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Old 03-22-2016, 02:27 AM   #41
johndallman
 
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Default Re: 1980s American Cars, Guns, Gadgets and Consumer Goods [Atmosphere, look, minutiae

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Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
Uh, now I sound like an idiot, but what is it good for? I basically have no idea what computers did, beyond word processing, before they had Internet. For programmers, scientists or database administrators, I can make a fair guess, but what can more active, adventuring-type people, like FBI agents, use theirs for?
Form-filling. It will not be in any way compulsory for FBI agents to have or use computers in the field, but they would be useful for writing reports as you go along, and filling out forms. They also allow you to easily generate new versions of reports and forms with the latest/most acceptable version of the story.
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If price (assuming that it's below GURPS $50,000) is really not a factor, which one of these would a recent graduate of Computer Science from Stanford rather own in 1988, the GRiD, an IBM PC Convertible or a Toshiba T1100?
The Convertible isn't very nice. The GRiD is very cool, but may not run the software you need. The Toshiba is the practical choice. All of these are Compact Small computers per High-Tech.
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What can you use computers for in law enforcement in 1988? What was the FBI doing with them?
Apart from form-filling, accessing the ViCAP system via dial-up.

Last edited by johndallman; 03-22-2016 at 02:33 AM. Reason: spelling
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Old 03-22-2016, 04:25 AM   #42
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Default Re: 1980s American Cars, Guns, Gadgets and Consumer Goods [Atmosphere, look, minutiae

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Form-filling. It will not be in any way compulsory for FBI agents to have or use computers in the field,
Indeed. I'm pretty sure Special Agent Frank Corelli regards even a typewriter with mistrust, suspecting it of having designs of turning him into an office-bound dweeb.

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but they would be useful for writing reports as you go along, and filling out forms. They also allow you to easily generate new versions of reports and forms with the latest/most acceptable version of the story.
That's true.

What other programs were there in 1988? Could you connect a fingerprint scanner and send them by modem for analysis at Quantico?

Carry around databases of tire tracks, fibers or other forensic evidence, to aid in recognising them, giving a bonus to specific Forensics checks?

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Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
The Convertible isn't very nice. The GRiD is very cool, but may not run the software you need. The Toshiba is the practical choice. All of these are Compact Small computers per High-Tech.
It seems odd to lump 1980s computers with 2010s computers under TL8. With identical stats... For all intents and purposes, there have been major tech level changes.

Certainly more changes in adventuring relevant fuctionality than smallarms have experienced for almost two tech levels, from mid-TL6 to TL8. A Colt M1911 or a Browning High Power are both still relevant adventuring gear in 2016, with most differences between TL6 and late TL8 falling below GURPS resolution.

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Apart from form-filling, accessing the ViCAP system via dial-up.
Excellent! That also tells me what she was working on for the FBI as an intern and later part-time programmer and designer, not to mention giving her mentors in Brooks and Kessler, as well as a solid connection with BSU.
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Old 03-22-2016, 05:40 AM   #43
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Default Re: 1980s American Cars, Guns, Gadgets and Consumer Goods [Atmosphere, look, minutiae

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What other programs were there in 1988? Could you connect a fingerprint scanner and send them by modem for analysis at Quantico?
In 1988? That was called a photocopy sent through a fax machine if you didn't mind it being blury. Or a direct five/ten card (a card with the prints of each finger on one/both hands) sent via the postal system.

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Carry around databases of tire tracks, fibers or other forensic evidence, to aid in recognising them, giving a bonus to specific Forensics checks?
In 1988, most computers wouldn't even have a hard drive. And if they did, they were tiny. 20MB was cutting edge for storage capacity. Most likely, they'd have to go through the local department's physical catalog, but even having that wasn't really a concept until the early 90s.
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Old 03-22-2016, 07:42 AM   #44
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Default Re: 1980s American Cars, Guns, Gadgets and Consumer Goods [Atmosphere, look, minutiae

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Carry around databases of tire tracks, fibers or other forensic evidence, to aid in recognising them, giving a bonus to specific Forensics checks?
They don't have the storage or the displays to do that. All these example computers have monochrome displays; good colour displays, with 16 million colours, are a late 1990s thing.

There are commercial databases available on dial-up, each with their own arcane search engine. But they're things like abstracts of scientific journals, not law-enforcement information. They are also expensive to use, about $5/minute. They're being replaced by CD-ROMs as of 1988, and were later replaced by the web.
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Old 03-22-2016, 08:36 AM   #45
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Default Re: 1980s American Cars, Guns, Gadgets and Consumer Goods [Atmosphere, look, minutiae

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In 1988? That was called a photocopy sent through a fax machine if you didn't mind it being blury. Or a direct five/ten card (a card with the prints of each finger on one/both hands) sent via the postal system.
Scanners were reasonably common in '88. You could get a handheld unit (multiple passes per regular page) for a couple hundred bucks and even Apple got into the market.

By that time, IBM PS/2 386 computers, Ataris & Amigas were out, Apple was up to System 6...
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Old 03-22-2016, 08:56 AM   #46
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Default Re: 1980s American Cars, Guns, Gadgets and Consumer Goods [Atmosphere, look, minutiae

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9) hat is it good for? I basically have no idea what computers did, beyond word processing, before they had Internet.... what can more active, adventuring-type people, like FBI agents, use theirs for
Email. Databases. Spreadsheets (which often served as small databases). And taking notes for the inevitable FBI report. Possibly special-purpose software, if there's something applicable. CD-ROM references would be mostly post 1990.

The modem built into the GRiD will come in handy. Before the Internet, there were still networks and standalone systems, commonly accessed over the phone system by dialing a dedicate phone number that had a modem waiting at the other end. Pre-Internet, there was also a large network of systems that exchanged email and Usenet via dialup modems.

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The GRiD is very cool, but may not run the software you need.
It's PC compatible. GRiD marketing may have liked to talk about "GRiD-OS", but it ran MS-DOS. Runs the same software as any PC, off-the-shelf. (Which, now that I'm reminded, probably makes those a "Case" rather than a "Compass". We didn't have the bubble memory mentioned in Wikipedia, either -- which probably helps with the price point, too.)

As far as I know, GRiD sold mostly to the government. If the computer is personal property from Stanford, it seems less likely than the Toshiba. On the other hand, she might get a GRiD from the FBI. Or knowing that she plans to be a field agent, maybe it was worth Daddy's money. And they did market it to executives, so Daddy could well have heard of them.

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In 1988? That was called a photocopy sent through a fax machine
Scanners were certainly available in 1988. (Cheap little ones were, after all, built into fax machines.)

The FBI had "live-scan fingerprint devices" in the 1980s with a spec for minimum image quality, which term is distinct from "card-scan" reporting. So, two types of scanners, plus the physical cards themselves.

"It is important to understand that live-scan devices are digital, that is they represent the information in fingerprints as discrete values rather than as continuous shades of grey produced by ink and paper." (Higgins, "Standards for the Electronic Submission of Fingerprint Cards to the FBI", speaking in 1995 of the history leading up to their planned improvements to their existing system -- the new one to be called IAFIS and to go online in 1997 to replace the then-current AFIS. Well, 1999, as it turned out, and they're just now talking about replacing IAFIS.)

Sounds like you could take a traditional printed card and scan it, or use one of the live-scan devices. Or, indeed, mail in the printed card. It doesn't seem like a stretch for a PC that's a particular computer geek for the FBI to be using the latest tech she can get. We don't even need the "it's a prototype" excuse.

Apparently the first FBI contract for fingerprint scanners went out in 1966, though I think that was for scanning their existing cards back at central HQ. They also created a standard for digital image reporting in 1985 (10 pixels/mm in the scan and 20 pixels/mm), because there was enough of a proliferation of competing equipment in use that they felt a need to standardize it. Bandwidth limitations were enough of a problem in the early 1980s that they were investigating methods into ways of classifying "minutiae" (details about ridges and loops and whorls and so on) in the field and transmitting that instead of images, but that never got settled before advancing modem technology obviated that problem. I came across one report from 2006 that mentioned "many" local agencies still using printed cards at that time. It seems less a matter of technology than budget and will to adopt.

More historical detail here on the development of automated fingerprint ID, though unfortunately it doesn't focus on the field end of things.

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In 1988, most computers wouldn't even have a hard drive.
Depends on whether or not you needed one. In 1988, the GRiDs we used were issued with a twin 10-MB Syquest removable cartridge system that sat underneath the computer and connected via an IEEE-488 (GPIB) cable in the back. These drives took square plastic cartidges, like big thick floppy disks, and the media was rigid. Kind of like the Iomega ZIP drives, if you remember those, except Syquest was doing it earlier. Expandable storage, easily stored in a safe (particularly useful for media with classified information), but not as fast or reliable as a fixed hard drive.

Those Syquest drives were a bit temperamental. Sand and Syquest did not mix well. So they were getting replaced by an external hard disk, a typical 3.5" disk drive, for deployment in Operation Desert Shield, thus before August 1990.

As far as the non-GRiD, non-portable stuff was concerned, all our development machines had hard drives; we (a small company, ~30 people, <$3M revenue) had an Ethernet LAN as well. The principals of the company were the only ones stuck with PCs with no hard disk. The admin staff, graphics, HR, and support all had hard disks. 1988 is a few years later than you're remembering, I think, and PC technology changed faster back then that it does now.
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Old 03-22-2016, 09:11 AM   #47
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Default Re: 1980s American Cars, Guns, Gadgets and Consumer Goods [Atmosphere, look, minutiae

1988 also was the year of the Morris Worm, so the Arpanet already was big enough. And FBI paranoia was the rage in the BBS scene. (Given the pedigree of this site, "paranoia" might be the wrong term, though)

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III. USE NOT THINE OWN NAME WHEN SPEAKING TO OTHER PHREAKS, FOR THAT EVERY
THIRD PHREAK IS AN FBI AGENT IS WELL KNOWN.
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Old 03-22-2016, 10:42 AM   #48
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Default Re: Background for Clayborn Allen (mill owner) and Courtney Allen (preppie son)

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2)
Incidentally, is the Ford F-350 not an option in 1988? I can never understand these types, but I think that's the more powerful version of the F-150.
My dad had a Ford F-250 in the 70's and early 80's. The F-350 was available since 1953, but I doubt many people would have had it as a personal vehicle. It would have been used almost exclusively for commercial use/businesses that need to take fairly heavy equipment on the road.
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Old 03-22-2016, 11:40 AM   #49
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Default Re: 1980s American Cars, Guns, Gadgets and Consumer Goods [Atmosphere, look, minutiae

What I remember about the 80's was fairly primitive space opera, dom-coms, and a few other things. And one thing that was different was that in Oregon you could find more donors to serve coffee.

The Cold War was the biggest thing on the Foreign Policy scene. Islamiscism was known but it was a minor key threat. Domestic politics has more then a bit of continuity. Oh and Reagan was not revered except by his own voters despite modern nostalgia. No sitting president ever is which is perhaps healthy but that is another story.
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Old 03-22-2016, 11:43 AM   #50
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Default Re: Background for Clayborn Allen (mill owner) and Courtney Allen (preppie son)

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Incidentally, is the Ford F-350 not an option in 1988? I can never understand these types, but I think that's the more powerful version of the F-150.
A Ford F150 is a 1/2 ton pick up, a F250 is a 3/4 ton pick up, and the F350 is a 1 ton pickup, this nominally how much they can haul around. Chevrolets and Dodges generally use 1500, 2500, and 3500 numbers for the same thing.
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