The general level of technology on Seeron is supposed to be roughly equivalent to Earth in the 22nd century, but that description isn't as helpful as it seems because we really don't know where our technology will be one or two hundred years from now. So, using that as just a rough guideline, the following premises are my decisions about the level of tech on Seeron.
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Computers are so common on Seeron that almost any device which uses electricity can be assumed to have a built-in computer. The basic components shared by all computers are the processor and data storage, security and networking, and the user interfaces. Of these components, the user interfaces are the most important, especially in this game setting. Seeronian computers are so fast and have so much storage, that those aspects of computing shouldn't really come up. However, the different types of interfaces are quite important to the game and will affect everything from how the characters can break into (or out of!) a locked room to the types of entertainment they can enjoy during their time off.
What does this mean to the average Seeronian? Actually, not much. They don't think of computing in those terms anymore, because they have had those super-fast computers for generations. But while they might not think about computer speed during their daily life, it is the power of their computers that makes most of the following technologies possible. For purposes of gaming, just assume that if a computer could theoretically run a program, answer a question, or perform some calculation, then a Seeronian computer can do it immediately and with no perceptible time delay.
Of course, all that processing power doesn't mean much unless the computer has the ability to store all that data. Seeronians use a portable "data cube", similar in purpose to a floppy diskette, but these 1 cubic inch crystals weigh only 1 ounce and can store the Earth equivalent of 40 trillion terrabytes!
Naturally, most data is not kept on portable data cubes. Why risk losing it? For that reason, all computers come with a permanent storage crystal built into them, fulfilling a purpose similar to Earth's hard drives. In fact, Seeronians rarely refer to computer processors and permanent storage as separate items. Instead, they use the term "computer core" to refer to the combined processor and built-in storage. Depending upon the purpose of the device, the storage capacity that is included in a computer core can be either smaller or much, much larger than a portable data cube.
Seeronian computer processors are vastly more powerful than anything on 20th Century Earth. With the advent of computer chips that are constructed on the molecular and even atomic level, the multiple states of electron orbits have replaced the binary state of electric current. Instead of each single data bit having just 2 options, on and off, each data bit in Seeronian electron-state computers can have dozens or even hundreds of options corresponding to the positions, orbits and spins of the electrons in its component molecules. While any element could be used in theory, the tech level on Seeron is not yet sufficient for that. However, specially designed molecular circuitry, or molycircs, have been developed which makes the electron state computer possible. More powerful chips can be built by using molycircs made from elements with more electrons, allowing for computers that range from cheap portable computers with molycircs that usually operate with 8 data states per bit, all the way through super-computers with designer heavy metal molycircs that can recognize hundreds or even thousands of states in each bit of data but also cost millions of credits.
Some of the same advances that led to the super-fast processors can also be applied to storage devices. The fundamental technology behind Seeronian data storage involves the use of lasers operating on extremely short wavelengths, invisible to the eye, that "read" and "write" by manipulating electron states in specially designed molecular crystals. The laser "head" projects a diffuse beam but carefully manipulates it so that the computer can read or write to a huge number of molecules simultaneously, allowing for phenomenal data throughput. Combined with the specially designed synthetic crystal that properly maintains the electron states, this allows for huge amounts of data storage proportional to the cubic volume of the crystal. A one cubic inch data cube can store a trillion terrabits, where each bit has over 300 states, or in Earth's binary terms, about 40 trillion terrabytes. There is no real upper limit to the storage space that can be built into a computer core, but each 40 trillion terrabytes takes up one cubic inch of space in addition to the size of the processor and power supplies.
There are four broad categories of computer cores:
Appliance: relatively dumb devices up through portable datacomps
Appliance computer cores are generally about the size and shape of an American quarter except they are two or three times thicker. Mini computer cores are usually similar to a 12 or 16 ounce soda can, although ones intended for use in a small or medium business may also range up closer to a 2 liter soda bottle. Main computer cores range from 1 cubic foot up through a cubic yard, while Mega computer cores can be up to tens of cubic yards.
Computer cores connect to each other in two basic ways, depending on how they are equipped. Most computer cores have a laser port that allows them to communicate at speeds sufficient to carry 1,000 simultaneous video channels, each at the full resolution available on Seeronian displays (described below). However, unless two computer cores have an unobstructed line-of-sight between them, they must use a fiber optic cable the size of a human hair to carry the laser beam. Most communications around the world, including video phone calls, news feeds, and entertainment programming, will use the fiber optic cabling.
Alternatively, computer cores can be equipped with radio ports that allow them to communicate at only 10% of the laser's speed, but they do not need any cables. The transmitters can have ranges that vary from a few hundred feet to dozens of miles. Devices with a range of at least one mile will be usable from anywhere within city limits due to ground station relays. Devices with a range measured by dozens of miles can be used anywhere on the planet due to satellite relays.
A single fiber optic connection from your home or business computer core to the GDN will cost a flat rate of 50 credits per Seeronian week (16 days), and each radio connection for a datacomp or personal communicator cost 15 credits per Seeronian week. The connection to the GDN includes access to all free data services such as unlimited video phone calls, basic news feeds, holovid shows with commercials, etc. Premium services, including specialty news feeds, subscription web sites, and pay-per-view and commercial-free holovids, all cost extra. Depending on the type of service, their prices range from 1 to 10 or more credits per Seeronian week.
Seeronian computer networking makes use of variable frequency lasers that can transmit on more than 1,000 distinct frequencies per "bit". Currently on Earth, 100baseT connections can transmit a binary signal at 100 million bits per second. With an estimated thousand-fold increase to 100 billion bits per second, and the extra capacity due to the 1,000+ states per bit, that equates to about 100 terrabits per second on Earth. The lasers can communicate directly on a line-of-sight or via a fiber optic cable. Radio transmissions can be generated with the same number of bits per second, but frequency bandwidth restrictions allow only 100 states per bit, so only 10% the throughput.
Please note that the above speeds are what is commonly available on a computer data port, the final connection that plugs directly into the computer core, equivalent to a modem or ethernet card on Earth. The Global Data Net uses specialized communications equipment, and the planet-wide backbone probably has at least a million times that capacity.
The processing power of Seeronian computers allows for extremely complicated encryption schemes. Of course, they are needed because the super-fast computers can also be used to break all but the most complicated encryption. As computer cores become more powerful they can use better encryption schemes, and can also break encryption faster. Assume that a computer in any given class can never break the encryption used by any computer of equal or greater class. It takes about 10 years (15d100 x10 days) to break the encryption of a computer that is one class lower. It takes about half a year (8d100 days) to break the encryption of a computer that is two classes lower. It takes under a week (3d4 days) to break the encryption of a computer that is three classes lower.
Note: When two computers of different classes communicate, the data is always encrypted with the lesser of the encryption schemes. This means that a video call from a friend using his company's main computer core which you receive on your portable datacomp (an appliance) has to use the appliance class encryption. If it was intercepted by the BCR, they could use their mega computers to decrypt it in just a few days. If you had received that call on your home's mini computer, however, it would probably take them several hundred days to decrypt it.
Computer identification and security is intimately related to the encryption schemes. While a computer core's public functions like video phone calls are generally not restricted (though the calling computer's id probably will be logged), even the most basic appliances will not allow direct access to their command functions over the GDN unless the remote computer is in a list of known and trusted sources. This makes remotely hacking into even unimportant devices like a refrigerator very difficult. You would have to break the encryption scheme used by the appliance (see above for the time that takes) in order to fool it into thinking your computer was a trusted source.
However, just because someone uses a trusted host, or breaks the encryption to pretend to be a trusted host, doesn't mean that the user will have complete access to the system. Basic appliances like a refrigerator may not have any internal security, but most multi-function computers will require some form of passwords and/or voice print authentication when you try to access their command functions from either a local control panel or a remote trusted host.
All is not completely bleak for hackers, however. Obviously, one of the advantages to having a global network is that you can monitor and control your home or office when you are away. The system described above would make that impossible unless you knew in advance what remote computers you would be using. So, most homes and businesses will have one of their computers set up as a firewall. It will have a special security program, which will be the only part of the system accessible by non-trusted remote hosts. Anyone can remotely connect to that security program, but since it logs the computer id that is trying to gain access, most hackers try to maintain at least a handful of fake computer core identifications stolen from other computers whose encryption they have broken.
After logging the attempted connection, the security program will then use some method of personal authentication (usually passwords and voice prints, but the paranoid and wealthy prefer DNA finger printing). Upon being successfully authenticated, all or some specific command functions can be made available to the user from the remote host. So, if you are at a public terminal and want to adjust the thermostat in your home but can not directly connect to the heater, you would first connect to your home's mini computer and identify yourself. Depending on how you have it set up, you could then have the mini send the command to the heater, or have the mini temporarily add the public terminal to the heater's list of trusted hosts, allowing you to access it directly.
Holographic displays are equally common, but with somewhat different features. The projectors are usually square and range from one inch to many yards on each side. The image they can produce may be up to 20 times larger than the physical size of the projector, and the image can be fully three dimensional with a maximum height equal to its width and depth. All but the cheapest projectors will also include a recorder to capture video images. While the recording resolution is quite good, a holographic projection has only 1% the resolution of a flat panel, which gets worse as the image expands to its maximum size. Of course, even at its worst, a holo projection is still much sharper than current Earth monitors.
Most computer cores equipped with a holographic recorder will have the necessary software for optical recognition and interpretation, effectively allowing them to "see". That also allows them to monitor a user's hand positions and gestures, so they can create holographic controls equivalent to a touch-sensitive flat panel but in either a two or three dimensions. To visualize that, check out the flight controls used in the T.V. show Earth: Final Conflict.
Keyboards and other manual control panels are still used for certain types of data entry. For example, touch provides a better method for controlling or indicating position, and with proper training a person can type faster than he can talk. Keyboards are generally made from either touch-sensitive flat panel displays or holographic projections, both of which allow the computer to alter the key layout to suite the current task.
Voice recognition technology is light years beyond current Earth technology. Even the most basic devices will have the ability to understand the Seeronian language, including common slang terms and colloquialisms. Most computers which are not just dedicated to a single basic task will have the ability to record and playback sounds and music with superb quality. Similarly, all computers can verbally respond to a user with a voice that sounds almost perfectly human.
The most important aspect of any computer core's user interface is whatever programming and degree of artificial intelligence that a computer has. Most practical devices, such as an electric grill, would have no programmed personality, a limited set of functions, and a limited set of commands which they would respond to. Personal datacomps will often be programmed with a polite and helpful personality, similar to an idealized secretary or personal assistant, but while they may have some ability to learn from experience and evaluate new situations, they are not truly intelligent or self aware. Even on Seeron, only the largest super-computers have the resources for self awareness, and there are laws against developing self-aware computers. Rumors indicate that there may have been some in pre-invasion military R&D complexes, however it is unknown if that is true or what the status of those computers would be since the Tarlok invasion.
Flat panel displays can be made as small as a square inch or as large as desired, and their thickness can range from one hundredth of an inch to one quarter of an inch, with thinner screens being more expensive. The thinner screens can even be made flexible, which allows portable datacomps to have a very small size but a "pull-out" screen. See the communicators on the T.V. show Earth: Final Conflict for one example of this. Regardless of the size of the panel, each axis will have an average resolution of 1 million pixels per linear foot, or a total of 1 trillion pixels per square foot. This is at least one million times the density of pixels in current Earth LCDs.
With holographic projectors, the larger you make the image the farther it must be from the projector. Generally, the distance between the projector and the closest edge of the image must be at least half the largest dimension of the image. For example, if you have a projector that is 6 inches by 6 inches projecting an image that was 6 feet by 2 feet by 6 inches, the image would need to be at least 3 feet away from the projector.
When a holographic projector is used as a video recorder, it has an effective 120 degree arc of vision. It can include an accurate third dimension only if, during the recording period, the subject turns around to show all sides. Alternatively, if there are multiple recorders which can view the subject from all angles, they can connect to each other and make a master 3D recording that is 100% accurate. Without having a recording of all sides of an object, the computer can attempt to extrapolate the full three dimensional image but it can only use the parts it can see to make a guess about what the far side might look like.
The sound systems on most computers are sufficient to accurately distinguish and recognize specific voice prints for security purposes. However, recording and playback quality is also very good, so a recording of a person's voice print will be accepted as genuine 99% of the time by most voice recognition security systems as well as characters with Heightened Hearing. With sufficient money and paranoia, a specialty voice recognition security system can be used which will pick out a standard recording 20% of the time. Of course, specialty recording equipment will reduce even the best security systems chances to only 1%.
Fully functional neural interfaces do exist, allowing for direct mental interaction with a computer core, but they are still very rare and very expensive and are only available for use with large super-computers. Only the most critical military and business applications would make use of them, and most Seeronians might go their entire lives without using one.
Printing devices are relatively rare and used only for specialized tasks, but they are of superb quality and resolution.
Batteries are divided into standardized classes, which relate to their storage capacity, size and shape. It will generally cost 1 credit to recharge a class one battery, 2 credits to recharge a class two battery, etc.
Extremely small devices like mini-sensors and microphones will use Class One batteries, about the size of the head of a large nail. Since most devices it is designed for don't use much power, it can power most of them for several dozen days of constant use.
Most hand held devices, including flashlights and datacomps, typically use Class Three batteries, which are a cube about 1/2 inch per side. Their charge duration varies fairly widely depending on how much power the device draws, but they can generally provide several days of constant use by devices with low to medium amounts of power, like flashlights. Datacomps can generally last at least 24 hours of constant use, or at least a Seeronian 16-day week if the core is active but the flat panel screen or holo projectors are not in constant use (its just waiting for incoming calls, etc).
Personal vehicles will generally be powered by very efficient electrical engines. While miniature fusion generators exist and are small enough to be included in hovercars, only the more expensive vehicles actually have them. For most vehicles, high density Class Ten batteries are used which provide an average range of 300 to 400 miles per charge.
Weapons use energy clips which actually are based on a more advanced storage technology to fit more power into a smaller, lighter, but more expensive battery. See the combat section for more details.
Due to the predominantly urban environment, many Seeronians will never own a personal vehicle. Within the cities, local public transportation is available via slideways, taxis with either live or automated pilots, and automated monorails. Inter-city travel is usually by means of mag-lev trains or sub-orbital aircraft.
The slideways are usually two side-by-side 5' wide conveyor belts located along side of many roads and are free to use. The first belt moves at about 10 miles per hour, the second at about 20 mph.
Taxis are generally hovercars capable of flight at a cruising speed of 150 to 200 mph. Most have space for between 4 and 8 average-sized adult passengers. Live pilots tend to charge 1 credit per minute, while automated taxis generally charge 1 credit per 2 minutes.
The monorails run underneath most city roadways and are fully automated. They are accessed from the street via stairways and elevators which go down into a small loading platform, similar to subway stations on Earth, which are located within the maintenance level below the road. There are large public monorail cars which run on set schedules between major stations within the city and cost 1 credit for a ride of any duration. After factoring stop times at each station, they still move at an average speed of 75 mph. There are also smaller private cars that hold up to 10 average-sized adults which can be used to reach any destination that is connected to the monorail system. Private cars move at an average speed of 150 mph but cost 1 credit per 5 minutes.
The inter-city mag-lev trains make use of superconductors to magnetically levitate a bullet train capable of travelling at over 500 miles per hour. Tickets usually cost 50 credits plus 25 credits per 500 miles of travel. There is also a network of mag-lev lines between major cities around the world that use above- and below-ground air-tight vacuum tunnels to eliminate air resistance and allow trains to reach speeds over 1,000 mph. This rail system is used for most cargo transportation around Seeron, since it is cheaper than sub-orbital flight and still relatively fast. Passenger trains also use the vacuum tunnels whenever possible, at the standard ticket rates, but they do take longer than sub-orbital flights for all but the shortest trips.
Sub-orbital aircraft capable of carrying anywhere from 25 to 500 passengers are used for most long range passenger travel. These hypersonic planes can go non-stop to any other airport in the world in under an hour, door-to-door. Of course, you still have to find one that is going to the right place, which often means going through a relay hub and making two flights. Tickets usually cost 250 credits plus 50 credits per 1,000 miles, regardless of whether the flight is non-stop or requires you to change aircraft. They are rarely used for trips of less than one or two thousand miles.
Passenger shuttles to the orbiting satellites and Seeron's moons are available from major cities only, although many small cities will have industrial shuttles. Depending on relative positions, it can take from 15 minutes to 1 hour to reach any given satellite, and between 16 to 24 hours to reach the various moons. Tickets cost about 1,000 credits to reach a satellite or 2,500 credits to go to one of the moons.
Space travel has been available to the Tarlok for nearly 1,000 Earth years, and while the Seeronians have only been using it for perhaps 100 Earth years, the more technically advanced Seeronians have nearly caught up to the Tarlok in space travel technology. The heart of efficient space travel is the space warp field generator. By bending or warping space, a moving vessel is able to reach great speed and can maneuver almost as if inertia-less. The farther away from large gravity sources (planets and stars) the faster a ship can go. Tarlok spacecraft can reach speeds of about 5,000 miles per hour near planetary masses. In the inner portions of the Charizol system, away from the planet but inside Seeron's orbit, they can reach a maximum of 5 million miles per day. However, in interstellar space, Tarlok ships can go much faster, up to about four or five times light speed. Seeronian warp technology can only go about 97% of a Tarlok ship's speed in planetary space, 80% in interplanetary space, and 20% (just about light speed) in interstellar space. On the other hand, Rithe and Tandori warp ships can go about 17% faster in planetary space, three times as fast in interplanetary space, and over a thousand times as fast in interstellar space.
By extending the warp field and "compressing" the region of space in front of the ship and then travelling through the compressed area as if it were normal space, the effective speed of the vessel relative to the rest of the universe is equal to its "real" speed in its own frame of reference times the degree to which space was compressed. A fast ship can travel faster than a slow ship, if their warp fields are equal. Similarly, if two ships have equal speed, the one with the stronger warp field will effectively go faster.
However, there are two limits on how fast a ship can go. First, in areas where space is already "stressed" or bent, like a large gravity field, the warp multiplier is reduced because it is harder to further manipulate that region of space. For this reason, warp fields are most effective in interstellar space. Within a star system, the maximum field strength is reduced, and when within a close solar orbit or within 20 planetary diameters of a planet the maximum field strength is even more dramatically reduced. The resistance to further manipulation is exponential, so that when in a planetary gravity well, doubling the power of a warp generator will only result in a small fraction of an increase in speed.
In fact, when near a planet, the extra power of the large warp generators in large spacecraft can only create a slightly larger warp multiplier than the relatively weak warp generators that can fit on small fighter spacecraft. Since the fighters generally have much better real-space thrust-to-mass ratios, they can effectively travel faster than large spacecraft when near planets. In interplanetary space, although there is still a resistance to the warp field, the stronger warp fields of the large spacecraft can start to compensate for the faster thrusters of a fighter. This means that within a solar system but away from any planet, a large spacecraft can usually go as fast or maybe even faster than a small fighter. In interstellar space away from any stellar gravity wells, the resistance is almost negligible and the powerful warp fields in large vessels make them much faster than any fighter.
The second limit on how fast a ship can effectively go is due to a limit on how rapidly the warp field can work. If a ship's real-space thrusters make it go too fast through real space, it might exceed the maximum rate at which the warp field can reach out and compress the space in front of it, effectively making the warp multiplier go down. This means that ships can reach a maximum speed, because although they might keep accelerating in unwarped space, their warp multiplier is proportiately decreasing and they maintain the same effective maximum speed. This is why ship descriptions in Palladium source books list a maximum speed, and they can't just keep accelerating. More accurately, once they reach the point where the warp field no longer helps and actually begins to hurt their effective speed, they could turn off the warp field and keep accelerating using just their real-space thrusters. There are four reasons why ships generally won't do this, though. First, the maximum speed is usually enough to get the ship out of a planetary gravity well in good time, at which point the warp fields become more effective anyway. Once away from the planet, the maximum warp speed increases enough that the ship would leave the solar system before the real-space engines could accelerate past the maximum warp speed, so why bother trying? Second, by shutting down their thrusters and coasting as soon as they reach their maximum warp speed they can vastly reduce their fuel consumption. Third, coasting as soon as they reach the warp field's maximum speed means they won't have built up a huge amount of real-space momentum that they will need to burn off in order to stop at their destination. Fourth and most importantly, as the warp field deteriorates prior to being shut off, their maneuverability will also deteriorate, and once they shut of the warp field entirely they couldn't really maneuver at all (see below), and they would be sitting ducks for anyone with a gun and a calculator, since they couldn't even turn it back on in an emergency until they could reduce their speed below the maximum for the warp generator.
Keep in mind that the speeds listed in the source books for spacecraft are for when the spacecraft is near a planet. They can go much faster in interplanetary and interstellar space. Currently, the best Tarlok and Seeronian technologies can produce warp generators sufficient to reach a few times light speed but only in interstellar space. That still means that it takes a few years to reach the closest inhabited star systems, however, and it is nowhere near even 1% of the speed available to Rithe and Tandori ships.
In addition to increasing speed, space warp fields allow the ships to turn and maneuver without really worrying about inertia, giving the cinematic feel to space combat that we get from Star Wars, Star Trek, etc. By warping and "twisting" the space immediately around itself, a ship that is just moving straight ahead in its own frame of reference can actually alter its course relative to the rest of the universe. This effectively allows it to turn like a plane in an atmosphere, without having to worry about cancelling most of its momentum in the original direction and without applying too much g-force to its crew.
However, to get maximum maneuverability you want to combine real-space turns with the benefits of the warp field. After all, the warp field just exagerates a real-space motion. This means that fighters, with their vastly better thrust-to-mass ratio, will be much more maneuverable than large spacecraft, at least when near planets. Even in interplanetary space, where a large craft's warp field can begin to compensate, fighters will still be more maneuvable just because they have much more acceleration to make the real-space changes in direction that a warp field enhances. However, in interstellar space without any warp field resistance, large craft with powerful field generators become both more maneuverable as well as faster than fighters. Considering the vastness of interstellar space, however, very few battles would ever take place there. It is almost unheard of for space battles to be waged outside of a solar system. Why try to chase someone around in all that space, and take the chance of letting them slip by you to attack your base, instead of dealing with them at the fixed locations of their source or destination solar system? This results in ship development and strategies similar to planetary ocean navies, with destroyers and cruisers providing protection for the huge carriers which transport large numbers of one and two man fighters for air / space superiority.
Many of the most advanced Seeronian technologies were developed on a series of large permanent industrial satellites, due to many new zero-gee research and production methods. Prior to the war, there were 17 orbital facilities, each with an on-board population of several thousand, and a dozen more automated factories with only a few permanent maintenance crew. During the war, 3 inhabited and 1 automated satellites were destroyed, but in general the Tarlok deliberately tried to capture rather than destroy them. In the years since, little has been done to replace the ones which were destroyed, although rumor has it that preparations are being made to build a new generation of satellites. Fully fifty percent of the production from these facilities never reach Seeron, but are loaded onto Tarlok freighters for delivery to other worlds in the Empire.
Industry on the surface suffered quite a bit more damage in the war, but there has also been more effort put into repairs and replacements, so it is theoretically at about 90% pre-war capacity, although due to low morale and constant limited sabotage, the actual output doesn't actually reach that. A significant portion, maybe 35%, of the planetary industrial production is also destined for other planets, so every major city and most minor ones have a spaceport which is kept quite busy with shuttle trips to the Tarlok's orbiting Space Platforms, where the materials are transferred to freighters.
Most repetitive and labor intensive tasks are performed by automated robotic facilities. Manufacturing plants of all types are particularly automated, with some not having any human workers at all, if no design or quality control work is performed at that particular location.
The genetic sequences of normal Humans, Seermen and Talus have been fully mapped, and genetic engineering is used to fight disease and genetic defects. Diseases are frequently treated by special genetically engineered viruses that are bred to attack one specific disease.
Drugs that quickly stop bleeding and even aid cell regeneration allow for much faster recovery from injury or operations. There are even drugs that allow nerve cells to regenerate.
Transplants of diseased or damaged organs is now a basic and safe procedure with little chance of organ rejection due to the use of cloned organs. With the artificial stimulation of nerve and bone regrowth, even cloned limbs can be reattached with little or no lasting impairment. However, there are strict restrictions under what conditions cloning is acceptable, and it is illegal to clone a complete, living copy of any sentient being.
Bionics are well understood but relatively rare, since it is generally preferrable to replace lost or severely damaged limbs with new cloned parts.
This page is copyright © 1998 by Jim Stoner
Last Modified March 13, 1999