This article is initially a comparison between the Real World (circa 2,000 AD) and the Dark Future world (circa 2,000 AD). This article thus assumes that real world computing levels are back at their P3 and G4 processor levels.
In addition, these rules replace those for hacking found in Dead Man's Curve.
Select your choice:
The history and technology
Designing the Datanet
Designing the Hard and Software
Computer engineering and processor power of the Dark Future world are much more advanced than in our real world. With no barriors to block development, technology has become rampant and the average home computer is probably about twice as powerful as in our day. In addition, communication technology hasn't stood still either, and almost every home has the equivilant of broadband as standard.
With computers being so powerful, they have found themselves everywhere, and the average car has enough computing power to make a small electronics company look primative.
While the hardware is powerful and advanced, the software needed to run the applications has also become a lot more advanced too, and the things that can be done these days is incredible. Targeting computers for instance, are smaller and more accurate than anything seen in the past few years.
However, there is a major gap between software used by the corporations and that used by the general public. The graphical user interface that we in the real world take for granted is just not that advanced in the Dark Future world. For comparison purposes, while a typical household computer might well be using a Pentium 4 (or Intel Macintosh) processor at about 4 ghz (with all buses and internal components to match this speed), the operating system GUI is stuck at around Windows 98 or System 8.1. It can do everything the lastest real world OS's can do (and probably a lot more besides), it's just the user interface that needs to be developed.
This is because all serious programmers and operators still use the command line, and it is not uncommon for users to dispense with the 'fancy' front end completely. For many, the black screen display with green text is still the norm.
Another area that is different from the real world is in the use of the internet. In Dark Future, the 'internet' does exist, but differently. There is hardly any world wide web service, instead, there are the Datanets. This has more in common with bulletin boards and newsgroups than anything graphical. All major corporations and organisations have their own datanet and these do link together to form a world wide service. These datanets allow the rapid spreading of news, areas for people to send messages and post articles (which are sometimes private depending on the multicorps) and the like. Most require only a simple news reader to access as graphics is not an issue and most won't have any sort of graphical interface.
Because of this lack of software development, the datanet is not the fancy "cyberspace", "matrix" or "net" that some writers thought it might be. When you jack-in, you don't see any avatars, there are no virtual streets, no virtual clubs, nothing pretty. Instead there is only what you see on the screen projected into your mind. And that's usually black and green.
There are three main ways to access the datanets; these include: using a plug, writing a viruses and being an operator.
Being directly wired into a datanet is the fastest way to go. The brain is actually operating the connection and so the user can operate by speed of thought rather than by having to manually type in and load programs.
The downside is two-fold. Firstly, being wired into the datanet means that any damage that is applied to the user is real damage, and there are many brain damaged operators out there. Secondly the user is limited in the programs that the can use and have running at the same time by the amount of plugs and skillwires they have installed in their brain.
Multiple Plug Users: There are some individuals who can operate more than one plug at a time - there are recorded cases of some people with up to twelve plugs installed! These people can use each plug to do separate things or can use up to three plugs to operate on the same job at the same time. Each installed plug adds psychosis though, so the people who use them tend to start acting like that as well. In addition, with the almost constant datanet connection that these users enjoy, they can start to get withdrawal symptoms very quickly if unplugged, something they are loath to do.
Viruses are programs that have been written to achieve a specific aim. They are a collection of programs grouped together for a task and once that task is completed, the virus then becomes inert. The advantages of the virus are that it requires no operator control - you release the virus and let it go.
The downside is that a virus is inflexible it can't deviate from its goal. In addition, because it contains all the programs that it was written with, it cannot call for help, attempt to use other programs or act outside of its programming. They are widely used in multicorp espionage.
Operator use is simply when an operator gets his keyboard and computer and connects it to the datanets to do some hacking. It is the slowest form of datanet use as the speed is restricted by the quickness of the operator. However, it is the safest form as the most that can happen is the operators' computer being fried. In addition, because it's a computer that is being used, if the operator needs a new program, they can simply load it up. Probably not wise in the middle of combat, but it can be done.