2081 Coding-Kit. Tiblis/Georgia.
The programming and data devices of Zaza Wachtang, her coding kit.
Everything she needed to program electronic devices without networks: energy, data, and compute.
Before the crash, Zaza Wachtang was a systems integrator for individualized consumer electronics appliances. She designed devices according to her customers' requirements. She assembled systems programming or configuring their components. SmartHome or Quadcopter, Pedelec-Sharing or ThermoMax, all appliances contain electronics. They have speech recognition and gesture control, sensors and data processing, cloud connection and power supply, in ever new arrangements and configurations. Zaza Wachtang was specialized in outdoor and off-grid appliances. She built systems that worked without ubiquitous data and compute networks.
Then came the crash.
All networks failed.
Not just electricity, water, and mobile networks. Even computing was no longer available because compute power came primarily from the cloud. Being stored online all data was lost. Voice controlled devices could no longer be operated. Even switching to local gesture control left users without their situation-aware knowledge navigator, which used to rummage the knowledge of the world on its own.
At some point it became clear that the crisis would last longer. One year after the crash, there were still no networks. Normal everyday devices were not usable, not even with an improvised power supply, because everything had relied on networks and online services. Some refrigerators did not work because they used cloud components for control or simply because they contacted the manufacturer to renew the license while trying to boot up (keyword: Kitchen on Demand). Modern bicycles did not brake anymore because no cables have been used by the bike industry since the drive-by-wireless trend of the 2060s. Pay-as-you-go rental bikes would not work without their servers anyway.
Luckily, Wachtang had the experience and the equipment to run IT without online networks. So she was able to repair appliances. Some of them could be reprogrammed. For others, she simulated a network and servers. Zaza Wachtang got things going again. Word got around.
A year after the crash, she was running the ROBOit IT-repair center. Her team not only repaired equipment, but also preserved IT hardware, hardware designs, software, and source codes. By preserving the ROBOit knowledge base and by accumulating infrastructure around ROBOit, she contributed decisively to overcoming the crisis in the Caucasus region.
Zaza worked with this equipment:
- A DIN A4 ePaper Display, sandwiched between a transparent foil and a solid plastic sheet. Actually ePaper can be folded and rolled. However, every device that is still working is highly valuable since there are no more spare parts. Trying to minimize wear and tear bending the ePaper must be avoided at all cost. So people also dispense with multitouch in order to protect the paper. A gesture scanner is mounted at the edges of the paper instead.
- Several multi-functional networking hubs: small boxes that can connect all electronic parts with so called net-threads. A hub can connect display, storage, compute, grok, network, and input devices. It can communicate wirelessly. This was the standard operating mode before the crash. But since there is no ubiquitous power supply anymore, wired operation is more practical, because net-threads carry not only data but also power.
- A memory bank with all of humanity's public knowledge from before the crash and also lots of free space. The data is now worth its weight in gold, as it includes operating instructions, circuit diagrams, and software needed for repairs.
- A compute cube for classical numerical data processing with 2,000 k CPUs of 10 Tops each. Local computing power is rather unusual in the consumer sector. The cube comes from a scientific institute. It has an 8 x 8 net-thread array for fast local storage.
- A professional grokker: neural network hardware for cognition-oriented tasks such as speech recognition, data segmentation, problem classification and automatic modeling. This is a rare item from a data center of a former cloud service provider in Baku.
- A commercially available hardware firewall. The firewall contains specialized compute and grok elements that perform simulation-based analysis to detect aggressive traffic. This is an absolute necessity because all devices are contaminated with web life. Though most of these virtual life forms are harmless. Immune systems or not, you do not want any of them on your private devices.
- Power bank plus charging crank, an old but robust Nanotube capacitor battery with enough power to supply all components for a fortnight of typical consumer tasks: a mix of network research, media usage, game simulation, voice recognition, and text comprehension.
- A 50-year-old mechanical one-hand keyboard as fallback for the gesture scanner. The keyboard has a modern net-thread adapter interface.
- About 100 net-threads of different lengths, from 10 cm to 10 meters.
- An improvised net-thread splicer without the usual integrated 3D printer. The splicer joins recycled connectors instead of printing new connectors directly onto threads.
- Several 10 TB sticks, the standard for removable storage at the time. The sticks are small tubes, one centimeter long and two millimeters thick. They are just big enough to be handled easily. They are in fact network attached storage units integrated into a net-thread connector.
2091 Tree of Life. Shackleton Crater on the Moon.
A bonsai in a transparent flower pot from the Yue Liang Gong moon base.
The oldest and only surviving plant of the station.
The plant was the mascot of the hydroponics department. It came to the moon station in 2045 as a seedling with the private luggage of a taikonaut. For several years the plant grew without the mission management knowing. The hydroponics staff diverted fertilizers and minerals from the crop plants and over time they extracted some topsoil from composted plant remains. The crew pruned the bonsai to keep it small and hidden by the crops. But in 2055 it had to be moved from the hydroponic container to a larger container. The station crew 3d printed a flower pot made of transparent plastic. This process caught the attention of mission control. An investigation of the matter brought the bonsai to light.
At that time, in the early days of space travel, resource consumption was meticulously monitored. From the point of view of the mission management, the bonsai was an irregular experiment conducted by the crew on their own. Resources used by this experiment were lacking in the overall planning. In addition, the mission management could not tolerate unauthorized activities of the crew. They demanded that the biomaterial be returned to the station cycle. The hydroponics employee in charge of recycling the bonsai resisted the order. Instead of composting the plant, he hid it behind a console casing. Another year passed with an improvised lamp and a low condensation driven water supply. Then the plant was rediscovered.
In order to forestall the now renewed threat of composting, the station crew unanimously submitted a petition to save "Fusang, their tree of life". The petition text was ironic and entertaining. The style was so different from the usual rational and concise mission protocols that some ground station staff thought it was a particularly creative test message and did not think it would fall under the usual secrecy. Somehow the petition got into the public net, where it was taken seriously by some people. The text went viral. Within a few days, a "Save Fusang" movement emerged in social media. The psychological department of mission control finally supported recognizing the bonsai officially as an experiment and thus saved it from composting.
Another ten years later, the Yue Liang Gong base has grown considerably. It has a permanent crew of 20 and is preparing to double its capacity. Nuclear-powered plasma tractors of the Chinese space program shuttle between earth and moon orbit. Each new rocket brings hundreds of tons of material to the moon base.
Then in the early 70s, the economy collapses. Even major earth powers lack the funds for space programs. Transports to the moon are suspended. Ten of the 24 Taikonauts leave Yue Liang Gong Station 2071 as scheduled. But there is no replacement personnel. Stays are stretched out to bridge the difficult times. However, the situation on earth is getting worse and worse. In the following year eight taikonauts return to earth orbit using the station's rescue capsules. There is no transport capacity to evacuate the remaining six. They are preparing to stay on for a long time. The six, the so called "Lianggong Six", benefit from the greatly expanded life support and the enormous size of the station, which was built for 40 people. Hydroponics produces enough food for twenty. Surpluses are freeze-dried and stored. This is simple on the moon with vacuum easily accessible and temperatures of minus 150 degrees Celsius in eternal shadow.
The supply situation is good. But maintenance of the station is a problem. The station is too big for six people. Out of 40 planned taikonauts at full capacity, 25 were supposed to work in station engineering and life support. The technology of the moon station is complex. Basically, it is a space station like the old ISS. It lies on the lunar surface, but the technology is the same. And it is equally demanding.
Without scientific operations, they only need half of the technical staff. Twelve engineers can keep the station up and running easily. At a minimum, eight technicians would be enough if they have the right combination of skills. But of the remaining six, only four are technical. And after an accident during an outdoor activity in 2078, only three are still operational. That's not enough. They cannot solve all technical problems. Maintenance cycles are stretched. More and more failures remain unrepaired. And the material ages. It is not replaced by new equipment as has been planned. Especially the moon dust causes problems. Cleaning equipment and space suits requires a lot of personnel and resources. This is no longer possible. So, every outdoor activity turns into a risk. Some modules start leaking air. Some due to micrometeorites. Others break because of the omnipresent moon dust, which settles in bearings and seals. Some modules must be isolated and disconnected. The station fragments. There are technical areas that can only be reached from outside. This poses an additional obstacle to maintenance work.
Then in 2088, the fusion reactor fails. The cooling facility of the cyclotron converter breaks down. It had not been inspected for years. The superconducting coil quenches, it loses its superconductivity and residual currents melt the coil. The reactor switches off automatically. Before the shutdown, fast alpha particles hit surrounding devices and walls. The area is slightly radioactive. No comparison with radiation levels of fission reactors. But the damage cannot be repaired by means of the station and with the available know-how. The solar collectors still provide power, yet much less. Also, the solar modules are old and dusty. They generate only a fraction of their original output.
Many facilities and station modules including the hydroponics food production must be shut down. The bonsai Fusang, the small tree of life, is moved over to the last active habitat module. In the year 2090 the situation becomes untenable. Food supplies are running out, the oxygen level falls, and outdoor activities are no longer possible. The station sends distress calls. But the six taikonauts are the last humans on the moon. No one can help.
There are still people holding out in earth orbit. They are also cut off from earth. But they have more people, more skills, and more technical capabilities – and no moon dust. Years ago modules of several nations met at the Indian space station if their orbital parameters allowed a synchronization of orbits. For 20 years they have survived in the so-called "Dher", the garbage heap. The Dher organizes a rescue operation for the Lianggong Six. An improvised rescue capsule reaches the Yue Liang Gong moon base in 2091. Three of the last four Taikonauts can be rescued. They reach the Dher in earth orbit after a dramatic journey.
Eighteen years later, the first taikonauts of the new space program of the Zhu Republic enter the Yue Liang Gong base. In the entrance to the habitat module they find Fusang. The small bonsai stands with its plastic pot in the middle of the open air lock, shock frozen and preserved for eternity.
In the year 2115, the new Zhu Moon base is established close to the old Yue Liang Gong Station. In the beginning it is a small venture, occupied by only five taikonauts and Fusang, who is carefully thawed and revived.