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Re: (TFT) Re: Re: Traveller Computers
Suprise, I'm still alive and lurking out here...
Anyway, while Traveller's concept of computers does indeed seem quite dated
(kind of along the lines of hardware in the Silent Running movie from the
70s) I think the point
<< Since in the past 25 years computers have improved 1,000 fold I really
don't fault the original designers for having it wrong. >>
really captures the core of the issue. I have a rather inordinate interest
in micro trainers and consequently am reading an ancient Don Lancaster book,
Micro Cookbook Vol. 1, circa 1981-82. For those of you who are unfamiliar
with D. Lancaster's work, let it suffice to say that this guy REALLY knows
his stuff when it comes to electronics. This book, in particular, is
interesting because of the comparatively ancient view it provides of
computers. The author makes several predictions about the future of
computers: Most of these proved to be accurate to one degree or
another--amongst other things, D.L. predicted that magnetic bubble memory
(anybody remember that?) would be a flash in the pan.
But, despite how well-connected and tuned in to the latest developments Don
Lancaster was (and no doubt still is) he didn't quite forsee the jump to
16-bit processors. At the time of the book's writing Intel was already
producing the 8086 and 8088 and Motorola the MC68000 (and Zilog the Z8000 if
anyone actually cares...) and although he acknowledges these chips he seems,
in the book, to exhibit a firm belief that people would stick with 8-bit and
that 16-bit was just some sort of novelty that would wear off. In fact, he
described 16-bit technology as a "voice crying in the wind".
If an expert like Don Lancaster couldn't get it right in 1982 can we really
expect a game designer like Marc Miller to get it right in 1977?
On the other hand, look at all the absurd hardware in 60s and 70s sci-fi
movies: I saw this one time travel movie from the 60s where they kept
screaming about bad "laser telemetry" being the reason for ending up in the
wrong timeline (never mind the fact that nobody knows anything about time
travel in the first place, blame it all on the "laser telemetry"
why-don't-ya). This sort of thing could be fun in a campaign where most of
the players are actually tech savvy; basing campaign computer architecture
(and technology in general) on unlikely, outdated and just plain absurdly
inaccurate concepts will nullify any *potentially* unfair advantage such
players may have (if that sort of thing seems necessary). There's a real
bizarre sort of charm to unusual and outmoded hardware. Besides, isn't there
a genuinely fantastic element to the idea that you can pop a casette into the
ship's VIC-20 tape drive and plot a course for Alpha Centauri? How many
boxes of punch cards or reels of paper tape would that require, I wonder?
Kind of reminds me of the king who tried to build a stairway to the moon...In
the end, isn't a necessary part of the plot oftentimes, "this damn thing
didn't work like it was supposed to"? With this sort of technology no wonder!
An excellent source for raw, bad and unlikely sci-fi hardware is the long OOP
Tyr Gamemakers LTD. "Spacequest" with its rigger operations and ships'
Circuit Function Boxes and Ion Chatter guns. Oddly enough, this game was
also written in 1977 and seems like the perfect vehicle to roleplay the
Jetsons. By comparison, Traveller is pure hard SF and, IMHO, a better put
Well, that's my .02 creds. Hope I didn't bust anyone's magnetic bubble memory
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