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Revising the science of Traveller

Yeah, 'Bow, I was sort of leaning in the same direction, though for different reasons -- that is, the transistor was TL6, and the network was TL7... although you've made me remember (duh!) that the microchip is concurrent with, and almost a requirement for, the massive flamewars we enjoy today.

Aspects of our world may be TL8, but our computer tech is still TL7. Hang on, let me get my MegaTraveller book out and see where we are on the tech scale...

</font><blockquote>code:</font><hr /><pre style="font-size:x-small; font-family: monospace;">Personal military: TL7.5
Heavy military: TL6
Computers/Robotics: TL7
Comms: TL8.5
Environment: TL6
Medical: TL6.5
Land Transport: TL7.5
Water Transport: TL8
Air Transport: TL8
Space Transport: TL8
Energy: TL8.5
------------------- --------
AVERAGE: 7.4</pre>[/QUOTE]IMTU, we're TL7.
Originally posted by Straybow:
That's why I said I'm not even sure we're really in TL8 for computers. I'd say TL5 is vaccuum tube, TL6 is discreet transistor, and TL7 is the silicon chip. We are deep in mature silicon chip technology, and are only starting to see interesting possibilities for polymer or quantum computer chip tech.

I see the Internet as the dawning of the Information Age, which is more a social/cultural communications tech than a computer tech. Computers are the tools that enable it, a hard prerequisite as it were.
I think we are having a problem with yoiur "no skipping levels" rule. In electromagnetic technology we are
1) Natural magnets
2) Simple circuits (Volta, Ampere)
3) Inductance and capacitance circuits (inc motors and generators)
4) Vacuum tubes
5) Transistors
6) Quantum circuitry?

Microchips aren't a fundamental change in technology, just the upper half of transistor technology.

OTOH, Information technology
1) Language
2) Art
3) Writing
4) Printing Press
5) Electric commo (telegraph)
6) Broadcast commo
7) Interactive electronic (internet)

So todays computer are Electronic TL 5.5 devices part of an information TL 7.1 internet.

And we ought to figure howq many TL to get transister grade silicon, and howdoes thay average in.

The granularity of TL is pretty arbitrary. It has to be. It is a trade classification that imlies what sort of ammenities and threats exist for visitors. That is why Interstellar tech gets six TL, three hundred years from pre Industrial to spaceflight gets six TL, and 250,000 years get only 4.
:confused: Transportation at TL8 and Energy at TL8.5? Is the MT TL scale different?

All I have is the Standard Designs pdf (which I think is T20, but I'm not sure). These are not necessarily the introductory TL, just the TL of the designs presented.

TL4 Primitive Biplane, Cargo Plane
TL5 Jeep, Ground Car, Cargo Truck, Helicopter
TL6 Submersible
TL7 Hovercraft, Hydrofoil, Cargo Jet
TL8 Air/Raft etc

Clearly, if grav tech is TL8 we aren't close. We couldn't even have the cliche "laboratory accident" that discovers it.
Originally posted by Uncle Bob:
1) Natural magnets
2) Simple circuits (Volta, Ampere)
3) Inductance and capacitance circuits (inc motors and generators)
4) Vacuum tubes
5) Transistors
6) Quantum circuitry?
Since electricity as a concept doesn't exist until TL4 we can't start before that. Vaccuum tubes as computing devices are clearly evolved from pre-existing vaccuum tube uses as signal amplifiers. Assigning that to TL5 to "keep pace" with the rest of WWII level tech is a no-brainer. Transisters existed for almost 20 years before the first large-scale integrated circuits came out. This coincides with other historical stuff that has been assigned TL6.

By the "factor of ten per TL" rule of thumb on computer power we'd be TL13 minimum, counting up from TL7 when Traveller first came out. Computer tech is advancing too quickly to reasonably posit such a slow pace, or interpose large gaps in putting exponentially increasing processing power to good use.

My comment about not skipping levels has to do with computers, period. It has nothing to do with assigning tech levels to recorded history, or entirely distinct fields of technology. Each must be evaluated separately.

Given centuries or even millennia of OTU timeline between higher TLs I would argue against "dead" TLs in other fields as well. Not that everything will happen in synch, just that assigning TLs where nothing happens is pointless.
Maybe T5 should break up the lower TLs a bit - make steam engines, primitive biplanes and cargo planes tl5 with everything else and differentiate between the Bronze and Iron Ages. So basically combine tls 4 and 5, make a new tl and move tl 3 up one.

Plus someone said (somewhere) something about combining a couple of higher tls. What about this?
Hey 'Bow,

Yes, it looks like the MT tech scale is different than the reference you're quoting. Interesting...

Hey Jame,

I think when we're dealing with low-tech cultures alone, and comparing one low-tech group with another (for the purpose of warfare and conquest, for example), the TLs could readily be converted to fractional values or some measure of relative progress along a TL, if the referee needs to. And that only to determine who has the advantage in a given situation. The core game itself doesn't need such fine strokes.

In fact, like the UWP, I suspect the TL scale is about as concise as you can get without breaking it. Lower levels of detail would probably turn the tech level score into a tech tree with dependencies, which is cumbersome as well as contentious. I notice that even at the UWP and TL levels there's contention. Drilling down farther might well increase dissatisfaction and complexity, while sacrificing gameplay. In other words, it's for the referee to say, not the core.

I might be overstating that a bit; after all, I think it would be fun to run a bronze-age Traveller game, but I'd be forced to use either fractional TLs to represent different cultures, or rank equipment on a tech tree and indicate where each culture is on the branches of that tree. But I don't think that can be consisely done.
GURPS uses a different scale of tech levels, but I don't think it differentiates between bronze and iron ages. If you really need to do that you should probably be playing a different game.
As I said, TLs in Traveller are not particularly logical. What TL does is give travellers an idea of where to buy, where to sell, where to get repairs, ad where to buy ammo.
TLs make a little more sense when dealing with an indigenous culture's native tech. You could have a TL5 culture that never developed transistors, so they made more extensive use of vaccuum tube and analogue computers. Or the next step, TL6 that didn't tip to the idea of integrating silicon transistors onto a single chip.
What I'd do is move everything between tl4 and tl6 up one, make tl2 the Iron Age, and make tl3 the Middle Ages. Then it'll be perfect.

I sort of like the idea of separating Bronze from Iron, too, though I don't think it's necessary from a Traveller point of view. And I usually think of TL3 as being sort of middle-ageish, that pause before industrialization or something.

Note that Ken Pick enumerated them in that way:
</font><blockquote>code:</font><hr /><pre style="font-size:x-small; font-family: monospace;">TL 0 Stone Age
TL 1 Bronze Age or Ancient
TL 2 Iron Age or Medieval
TL 3 Renaissance to Napoleonic</pre>[/QUOTE]http://www.freelancetraveller.com/features/culture/reference/tech.html
I always though of 3 as the Rennaisance and 4 as Napoleon, but I suppose it's not as necessary as distinction for higher tls. Still'd be cool, though.
imho, tech levels should use a decimal scale..that is...each level broken into tenths. For example 9.4 or 5.7, etc. and each major tech sector ( ala world builder's handbook ) should be tracked individually with overall total being the average. It'd take a bit more effort when detailing a world, but so what?
Rather than assume tech levels represent set breakthroughs, why not ignore the machines and focus on efficiencies which always improve as tech goes up. Power plants increase in power output for a given volume or mass or fuel use as tech goes up...it doesn't matter how it does it, it just does. Let the ref decide, based on efficiencies possible, what the actual mechanism is; whether its IC or turbine of fission or fuel cell....
The same idea can go for nearly any device. Suspensions can support more mass with less volume needed as tech goes up. Transmissions can handle more power per mass as tech goes up. Radios can transmit further with less power as tech goes up...
With a decimal tech level, real differences can be decided by making all values based on tech come from equations as opposed to the standard tables. Thus a tech 6.8 power plant is a bit better than a 6.4 power plant and not just the same from a table with one or two entries over several tech levels of use.
Not a bad plan, if I am understanding you right. Not having the World builder's handbook handy, I don't remember the various tech sectors. But averaging them will give you a ballpark number of where the population should be at. Although it will be fuzzy unless broken down to tech levels for each tech sectors.
Tech level is not a carefull and detailed expresion of a planet's technology. What it is is a quick and dirty shorthand to find places you can unload some deisel tractors or buy a new coil for the air-raft.

A 5.3 doesn't give us any more real info than "5" without a lot of work. Does the .3 mean beter-than-expected antibiotics or maybe they got turbine engines a little early? How many different areas of technology should we analyze? In how much detail?

This is the sort of detail the referee is supposed to fill in.
What are the chances of finding a coil for your air-raft? Does "tech level" matter if I'm looking for parts for a Ford pickup truck? Germany might be equal to the US in automotive TL, but that doesn't mean the industries are compatible. Try finding Skoda parts in the USofA.

Maybe there is standardization of Starship engine parts throughout the Empire, but as one moves down the economic ladder compatability based purely on TL will not apply. Industries on planets separated by many sectors will engineer their own products independently.

At higher TL the local industry may be able to one-off a replacement part based on specs from a manual and competent engineering, but you'll pay for it dearly. Maybe by TL16 it will be standard industry practice to produce on demand, with royalty payments to the original designer, etc.
I wonder if I could return to one of the areas of technology previously raised in this thread, namely sub-light manoeuvre drives.

As I see it there are two main issues: (1) providing energy for the drive; and (2) providing reaction mass for the drive. I am under the impression (perhaps wrongly) that issue (1) isn’t really a problem as long as you accept the provision of fusion power plants as one of the fundamental technological assumptions of Traveller.

As regards the provision of reaction mass, MT side-stepped the issue by including “reactionless thrusters”. Reactionless thrusters get the job done as far as the game is concerned but I imagine many people balked at such a flagrant breaking of the conservation of momentum. The TNE HEPLaR approach certainly addressed the issue of conservation of momentum but at the expense of the game in that vast amounts of reaction mass need to be carried to travel even relatively modest in-system distances in a reasonable time.

One solution to the reaction mass issue that has crossed my mind is a manoeuvre drive based on the acceleration of virtual particles.

I believe that there is more than one meaning to the term “virtual particles” so to clarify, I am referring to the ones that exist as particle/anti-particle pairs by virtue of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle (HUP). I am sure there are others who can explain this better than I can but in essence HUP dictates that even in a vacuum there is uncertainty, at a quantum level, as to the energy present in any location and this uncertainty manifests itself by the spontaneous creation of pairs of particles of matter and anti-matter. Normally these particles collide and annihilate each other very soon after their generation. (As an aside, it is thought that if one particle in the pair passes across the event horizon of a black hole and the other does not then the remaining particle gives rise to Hawking radiation and the eventual evaporation of the black hole.)

Anyway, returning to manoeuvre drives, my thought is that a drive could be constructed that uses such virtual particles as the reaction mass. This would rule out the need for carrying the reaction mass because the virtual particles would exist spontaneously and would not need to be carried at all. In the brief time that the virtual particles existed in the drive they would be accelerated and ejected from the drive. There is a number of ways the particles could be accelerated but it should be a method that will work equally on matter and anti-matter so I would propose that it rely on the generation of a gravitic force (a technology generally available in the Traveller canon).

I doubt that the naturally occurring incidence of virtual particles would be sufficient to provide enough mass to accelerate a craft at the rates to which we are accustomed in Traveller. Consequently, I would also propose the existence of a device which manipulates Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle to increase the rate of generation of virtual particles to the required level. Clearly such a device is well beyond what we can make today but I think it might be plausible to regard it as equivalent to the devices which manipulate the nuclear forces and which are commonplace in Traveller.

Thus the drive would comprise an HUP manipulator to generate virtual particles coupled to a gravitic accelerator for ejecting them from the drive.

You may be wondering where the conservation of momentum fits into all of this. Once the particle pairs leave the drive they will annihilate each other so what happens to the momentum they have? I’m not sure of the answer to this and I leave it to others who may be able to explain it. Perhaps one possibility is that the momentum is passed to the universe as a whole in which case it can effectively be ignored.

Gav, I'v always purported a sllightly different take on the reactionless thrusters: They use the system as reaction mass. Specifically, the primary star. I can thrust for weeks witha million Td ship, and it's 10-15MT mass, even at three G's, is negligble upon the primary as a whole. Maybe, just maybe, you could accelelrate a star by m/year, with coordinated fleet actions.
Seriously, if I want to revise that fictional technology base I would not fiddle around with any maneuver drives, which just are another "magic" propulsion system.
What about really using more realistic reaction thrusters or even ion drives ?
Ok, g-values might be low but in same terms we could simply skip any distance limit for the jump drives (guess we have to keep some magic...).


Recently I went over the MegaTraveller tech tree, and aside from the computers and a couple things I can't put to words, that's what I'd use. The tech level tree is good, but the only thing is, TL 5 should be 1880, TL 6 should be 1930 and TL 7 should be 1955. (I think I've said this before but I'll say it until someone listens to me.)