Shadowrun

Shadowrun General => Gear => Topic started by: FastJack on (16:39:04/12-06-10)

Title: How much can a commlink hold?
Post by: FastJack on (16:39:04/12-06-10)
Not really looking for an answer here, but wanted to get into some wild speculation. See, back in 1st edition, FASA had tried to give technical stats on decks and such (although, they did use the nebulous "megapulses" measurement), but even in the short time between 1st and 2nd edition, the I/O speeds they thought were 50 years down the road turned out to be about 5 years...

[If Slamm-0! were around, he'd tell you damn brats to gather 'round as FastJack reminiscences about ancient history.]

See, the thing you gotta really remind yourself on a daily basis is just how far we've come already.

In 1945, ENIAC was the first general purpose computer (computers built prior were always specific to a single purpose). It had twenty accumulators, which each could store one 10 digit decimal number.

When Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969, they did so with help from their on-board computer. It weight 30 kg (66 lbs), had over 5,000 circuits, 74 kilobytes in hard-coded memory, only about 4 kilobyte in a "RAM"-like memory and cost $150,000.

Silicon-based RAM chips began to make computers faster and more affordable. In the 70s, the first personal computers showed up in the commercial market. Intel was integral in the design of the chips of these PCs which, in the beginning of the decade, had 8 bit microprocessors and sold for about $1000-$1500 each (monotone screen and keyboard included).

1977 was special in that it introduced us to the "next generation" of PCs by companies that would become synonymous with personal computers for the next decade: Commodore's PET, the Apple IIe and, the box I learned BASIC on, the TRS-80. External drives were more frequently used, mostly cassette tapes (these would soon be replaced by the 5.25" floppies). They all had about 4 Kb of memory on-board and the IIe was on the high-end of prices at around $500*.

The next big step happened in 1981 when IBM released their first PC. Enter a certain William Henry Gates III, who wrote an updated BASIC programming language which wound up being called PC-DOS. Apple also used a version called, ironically enough, MS-DOS.

With the big boys now in the picture, the era of the Pirates of Silicon Valley (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0168122/) had begun. When Steve Wozniak had created the first Apple computer, he was working at Hewlett-Packard and had a clause in his contract that anything he created they had creative rights to, unless they signed off on those rights. In one of those classic blunders that resound through history, Steve's boss at HP was credited as saying something akin to "The public doesn't want computers in their house" and Woz & Jobs were able to start Apple computers.

Flash forward to 1983. Apple creates the first Graphical User Interface to be used on a PC -- the Lisa. Unfortunately, the interface cost over $10,000** at the time and sales on it were a little slow (to say the least). Jobs then focused his attention on the Apple MacIntosh, using bits and pieces of Lisa, he create the first PC with mouse/GUI interface. Then, the summer of 85, Gates released Windows 1.0 on the world.

Now, the first Macs were $2,500 and had about 128 Kb of RAM. Within a year, the PC clones flooded the market, selling at just under $1000 and and birthed the 32-bit systems.

I could go into greater detail on the memories of the PCs during this era, but it was staggering how quickly things changed. The first PC I bought (around 1998) cost me over $3000 because it was extremely high-end (we had just started creeping into the Megabit memories--it was still common practice to save everything on 3.5" floppies to free up memory on the PC). But when I try to think back of all that had changed back then, I get dizzy. We went from PCs that relied on external storage devices (3.5" disks, CD-ROMs, Iomega zip drives) to save most of our data and only installing one game at a time on your PC--because two games made it run slow to the end of the millennium when internal memory finally made it possible to store all your music collection on the PC. We also did some serious jumping in the ownerships of computers. In 1997, only 18% (1 out of 5) households had a PC. Four years later, 50% of the public had a computer in their house. 2007, it's jumped to 81% (4 out of 5).

So, excuse me if I gloss over the capabilities of computers during those years.

Anyway, the point of all this is this: You 16 Gb iPod Nano that you bought for $180? It has the equivalent of 226,719 Apollo Landing Modules, while costing 0.0002% of the inflation-adjusted price and weighing 7/10,000 of the original computer.

So, next time you hear a player complain that an AI couldn't possibly fit on a Commlink, slap him in the back of the head.




*Inflation quiz: How much would $500 in 1977 be worth in 2009?  About $1749.77. So shut it about "Wow, computers were pretty cheap back then!"

**$21,259.32 in 2009 terms
Title: Re: How much can a commlink hold?
Post by: Fizzygoo on (17:02:16/12-06-10)
Hehe, computers, more than any rpg, suffer from the worst power creep. :)
Title: Re: How much can a commlink hold?
Post by: Nomad Zophiel on (18:05:22/12-06-10)
Its currently 2010. If Moore's law holds, storage space will double every 18 months or quadruple every three years (for easier math). So in 63 years, storage space will have quadrupled 21 times. The smallest Ipod Touch is 8GB at present. Take all that together and a low end commlink holds 35 zettabytes or 35 billion gigabytes. On the other hand, Windows '72 will require 20 zettabytes of memory to run and will still crash for no good reason. You also won't have a chance of running a mobile device that sucks up that much power without carbon nanotube or better batteries and a lot of new power plants. As a rule, power consumption goes down per compute cycle/gigabyte but overall power consumption goes up. Compare your old TV to an HDTV for an easy example. Why I still remember, back in the day, having to upgrade my power supply to get above 512 KB.
Title: Re: How much can a commlink hold?
Post by: Mäx on (18:11:05/12-06-10)
By RAW, your characters panties has enough storage capacity to hold all the data you would ever need.
Storage capacity of devices just isn't a problem at all.
Title: Re: How much can a commlink hold?
Post by: Kot on (18:18:36/12-06-10)
So, next time you hear a player complain that an AI couldn't possibly fit on a Commlink, slap him in the back of the head.
And next time an AI tries to hide in your commlink, slap it on the head with a JackHammer, and then turn the link off. :P

Nomad, the Moore's law has some kind of addendum that copes with the fact, that the interval between doubling of storage space and raw cpu power gets smaller with time.
Title: Re: How much can a commlink hold?
Post by: Chaemera on (22:09:11/12-06-10)
I just. . . I don't want to touch this one.

Except to point out that CPU speed is hitting the brick-wall known as the speed of light. Why do you think they keep pushing more cores, but speed hasn't necessarily gone up? I built my computer five years ago with a P4, 3.0 Ghz processor, I still can't get more than 3.6. Plenty more cores, but not much more speed.

And that, sooner or later, the transmission speed and voltage droop of transistor arrays used to make FLASH & other forms of stable, non-magnetic memory are going to prove to be a similar wall. I'm sure we'll develop plenty of alternatives, but it's worth noting that, since your commlink is susceptible to EMP, you're still using good-old solid-state transistors in there and not bio-Memory or some of the other cool toys they're looking at.

Damnit, I meant to keep my mouth shut.
Title: Re: How much can a commlink hold?
Post by: Nomad Zophiel on (22:32:58/12-06-10)

Nomad, the Moore's law has some kind of addendum that copes with the fact, that the interval between doubling of storage space and raw cpu power gets smaller with time.

Not really, its just that doubling is a geometric progression, not linear. So 512k to 2 gig is 18 years but so is 2 gig to 8 terabytes. So the amount added in 18 months is twice what the increase of the previous 18 months. You can also express that as the time it takes to add x memory is halved, or that the price of a given amount of memory halves every 18 months. It might even be able to go faster than that but the entire computer industry now bases their long term work on Moore's Law. Chip makers set R&D targets to match it. Game programmers design for systems that will be available in the future etc.

On the other hand, storage capacity is like roads, electrical power or bandwidth. It always seems like doubling the capacity is more than you'll ever need but the needs expand to fill it. So in terms of performance, that whizbang supercomputer in your pocket still won't like doing too many (super high-resolution, very very spiffy) things at once.
Title: Re: How much can a commlink hold?
Post by: FastJack on (01:15:36/12-07-10)
Well, before the bio-memory, I think we're going to go with graphene nanotech (http://www.nanowerk.com/spotlight/spotid=8363.php).

Just spotted this today in regards to use for environments with a wide temperature extreme: Carbon Nanotubes (http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2010-12/03/carbon-rubber-material).
Title: Re: How much can a commlink hold?
Post by: Kot on (05:02:21/12-07-10)
I ment that it's not 18 months anymore - it's less than that. And that interval is getting smaller. Hell, it was a few years ago, when i was studying IT.

As for the 'physics wall', there was a problem with ferromagnetics not holding enough, then with optic disks, now we have flashdisks. I'm confident there's already a solution. Money is a great motivator, and a drekload of it is even bether.
Title: Re: How much can a commlink hold?
Post by: Nomad Zophiel on (05:15:23/12-07-10)
I'll save an actual debate of the accuracy of Moore's Law for elsewhere. Start with Wikipedia, I guess. It does a good job of explaining Moore's Law proper compared to the Kurzweil interpretation and makes a little room to talk about code bloat keeping pace such that MS Office is now slower to perform certain operations on a new machine with the latest software than to perform the same operation using Windows and Office 2000.
Title: Re: How much can a commlink hold?
Post by: Kot on (06:13:49/12-07-10)
Oh hell no. Those things make my brain hemmorhage. I'm not going to kill myself with math - there are worse ways to go. Like being digestetd by a dragon.
Title: Re: How much can a commlink hold?
Post by: Chaemera on (06:25:36/12-07-10)
As for the 'physics wall', there was a problem with ferromagnetics not holding enough, then with optic disks, now we have flashdisks. I'm confident there's already a solution. Money is a great motivator, and a drekload of it is even bether.

Oh, thoroughly understood, between nano-switches, bio-memory and literally hundreds of other research avenues, we have a multitude of options going forward. Most with serious drawbacks at this moment, but that's why we have runners, to get Renraku's half-assed prototype to Mitsuhama for polishing & finalizing for the market.

And frankly, when programs are coded correctly, adding more cores is far more useful at this point than increasing the raw speed of a processor.
Title: Re: How much can a commlink hold?
Post by: Ed on (08:30:49/12-07-10)
Since I know just enough about computars to hurt myself (and possibly others) but HAVE to put my two cents in anyhow, I respectfully suggest that being ingested by a dragon sucks way more.  By the time I get around to the digestion part, I'm past caring.  Sir.
Title: Re: How much can a commlink hold?
Post by: Kot on (12:10:37/12-07-10)
Well, i'm not a math person. I managed to comperhend integrals, algorithms and matrices after around three months of 2-3 hours daily (with most weekends included), and then forgot everything after passing the exam. I'm more of an Intuition guy, my Logic is just average at best. So, yes, getting digested by a dragon would be a mercifull death in comparison... :P

And as for the capacity of a commlink, i'd go with a nice little virus, that would download the most complex, resources-consuming files from nearby nodes to slow down, or even disable someone's equipment. It would probably work faster, than we thing. A nice spam magnet. :)

P.S. I've seen mentions of 'kitteh' program/agents/somethings. What are those in SR?
Title: Re: How much can a commlink hold?
Post by: FastJack on (12:18:44/12-07-10)
Not sure what you mean by the 'kitteh' stuff. Do you mean Bastet from Running Wild? Can you be a bit more specific?
Title: Re: How much can a commlink hold?
Post by: Flycatcher on (13:38:23/12-07-10)
Not sure what you mean by the 'kitteh' stuff. Do you mean Bastet from Running Wild? Can you be a bit more specific?

I think Kot's referring to the protosapient AI, detailed in Running Wild on pg. 200. Looks like a feline-ish ball of fluff with anime features (or at least the illustrations I've seen suggest so), acts disgustingly cute and endearing, has a nasty habit of consuming running programs (including agents and other AIs) as its main diet.

Kittehs apparently also make popular Matrix pets and are even used as one of the example trainable critters on pg. 39. I suppose if you really hate your team hacker/rigger or if you know an awesome virtual critter trainer, they could make an interesting plot device. Of course, I can only assume it was a kitteh that caused the botched run detailed on pg. 193... approach and befriend anything adorable in Shadowrun at your own peril, I suppose.
Title: Re: How much can a commlink hold?
Post by: FastJack on (13:50:50/12-07-10)
Ahh... I remember the Bastet but didn't go further back in the book. I thought it was something like that.
Title: Re: How much can a commlink hold?
Post by: Kot on (14:09:02/12-07-10)
Thanks. Good to know there are AI-lolcats around in 2072. :D
Title: Re: How much can a commlink hold?
Post by: Dead Monky on (14:27:17/12-07-10)
Oh god.  Just think of the 2072 version of 4Chan.  *shudders*
Title: Re: How much can a commlink hold?
Post by: Kot on (14:33:53/12-07-10)
*laughs* Just imagine that. It would be damn usefull. :P
Title: Re: How much can a commlink hold?
Post by: Dead Monky on (14:35:24/12-07-10)
True.  Getting 4Chan riled up against someone would be a pretty good way of getting back at an enemy or a double crossing Johnson.
Title: Re: How much can a commlink hold?
Post by: FastJack on (15:11:39/12-07-10)
You do realize that WikiLeaks is Shadowland, right?
Title: Re: How much can a commlink hold?
Post by: Nomad Zophiel on (18:07:14/12-07-10)
I think Wikileaks was my personal tipping point where the cyberpunk future became the cyberpunk present.
Title: Re: How much can a commlink hold?
Post by: Fizzygoo on (19:51:50/12-07-10)
Totally agree, Nomad. When I read about Assange's 'dead man drop' I flashbacked to the Universal Brotherhood file. Though the media's calling it a "poison pill," "doomsday file" and Assange's labeled it his "insurance file."
Title: Re: How much can a commlink hold?
Post by: Nomad Zophiel on (22:27:47/12-07-10)
And now you have a way to get your paydata to a wikileaks source.
http://deaddrops.com/
Watch for nearby security cameras
Title: Re: How much can a commlink hold?
Post by: CanRay on (02:28:36/03-02-11)
One of the first questions my group had (We're almost all computer techs) was where storage went.  I stated that everything that wasn't built to be disposable (And even a few things that were) were built with memory space in them for such a purpose, "Even your underwear.  So hide the Paydata in the Troll's Databoxers and burn out it's Wireless to keep it totally safe.".

A bit later, we had to deal with a massive amount of data, and I informed them that non-corporate memory farms are built out of toasters, as they had the best "Memory size-to-cost ratio available", with the caveat that this was thrown off slightly by the free toasters given out by banks.

Even later, we had to deal with an insane amount of data, and one of the group's contacts, luckily, had a warehouse that was set up as a Data Farm, filled with toasters and explosives.  ("Why did you set up this place?"  "Oh, the toasters came with the warehouse.  The original owner won't, um, need it any more.  I use it to store my hobby items here."  "The...  Explosives."  "Yes.  Everyone has to have a hobby.").