pure text to something more, then the constraints start to appear.
This is a very interesting example, on one side because it shows that even in science fiction constraints exist and on the other side because as often happens the existence of a constraints creates something new, unique and in the end, very effective.