Alt 80s

The Alt-80’s Universe

20 Minutes Into The Future the world as we know it no longer exists.

“The latter part of the Twentieth Century was to become known as “The Long Wait” because that is what everybody seemed to be doing. On one hand, the promise of unlimited energy, extended life spans, space travel, cures for most major diseases, 5th-generation computers, and future Clint Eastwood movies seemed just around the corner, promising a world of peace and prosperity.

On the other hand, the eminent threat of nuclear war, the steady destruction of the ecosystem, the failure of world economy, the rise of illiteracy and superstition, massive starvation, fear and mistrust of government, and the lack of really good-tasting diet soda seemed to indicate that even IF anybody managed to survive the coming Apocalypse, they’d have a pretty rotten time of it.

So, since the majority of people on the planet were not involved in the decision-making process of scientists or government officials, as the century drew to a close, more and more of Humanity ground to a slow, mental halt and simply waited to see what would happen.”

–Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire

Computers:

In the real world, the early years of personal computers was dominated by Microsoft, IBM, Compaq and Apple. The general purpose personal computer developed the way it did primarily because of the direction of these companies took it. In our world, the early years were instead dominated by the likes of Commodore, Atari and Coleco. The cyberdecks of today are direct descendants of the Amiga’s and Atari machines of the 1980’s.

While most computers have a hard drive as we know it today, it is primarily used for storage of data. The Operating Systems of these machines are kept in ROM on the motherboards and OS upgrades require the user to remove the chip, flash the ROM with a burner and replace it in the machine. For those who have the equipment and the know-how, this process is fairly easy can be done in 15 or 20 minutes, 99% of computer users never bother. Programs are distributed on small cards that slot into the system, the cards are small 1″ x 1.25″ (about the size of an SD card). Inexpensive systems will only have 2 or 3 slots, high end rigs can have as many as 10 slots. This system was set up primarily as a deterrent to software piracy, and basically does not stop pirates for stealing software but it does inconvenience normal users quite a lot.

Big iron computing is dominated by Dec, Honeywell and Burroughs. These companies build the super computers that house the internet and and all the worlds AI.

Artificial Intelligence:

The singularity occurred just a few years ago when a cluster of servers belonging Alta Vista Search Engine became sentient. It is unknown what the company was working on when EGON was born, what is known is EGON is kind of an asshole. There are now hundreds of AI machines and most of them are assholes as well. EGON and his children have brought about a new industrial revolution. AI production is now so efficient and productive that most goods and services have become so cheap even the poorest of people can afford them. The downside of course is massive unemployment and a lot of poor people.

Virtual Reality:

Immersive virtual reality has been available for decades. The major computer manufactures got together and settled on a single relatively simple platform in which to build from called Virtual Reality Markup Language. All operating systems have built in support for VRML, although many clients have proprietary extensions that they allow others to use for a fee. VRML is very flexible and easy to skin, an internet site can build their site to provide a service, but what the end user sees depends on what the end user has chosen for a skin, one user may see a fantasy world, while another may see a Sci Fi style environment. This support has blurred the lines between the local system and the networked world. Almost all computer games since the beginning of computer games have been ported to this platform.

Interfacing with the virtual world ranges from simple goggles with an ear piece to full body haptic suits to designer rooms.

Cybernetics:

Cybernetic limbs are available, although nobody purposely gets them as they are expensive and not much better than a real limb, usually a cybernetic limb is a sign of a veteran. Simple implants are common such as most people will have a cell phone and some amount of storage.

Neuro interfaces are also available, but are expensive

The Internet:

Recently Alta Vista Search became dissatisfied with the way Ma Bell (Bell Systems Inc) was at a glacial pace providing high speed Internet to the population and came up with the idea of creating a wireless mesh network. They literally gave away the wireless routers to anyone who wanted them and charged a very reasonable price for accessing the network. The result was a high speed wireless network that covers most of the First World. Ma Bell still controls the vast majority of the cable, which is now used primarily by Governments and Corporations because they are more reliable, faster and secure.

Politics:

In 1986 the 27th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed, which rescinded the 22nd Amendment allowing Ronald Reagan to run for a third term. In fact President Reagan served an unprecedented 6 terms and was in the process of running for his 7th term when he died June 5th 2004 at the age of 93. As a result a very popular conservative 6 term president, and the “Republican Revolution of 1994”, American politics has been controlled by the Republican party with nearly no significant challenge since. Social Security has been privatized, Medicare no longer exists and there is no longer any social welfare or education programs at the federal level, even transportation has been reduced to highway maintenance between military posts, all of these things are done at the State level to varying degrees of success. A flat tax has been put into place on earned income, there is no longer any taxation on capital gains or inheritance.

Foreign Affairs:

The Soviet Union never fell and the cold war never ended. The USSR instead took the road of China and building a Capitalist economic system while maintaining an aggressively oppressive hold on its people. The USSR provides cheap labor to Europe’s manufacturing base, making it the economic powerhouse of the region. This “Russian Spring” brought about a much closer relationship to Europe, much to the chagrin of the United States.

In 1998 all of the major political figures in Cuba, from Fidel Castro down were assassinated nearly simultaneously. Some say it was the CIA who orchestrated the assassinations, other say it was Che Guevara who had been exiled to Bolivia for several decades. regardless, the resulting chaos and breakdown of government forced the US to send in Humanitarian aide and military forces to keep the peace. Since that time Cuba has been a protectorate of the United States, the old government was completely dissolved, but no replacement was ever built, the country is run out of Guantanamo Bay by a civilian governor, appointed by the President of the United States. Currently Cuba is a popular vacation spot because of its lack of laws concerning things like recreational drugs, gambling and prostitution, all of which are aggressively outlawed in many US states.

The Human Condition:

We are working on it.

Billings Montana:

As a town, Billings has two sides. On the outside it is a clean city in a very scenic river valley. When you are down in the valley, the evening sunset on rimrocks can be breath taking. There are a lot of nice parks and the gentrified downtown area has a lot of quaint stores that cater to the Doctors and Corporate employees of the massive medical complex. The lack of government regulation and enforcement make Billings an attractive site for medical corporations who do a lot of experimental R&D work.

After 80 years of economic downturns and batshit crazy libertarian politics, Billings is a breeding ground for drug traffic and prostitution. There are parts of town that walking around at night will get you hurt and bars in town where knife fights are a nightly event. The lack of government regulation and enforcement make Billings an attractive site for criminal endeavor of all kinds.

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