Dark Heresy - STC
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  STC Computing Devices  Contributed by Mark OllardFriday, 03 October 2008 The computers of the 41st Millenium are in one sense complex and sophisticated machines, yet in other ways they seemcontrived and horribly crude. Why? The answer to that conundrum lies at the heart of the technology used to build them,and thats what this article will discuss. The Nature of Imperial Computing Technology The computers of the earliest days of the Imperium became very sophisticated, and according to legend, veryindependent of their users. It was recognised however that many citizens of the Imperium simply had no idea how to useor program such a machine, and that the need to use one was always a possibility. For these reasons, those mendesigned a modular system of computer hardware and programming as part of the Standard Template Construction thateven a layman could use. The idea is that software isn't written in detailed codes, but assembled from logic blocks thatperformed simple tasks and decisions, and in many ways the system resembled a virtual flow chart. In effect, the difficult job of programming was already done. The STC software system was designed to be childs play. Although it may seem crude and inefficient, its possible to linkthese blocks together into networks of actions and decisions in very sophisticated ways. For those who need simplertasks, a modest program might be linked together in minutes. The Legio Cybernetica employ this STC system to programtheir battle robots, though it must be said, they only have access to a limited number of different blocks, require very littlesophistication, and we were honest, it must be noted they aren't terribly enlightened about their work. The means bywhich these blocks are linked is dependent on the hardware it occupies. The Adeptus Mechanicus often build circuitboards that house a single logic block, or perhaps a more sophisticated 'black box' containing several if its known thatcertain logic must be utilised when the machine is designed. These components are then wired together and the wiresthemselves form part of the decision network, so you can imagine the frightening complication of adapters, wires, micro-fiber bundles, power cables, data ribbons, relay grids, inter-nodal conduits, distributor racks, switch frames, and so on.The Interface and the UserConnected to these basic elements are peripherals, interfaces, controls. There is no standard way of setting up acomputing device, save only that it does what the creator desires and only that. The means of getting the device to dowhat you want varies too. For some devices, the logic blocks are linked by variable controls, such as buttons, levers,wheels, touchpads, or interactive holo-displays. Although this idea would be the basis of something more generalpurpose, such installations are by their nature much more complex to use and trained technicians become necessary tohandle the crude control they exercise. in effect, the more complex machines require skilled 'drivers'. Some require a dedicated and knowledgable staff of thousands such as the extraordinary Macro-Analysers of theAdministratum collating sites. Most devices are functionally simpler than that. There are many systems that handlemundane functions with but a touch of a single button. A collected set of buttons, often called a 'keypad' or 'keyboard'might be used to control the device. Sometimes a touch-screen, or hand-held devices that act as extensions of the limbs.Sometimes special sockets are fitted that require a servitor to operate it. Some advanced devices utilise vox-interpretors,spinal links, or in rare cases, mind impulse units.Maintenance and RepairIn many ways the technology involved is basic as far as the user is concerned. The 'black box' approach means they donot concern themselves with the detailed binary languages, if indeed such things are still understood in the 41stMillenium. Dark Reign | The Unofficial Warhammer 40K Roleplay Sitehttp://www.darkreign40k.comPowered by Joomla!Generated: 19 April, 2009, 17:59  If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If its broken, find another or cobble something together that does the same job. Mainteneanceand repair is as simple as that. Armed with a blueprint of the device, the technician can literally follow the flow chartthrough the physical devices and locate the module that is causing the problem. Setting up the replacement module andconnecting it correctly is largely something they learn by rote rather than any intrinsic understanding.Storing Data Data storage can vary too. Simple hand-written notes suffice for basic machines, but for those occaisions when fargreater data storage is necessary a whole plethora of connectible devices are possible. Punch cards, tape readers,magnetic disks, solid-state memory, data-streamers, holo-crystals, specialised servitors, or even bio-synaptic networks,are all potential memory containers, and whilst some are small and conveniently carried in the palm of a hand, one mightlike to consider the largest disk drive employed by imperial statiticians at almost a kilometre in diameter, with severalhundred thousand readable layers, requiring several dedicated power plants to maintain operation. An entire continentsupports its use. Stories of larger components than that persist in myth and legend.The Sentient machine Artificial Intelligence is not so easily constructed by these methods, partly because the system isn't designed for thatapplication, but also because of the ridiculous number of logic blocks that would be needed to create anything trulysentient. So it should be clear that whilst some clever devices can communicate to a user in some limited form, byprinted text, screen display, or audio, they only follow a rigid pattern of alternatives, and for the novice user of such adevice to process will be frustrating. The reader is no doubt aware that artificial intelligence does exist. Many of the sentient machines are very old, and builtto a far more sophisticated level than the remnants of STC generally used in the 41st Millenium. There is a distinctionbetween sentient hardware and intelligent software. The hardware version functions as an electro-mechanical brain, andwhatever programming it uses, its the physical design that makes the sentience possible. Devices like these are readilytested when found, and if sanctioned by the Adeptus Mechanicus, become highly valuable assets. Intelligent software isanother matter. By its very nature, it is 'portable' and thus intrinsically independent of the machines it inhabits. There arehorrific stories of servitors connecting to machines that harbour such things, and finding themselves controlled or even re-programmed by the AI. By and large, this adaptability and potential to spawn copies and grow is of deep concern to theAdeptus Mechanicus, who often go to great lengths to isolate AI programs or even eradicate them.GuidelinesClearly the machines are going to vary enormously in capability and reliability. What must be stressed is the imperialtechnology, such as it is, remains trapped in a dark age, and for that reason the devices and programs they construct areno more complex than the tasks for which they are designed and built.For imperial computing then the following points should be borne in mind.  - The Imperium is in a technological dark age. Some know how to connect the boxes together, but the boxes aremysterious. - The technology is deliberately simplified but very crudely exploited. Devices are built up almost like childrens buildingblocks. - There are no standard computers, only standard components. Computing devices tend to be basic customised designsand not multi-functional.  Dark Reign | The Unofficial Warhammer 40K Roleplay Sitehttp://www.darkreign40k.comPowered by Joomla!Generated: 19 April, 2009, 17:59   - The methods of internal connection are labyrinthine, so reliability of the system is not assured. - Computing devices are readily expandable, if you know which connection to make. - Many devices require expert users, some devices require entire cohorts of specialised technicians. - Programming, or re-programming, is simply a matter of changing the relationship between logic blocks provided youknow which block does what. - The means of interacting with any given device might be a simple button push or a mind-meld. Or simply handing in asigned request form in triplicate to the operators and waiting a century or two in the queue. - The components available to technicians depend on supply, or what part of the ancient STC catalogues they canaccess. Dark Reign | The Unofficial Warhammer 40K Roleplay Sitehttp://www.darkreign40k.comPowered by Joomla!Generated: 19 April, 2009, 17:59
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