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Old 12-07-2016, 05:55 PM   #1
warellis
 
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Default Traveller and modern electronics

Having never played Traveller before, but having read up a lot on it and reading up on various tech discussions, one thing I've always heard is that Traveller is a game that shows its 1970s roots. That in addition to the fact much of its themes and ideas are based off of science fiction from the 1940s to 1970s, you also have mention of the giant computers being an example of how Traveller was designed before the computing revolution of the 1980s.

Having said this, I've often heard that for starships but do those same assumptions ever show up for day-to-day civilian electronics, like something you would use in your home and such? Are there any civilian electronic tech or computers that really show "yeah this was definitely designed before the Digital Age?"
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Old 12-07-2016, 05:57 PM   #2
Anthony
 
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Default Re: Traveller and modern electronics

Traveller mostly doesn't talk about personal electronics, which I guess shows that it predates the era of personal electronics being common.
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Old 12-07-2016, 06:22 PM   #3
warellis
 
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Default Re: Traveller and modern electronics

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Originally Posted by Anthony View Post
Traveller mostly doesn't talk about personal electronics, which I guess shows that it predates the era of personal electronics being common.
Still didn't that era often have like uh tricorders or some equivalent (to use Star Trek as an example?) Or is it more that such things were used only for professional reasons?

Like for surveyors and such.
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Old 12-07-2016, 07:15 PM   #4
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Default Re: Traveller and modern electronics

(I'm taking "Traveller" to mean "Classic Traveller," prior to 1986. Later editions tried to update the tech to some degree.)

There are a number of personal electronic devices scattered throughout the books: communicators, inertial locators, hand computers, map boxes, digital cameras, low-light and thermal goggles, etc.

What Traveller pretty much missed is the potential synergy among all these gadgets. Instead of a pile of electronics that mostly doesn't talk to each other (though you could hook up your map box to your inertial locator to get a scrolling display of your current position -- oooh!), your cell phone now does most of this by itself.

Traveller computers also don't obey Moore's Law. They get bigger and more expensive as they get more capable, even at higher tech levels. Part of this is that Traveller TLs are pretty flat and finely divided compared to GURPS: TL15 in Traveller is only about twice as productive as TL9-10, which would be good for only a one tech level difference in GURPS.

One thought I've had about replicating Traveller tech is to say that all the electronics are analogue, rather than digital. They work just fine for their intended purposes, but you can't implement a new function just by downloading a program.

Note that the "huge computers" thing is somewhat misleading: the "computer" volume includes workstations for programmers and system administrators -- more like an IT center than a room filled with vacuum tubes. Still too big and heavy, just not ridiculously so.
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Old 12-07-2016, 07:18 PM   #5
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Default Re: Traveller and modern electronics

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Originally Posted by warellis View Post
...
Having said this, I've often heard that for starships but do those same assumptions ever show up for day-to-day civilian electronics, like something you would use in your home and such? Are there any civilian electronic tech or computers that really show "yeah this was definitely designed before the Digital Age?"
There's the old, old Murphy's Rules panel titled "Three Tons, 16K", discussing how unrealistic Traveller's computers were even at the time. IIRC, that particular strip either predates or is as old as the original Apple Macintosh, dating to somewhere in the early-to-mid 1980s.
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Old 12-07-2016, 09:29 PM   #6
warellis
 
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Default Re: Traveller and modern electronics

In what ways would Traveller have changed if its computers or electronics had been designed with modern ideas and experiences of computers and electronics? I mean I imagine you could easily keep the slow FTL & no FTL comms Traveller has but would Traveller with modern ideas on electronics or computers change things a lot?
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Old 12-08-2016, 06:22 AM   #7
Dr. Beckenstein
 
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Default Re: Traveller and modern electronics

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Originally Posted by warellis View Post
In what ways would Traveller have changed if its computers or electronics had been designed with modern ideas and experiences of computers and electronics? I mean I imagine you could easily keep the slow FTL & no FTL comms Traveller has but would Traveller with modern ideas on electronics or computers change things a lot?
I think not much. Traveller is about star faring, free traders and mercenaries. The big things that define the game are star ships, aliens and the third empire, not computers or AI. Maybe the ship design had changed a little, "computers are free" or some thing like that.

On the other hand - I wonder if GDW had a computer in their office when the game came out in... 1977?

Man, the game turns 40 next year.
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Old 12-08-2016, 06:22 AM   #8
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Default Re: Traveller and modern electronics

The biggest changes come as you pass through the realm of networked computers (cyberpunk) into networked people (transhumanism). Traveller (again, meaning CT) had no formal character rewards or experience point system, and no knowledge skills (sciences, scholastics, languages, etc.). The line between player information and character knowledge was muddier than later generations of rpgs. Much of the flavor of Traveller adventures -- both implicitly and explicitly -- comes from having incomplete information about the universe and setting out to explore.

The Universal Planet Profile was an aspect of this: deliberately sketchy and potentially unreliable or out of date, a party of characters might find something quite unexpected at the worlds they visited. The rewards for playing through Twilight's Peak or Secrets of the Ancients were almost entirely about what the characters learned in the process (though there were one or two token physical prizes, they weren't overwhelmingly useful or lucrative).

Contrast this with a universe with ubiquitous, networked computing. Yes, the FTL drive means that data packets get older the farther away they originate, but one could send entire updated Wikipedias for each world on a remotely plausible Xboat network and still allow players to short-circuit all kinds of adventures by Googling them into irrelevance. The referee then spends an inordinate chunk of prep time figuring out Yet Another Reason this simple approach won't work (much like transporter problems in Star Trek).

On the communication front, if interstellar messages are more like videograms than telegrams, it becomes much less plausible to rely on random strangers who happen to be available (i.e., player-characters) rather than recruit appropriate experts from surrounding systems. Most of the random patron encounters then go out the window.
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Old 12-08-2016, 02:58 PM   #9
warellis
 
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Default Re: Traveller and modern electronics

Couldn't one play as one of those Wikipedia updating-type crews as you put it?
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Old 12-08-2016, 03:07 PM   #10
Flyndaran
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Default Re: Traveller and modern electronics

Traveller always felt, to me, more like retro-science fiction of the 50s with a few more modern pieces bolted on. Kind of like Star Trek/Wars, it ignores most science learned since then, and of course all the fiddly bits that make such genres technically impossible in our reality.
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