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Old 11-22-2014, 12:55 PM   #1
johndallman
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
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Default [Basic] Skill of the week: Computer Operation/Programming/Hacking

Computer Operation, Computer Programming and Computer Hacking are the skills for getting computers to do things via software. They are IQ/E, IQ/H and IQ/VH (cinematic) respectively. On a conventional technology path, they appear at TL7 and Computer Operation becomes a very common skill at TL8. Alternate-tech paths might make Computer Programming very widespread too; several attempts were made in that direction during the historical TL7, but they were unsuccessful.

Computer Programming doesn't actually have Computer Operation as a prerequisite: until the middle of TL7, it was common to do programming entirely on paper. Computer Hacking does require Computer Operation. Electronics Repair (Computers) defaults to Computer Operation-5. At TL8+, Computer Operation is a prerequisite for Research, and provides many people's default for Typing.

Computer Operation is a "use" skill in the design/repair/use triads of B.190, and Computer Programming is a "design" skill. High-Tech and Ultra-Tech have Operation as the repair skill, which works for installation and configuration problems, but not always for actual bugs. Fixing those is going to be Programming, with a large penalty if you lack the source and appropriate tools. Spaceships has Programming as a repair skill.

Computer Programming uses the Inventions rules, and often requires knowledge of the field the program is about. This is realistic; Mathematics is often useful, but not always. "Systems programming", writing operating systems, device drivers, and similar code within complex application programs is based on Mathematics (Computer Science), which often isn't terribly mathematical in the conventional sense. High-Tech reminds us of the importance of TL modifiers and has a table of program prices vs. Complexity. Software Tools, described in High-Tech and Ultra-Tech, are very necessary for programming.

Computer Programming (Artificial Intelligence) is written up as a variant skill, with no default in either direction to ordinary programming, which allows you to use social skills on AIs. I suspect this only works if you can modify the AI, which definitely isn't the case for end-users in most ultra-tech settings. This is supported by the description of Digital Mind.

Realistic "Computer Hacking" is a combination of skills, described along with the cinematic skill. The latter is described in Action, for the present day and near future.

Equipment for computer skills is described in High-Tech and Ultra-Tech, with more detail for the present day in Action.

Computer Operation and Computer Programming appear on templates in just about every high-tech setting book. Madness Dossier's Brain Hacking requires Computer Hacking. Magic has Awaken Computer, which can bestow all three skills under the wrong circumstances, and allows Hacking as a core skill for Ritual Magic in the right campaign (as does Thaumatology, and RPM). Powers has weird ways to use Hacking, and Psi-Tech deals with teaching computers to use psionics via Programming. Reign of Steel: Will to Live has plenty of uses for Programming vs. robots. Social Engineering describes the uses of Operation and Hacking in verifying and falsifying documents, and "social engineering" ways of getting through computer security. PU3 and PU7 have examples that include all three skills.

I don't think I've ever used Computer Programming in a game (that's the day job), and Computer Operation has mostly been in Transhuman Space games, although we've usually had an AI around who did most of it. What have you done with these skills in GURPS?
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Old 11-22-2014, 01:00 PM   #2
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Computer Operation/Programming/Hacking

Where does it say that Computer Operation the skill is required for TL 8+ Research?
I disagree that anyone conducting research past 1980 needs advanced computer skills. No one needs that just to access known databases and search engines.
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Old 11-22-2014, 01:51 PM   #3
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Computer Operation/Programming/Hacking

Hacking was used by an ex-Imperial Watcher (basically, an intel analyst) in a SW game I ran to hack (colloquially, "slice") into an HK-50 droid via its internal radio to send it override commands. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing on the part of the player, too. A little bit later, she used Programming (AI) to wipe the droid's memory and program herself in as the droid's master.

Haven't really used the skills much otherwise.
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Old 11-22-2014, 01:59 PM   #4
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Computer Operation/Programming/Hacking

Quote:
Originally Posted by Flyndaran View Post
Where does it say that Computer Operation the skill is required for TL 8+ Research?
B217, in the heading of the Research skill.
Quote:
I disagree that anyone conducting research past 1980 needs advanced computer skills. No one needs that just to access known databases and search engines.
From late TL7, when on-line databases became commercially available via dial-up, to about 1997 when web search engines started to get good, getting useful information out of online services required actual skill, although it wasn't that hard to learn (hence IQ/E). Nowadays, search engines provide significant bonuses to unskilled usage, although one can still do better with Research and Computer Operation skill.
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Old 11-22-2014, 02:00 PM   #5
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Computer Operation/Programming/Hacking

A thing that I came up with for GURPS Steampunk was a variant on Computer Programming for working with rooms full of human calculators collectively carrying out big algorithms, as in de Prony's work on mathematical tables during the French Revolution. I think it may have defaulted to Administration and/or had Administration as a prerequisite.

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Old 11-22-2014, 02:11 PM   #6
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Computer Operation/Programming/Hacking

Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
B217, in the heading of the Research skill.

From late TL7, when on-line databases became commercially available via dial-up, to about 1997 when web search engines started to get good, getting useful information out of online services required actual skill, although it wasn't that hard to learn (hence IQ/E). Nowadays, search engines provide significant bonuses to unskilled usage, although one can still do better with Research and Computer Operation skill.
I think that might be confusing gurps Skill with what we call skills in common language.
Carpentry's easy as well, but far more difficult than using search engines.
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Old 11-22-2014, 02:25 PM   #7
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Computer Operation/Programming/Hacking

Ok, here's a challenge for you. The operating manual for the torpedo tubes used in WWII US submarines is on the web. My GM did not find it before he gave up looking. I did. Can you?
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Old 11-22-2014, 03:57 PM   #8
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Computer Operation/Programming/Hacking

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Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
Ok, here's a challenge for you. The operating manual for the torpedo tubes used in WWII US submarines is on the web. My GM did not find it before he gave up looking. I did. Can you?
What's your case for that being a Computer Use feat rather than a Research feat? Research is certainly the governing skill roll for such searches.


I would say that you need to be able to use a computer to do TL8 research (Though you can still do TL7 research in many archives). Computer Operation has the usual issue that these days the computer operation side of such tasks is made mindbogglingly trivial by user-friendly design.

I would argue that having a default for Computer Operation should suffice to learn TL8 Research, at least in the latter stages of TL8. If you have no default or for some other reason cannot operate computers at all, you're out of luck. EDIT: And you might have some difficulty if you can attempt such rolls, but are bad enough at them that a +10 TDM nuisance roll has a significant chance to fail.


EDIT2: I think I found it.
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Last edited by Ulzgoroth; 11-22-2014 at 04:16 PM.
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Old 11-22-2014, 04:11 PM   #9
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Computer Operation/Programming/Hacking

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ulzgoroth View Post
What's your case for that being a Computer Use feat rather than a Research feat? Research is certainly the governing skill roll for such searches.
It's kinda like Area Knowledge vs. Hiking:
You need AK to know where to hike, but Hiking to get there in a reasonable timeframe and without complications.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ulzgoroth View Post
I would say that you need to be able to use a computer to do TL8 research (Though you can still do TL7 research in many archives). Computer Operation has the usual issue that these days the computer operation side of such tasks is made mindbogglingly trivial by user-friendly design.
I would like to note that (modern) search engines seem provide a specialisation bonus rather than a flat bonus:
They're cool when they're trying to help you find something that matches both your and their expectation. They're ugly and harmful when they think they know better than you, and insist on doing things their way even while you invoke all sorts of forcing or overriding modifiers in your search; this is particularly bad when you're trying to search for snippets of code with very specific orders of symbols, or when you want to search for the whole image as opposed to the one piece of the image that the engine recognised and immediately jumped upon.

IIRC Vehicles or Expansion provided a similar effect for Automatic gearboxes: +1 skill if Driving<10, -1 skill if Driving>10.
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Old 11-22-2014, 04:15 PM   #10
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Computer Operation/Programming/Hacking

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ulzgoroth View Post
What's your case for that being a Computer Use feat rather than a Research feat?
Not very strong, but it was a matter of using search engine controls, rather than just keywords, when I did it.
Quote:
I would argue that having a default for Computer Operation should suffice to learn TL8 Research, at least in the latter stages of TL8.
That's definitely an arguable position.
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