Traveller Computers - examples wanted


Cosmic Mongoose
I've read the rules in the CRB2 (2016 Edition, Page 104) and I think I understand them - but I'd like people to share their experiences of using computers and software, in case I have missed out something useful.

EDIT: Added a PDF of my brief notes on computers in Traveller.


  • computers-in-traveller.pdf
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Banded Mongoose
I'm not sure if I can really help you with that but here are my 2 cents.
I think computers in Traveller have always been somewhat awkward. People of the late 70s had no real idea how computer would develop in the coming years. I think Mongoose Publishing already took a big step in the right direction but a certain awkwardness seems to remain in the representation. It is always a struggle to find a balance between realism/simulation and playability.
We have now a better understanding of how computers can be used, so we can start from there, which means TL-7/8. And we can see certain developments at the horizon, e.g. quantum computer, optical computer, brain interface, holographic displays/interfaces etc.
You can make the use of computers as simple or as complex as you want. We have the rules, that we can use as written. Everything else is up to the referee, such as standard software of today, spreadsheets, text processing, 3D-construction, games, etc.
Want to introduce more complexity in regards to computer? Compatibility, both in software and hardware, is such a big topic nowadays. We have new standards every year or so, which makes it harder and harder to access older tech with new computers. Only through adapters, emulators and such is it possible. You can make computers of different TL incompatible to each other for a start. Make the players create their own adapters or software to interface with an older model.
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Banded Mongoose
Computers can process a certain bandwidth.
Software takes up bandwidth.
You can run as many programs as your computer has bandwidth capacity.
You can swap programs out to make room for other programs.
That's basically it as I understand it - been thinking about making a Traveller computer generator at my site if there is interest.


Cosmic Mongoose
I think the main adjustments I've made are:
* Databases: Varying costs. Varying legality. Varying availability. Varying accuracy.
* Universal Translator (Central Supply Catalogue): Not available.
Thank you for the replies!


Banded Mongoose
On the Universal Translator.... This is unedited, but what I wrote for the CSC update to make it more of an issue than a "magic translation box":

Universal Translator

The Universal Translator package comprises very sophisticated software that allows the real-time analysis of both written and spoken languages. Using a massive database of known languages and multi-tiered algorithms, even previously unknown languages can usually be translated. Languages relying on senses other than sight or hearing, or languages of aliens whose physiology or psychology is unknown or poorly understood may defy the Universal Translator’s capabilities.

A Universal Translator package requires varied input to analyse a language. For unknown languages of moderate complexity, the package’s initial success after the equivalent of an hour of spoken input or equivalent written material is the result of a Difficult (10+) check, to which the software’s operator may add any Science (linguistics) skill as a positive DM. The following complications each add DM-2 to this check:

  • Languages of previously unknown sophonts.
  • Languages relying heavily or primarily on non-visual and non-auditory components.
  • Written language without context (no pictures, obvious symbology, or correlating language text).
This task can be performed ‘carefully’ by consuming six hours’ worth of material to receive a DM+2.

The Effect of this check indicates the accuracy of the translation, with positive results indicating basic comprehension and negative effects indicating inaccuracies and errors of translation. An Effect of -6 indicates that the translator is incapable of understanding the language. Other than this exceptional failure result, the package may attempt additional checks for every subsequent hour of new verbal or written material, with a cumulative DM+1 for every additional check. Once the total Effect reaches +6, the universal translator is able to perform real-time translation similar to the standard Translator/1 package. If the total Effect first reaches DM-6, the universal translator has reinforced systematic errors which will continue to lead to egregious mistranslations.

Universal Translator312Cr25000


When I first started, I was all for making computers more realistic. Now I am of the opinion that they could be simplified even more. I think there is an argument that computers have the same cost regardless of TL. All that varies is the capability (some examples below). Largely the computer is there to do something / provide a bonus so nothing more needs to be added.
Only when you get to using computers to hack into other systems or be an important plot line does anything need to be added. Even then they are the medium via which the action takes place, just as the gun is the medium through which the fight takes place. The only important stat is the bandwidth which fixes what software you can run and therefore what skills/bonuses are in play. The obsticles and difficulties are all decided by the GM as always.

Weight20g250g1 500g5kg20kg
CostCr 150Cr 500Cr 1 500MCr 1MCr 50


Banded Mongoose
It's pretty much true about the price point - the first computer I bought in 1985 cost $1000 for the entire kit.

A decent computer today still costs about $1000 for the entire kit.

With regard to computer capacity - it's always a chasing game. You make a computer with more capacity, somebody will eat that up with software of proportional size. For example, games today take multiple GB of storage on your computer and push the processing power, so even though my new computer is WAY more powerful than my first one, it's still pretty much at capacity.

Another thing I've heard people say is that their phones are better computers than Traveller computers. The thing is, phones depend on the network and have limited storage/bandwidth themselves. Put your phone in "airplane" mode and try to use Google translate, or any program. Some games won't even work without being connected to the network. So I think that argument doesn't hold much weight.

I'm pretty happy with the computer rules, I can't think of many improvements myself - though I'm sure it could be improved.
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