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Old 04-07-2020, 08:36 AM   #1
Luke Bunyip
 
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Default [AtE] Heirloom tech?

Without the complex infrastructure which exists pre AtE, a lot of technology would slowly breakdown. Batteries would not hold charge, solar panels would die, and electric motors would burn out.

Q: After 75 years, and positing that agriculture and horticulture have stabilised at a point that hunger isn't a concern, what types of tech or items would still survive?

For instance, I'd presume that electric vehicles, computers, smart devices and storage media could be problematic by this point in time. What I'm interested in is what would still be functional. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Edit: The above is motivated by an upcoming campaign that I'm intending to run. Set in rural Australia. May or may not include mutant kangaroos...
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Old 04-07-2020, 09:29 AM   #2
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Default Re: [AtE] Heirloom tech?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Luke Bunyip View Post
Without the complex infrastructure which exists pre AtE, a lot of technology would slowly breakdown. Batteries would not hold charge, solar panels would die, and electric motors would burn out.

Q: After 75 years, and positing that agriculture and horticulture have stabilised at a point that hunger isn't a concern, what types of tech or items would still survive?

For instance, I'd presume that electric vehicles, computers, smart devices and storage media could be problematic by this point in time. What I'm interested in is what would still be functional. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
I don't have any good answers, but, on this topic, I've always wanted something like a GURPS Dirty Tech or something to expand and add more entries to the Dirty Tech boxes in High-Tech.
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Old 04-07-2020, 01:34 PM   #3
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Default Re: [AtE] Heirloom tech?

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I don't have any good answers, but, on this topic, I've always wanted something like a GURPS Dirty Tech or something to expand and add more entries to the Dirty Tech boxes in High-Tech.
Good point. I think there's a thread for GURPS Books You Hope to see (or something like that), which you could mention it in. It seems like a useful supplement, and not just for AtE.
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Old 04-08-2020, 08:59 PM   #4
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Default Re: [AtE] Heirloom tech?

Just to qualify my original question, I've got an issue with motorised vehicles. I can posit that there are some operational IC powered vehicles when the End happens (museum pieces, vehicle collectors etc) but my players would expect most motor transport at that point to be electric, and possibly some hydrogen fuel cell powered niche vehicles.

Now, move forward 75 years, and how many of those vehicles would still be operational? Those that survive would basically be only still running because of rampant harvesting of parts from wrecks and scrapyards. And this is the rub for me; in my mind IC engines are possibly more viable than electric ones.

The issue for me is 21st Century electric vehicles require complex electronics and battery technology to work, and I've got no rules of thumb as to what tech still survives. And regardless of if some PCs have access to an electric vehicle, how are they going to charge it? If solar panels and wind turbines have all become inoperable, what's the alternative, a jury rigged generator powered by a steam engine?

EDIT: Had a chat with the most technically minded of my players, and he suggested that the electronics on an electric car would be the issue, rather than the batteries or the motors. Wind turbines would be glorified lookouts, and having a functioning scavenged solar power set up could be the realm of the local warlords.

There was the minor issue of tyres, but there's a workaround handwave which will pass muster in terms of the setting.
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Old 04-09-2020, 10:46 AM   #5
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Default Re: [AtE] Heirloom tech?

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Originally Posted by Luke Bunyip View Post
EDIT: Had a chat with the most technically minded of my players, and he suggested that the electronics on an electric car would be the issue, rather than the batteries or the motors. Wind turbines would be glorified lookouts, and having a functioning scavenged solar power set up could be the realm of the local warlords.
I'd agree with your player there - the microchips and what have you might have died a long time ago, but I don't think there's much to go wrong with an electric motor coil unless you melt it or let it corrode so simple electric motors and generators might well live a long time (think of all the motor coils that could be salvaged from washer-dryers as well...) - and power cells may become more primitive, but a lead-acid accumulator should be within the reach of most societies.
I would guess that a modern wind turbine isn't going to work (not least because anime characters will steal the blades and make swords out of them) but something less complicated might well work - self-directing windmills are old tech, and if you can couple one to an electric coil and build a 360' connector for the power supply you can probably get something...
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Old 04-09-2020, 12:57 PM   #6
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Default Re: [AtE] Heirloom tech?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Luke Bunyip View Post
Just to qualify my original question, I've got an issue with motorised vehicles. I can posit that there are some operational IC powered vehicles when the End happens (museum pieces, vehicle collectors etc) but my players would expect most motor transport at that point to be electric, and possibly some hydrogen fuel cell powered niche vehicles.

Now, move forward 75 years, and how many of those vehicles would still be operational? Those that survive would basically be only still running because of rampant harvesting of parts from wrecks and scrapyards. And this is the rub for me; in my mind IC engines are possibly more viable than electric ones.

There was the minor issue of tyres, but there's a workaround handwave which will pass muster in terms of the setting.
I wouldn't think IC engine vehicles are at all viable, much less more viable than electric vehicles.

First, you need a battery to turn over your IC engine and get it started. That battery will eventually discharge and if you can't recharge it, you have no motorized vehicle. If you can recharge your battery, you can probably recharge your electric vehicle. Additionally, the electrolyte will eventually convert into lead sulfate, so you need to be able to replenish the electrolyte which requires a non-sealed battery, c. 2000 or earlier.

You'll also need a number of fluids for your vehicle and you can't just run out to your oil well and top it off from there, they'll need refining. Among the fluids needed will be: gasoline/diesel; oil; transmission fluid; brake fluid; radiator coolant; water; and grease. Not absolutely required, depending on your location, but useful will be: anti-freeze; gas line anti-freeze; and windshield washer fluid.

gasoline/diesel will be the hardest item to come by. Optimally stored with stabilizers, diesel will last five years. Optimally stored petroleum-based gasoline will last three years and optimally stored ethanol-blended gasoline will last a year. After 75 years, good luck finding any usable fuel.

You'll also need some spare parts: headlights, taillights and signal lights, air filters, fuel filters, spark plugs, brake shoes/pads, electric ballast [One car I owned burned the electric ballast out roughly every six months. It was an easy fix, taking less than a minute but I learned to always carry a spare because I wasn't going anywhere until it was replaced.], windshield wipers, radiator caps/thermostats and an air compressor/pump for inflating tyres.

Some of the items I've mentioned apply just as well to electric vehicles but gasoline/diesel, and oil aren't problems an electric vehicle needs to address.
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Old 04-09-2020, 01:59 PM   #7
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Default Re: [AtE] Heirloom tech?

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Originally Posted by Luke Bunyip View Post

After 75 years, and positing that agriculture and horticulture have stabilised at a point that hunger isn't a concern, what types of tech or items would still survive?
I'm not a car person, so I won't get involved in that sub-discussion.

One important category of artifacts is unpowered tools. That includes not only bits, chisels, hammers, etc. used for construction and maintenance, but also various gadgets for cooking, drafting, gardening, surgery, and nearly every other complex practical skill.

Many of these tools only seem low-tech. The most recent versions are made to far finer tolerances than ever before possible in human history – they involve straighter lines, keener edges, more precise markings, improved mechanisms, and better ergonomics (allowing closer work or longer work days). While these might not be high-tech in basic concept, they depend on high-tech machining and materials to create. You won't be churning them out after the apocalypse.

Materials merit special thought. Despite the popular tendency to describe everything today as "cheap," that's only really true of mass-market tools that put price point ahead of functionality. Many relatively high-tech materials have exceedingly long, functionally indefinite lifespans. An important example is metals that don't corrode on the timescale of mere generations: aluminum, brass, stainless steel, precious metals, etc. Another is plastics; durable plastics have lifetimes measured in centuries, which is why they're a horrendous environmental hazard.

The right tools made of the right materials might well let people "bootstrap" more efficiently. In game terms, some would enable higher-TL versions of technological skills to function at all, if at a penalty. Others would count as "good," "fine," or even "best" equipment at any TL, or for things that don't depend on TL. And clever people may well press them into service in roles for which they were never intended (e.g., plastic ballpoint pen tube as a trach tube).

Looking around me, I see enameled, stainless, and Bakelite items that belonged to my parents or grandparents, some of which date to the 1950s, a few to the 1930s or before . . . call it 70 to 90 years. They've just been sitting around, not specially preserved, and some have been in more-or-less constant use. I confess that a few have been subjected to outright abuse (e.g., used to prop open windows or shim bookcases).

For instance, I have a stainless Westcott ruler on my desk that was my father's, and he bought it as a university student in the 1950s. It lost its cork backing eons ago, and it's a little dirty, but it's still an excellent tool for measuring, drafting, tearing paper, etc. Having it would allow a more practical craftsperson than me to make things that would be almost impossible without at least millimeter precision. A stainless micrometer caliper would be orders of magnitude more useful, pardon the pun.

Oh, and there's an all-metal stapler from the 1960s (only 60 years old) that still works just fine, though it's ugly. It takes zinc-coated steel staples that don't corrode; I have tens of thousands of those in little boxes stashed all over. It's surprising what you can jury-rig with staples.

And my kitchen is full of things made from wonder metals and high-temperature plastics (it's always a little weird picking up a 600° item with a bit of plastic and not having the plastic melt), some of them with sub-milliliter precision. I'm sure a pharmacist or a chemist could make due.

Somewhere I have a slide-rule that would let the right person have the benefits of a simple computer without power. Mine is plastic, but I learned (though I've since forgotten) using a stainless one.

This is where my mind goes at once, anyway.
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Old 04-09-2020, 02:14 PM   #8
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Default Re: [AtE] Heirloom tech?

If by "tech" you really mean "tech that runs on power other than muscle power," the list gets a lot shorter.

In that case, you're not actually asking about the tech itself – which is likely to exist, physically, for just as long as unpowered items made from similar materials – but about the power source. Here, precision works against you . . . even if you have some mad scientist willing to rig batteries or distill volatiles, you can't just guess at things like voltage, amperage, frequency, and phase, nor octane, nor isotope purity. You get one or at most a couple of shots at guesswork in these cases, and then your tech is blown for good, absent a high-TL industry to provide parts and service. It would be most logical just to assume that anything that needs fuel or electricity is long gone.

The exception is stuff that runs on mechanical energy from an outside source. If you could rig a primitive windmill or waterwheel to turn the mechanism, or just have animals or people do it, you could make it work. The limiting factor is likely to be lubricants, but those are surprisingly easy to improvise. This would let you benefit from various kinds of grinders, lathes, etc. I suppose you could even have a waterwheel-driven vacuum cleaner, if you improvised a few gaskets, though I'm not sure what you'd do with it – reverse it and inflate things?
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Old 04-09-2020, 02:22 PM   #9
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Default Re: [AtE] Heirloom tech?

Precision lathes good enough to make good tools are about 300 years old - they would be late TL 4 or early TL 5. They were an important part of making the Industrial Revolution possible (so I'd probably put them at early TL 5).
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Old 04-09-2020, 02:24 PM   #10
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Default Re: [AtE] Heirloom tech?

Lastly you have common "junk" items that depend on a high baseline tech to create, and that don't decay easily.

Plastic bags and bottles are a great start: These may last for 200, 400, perhaps 1,000 years. We toss them away all the time, but they would be fantastically lightweight water carriers, or let a society sidestep the need to figure out how to make glass for many purposes that would in turn enable tech jumps. There are so many in dumps and landfills that if an apocalypse killed most of the world, it would take tens of generations to deplete the supply of "new" salvage, and of course those already salvaged would continue to serve.

Aluminum cans, caps, and foil fall into this category, too.

If you want to go all Mad Max, it isn't hard to imagine flexible armor made from layered plastic garbage bags and bits of aluminum. It would look like garbage, but it would likely be at least as good as anything made from natural materials, and it would depend on low-risk, low-labor salvage, not high-risk, high-labor farming and hunting.
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