Personal Global Communications
Personal Global Communications (PGC's) is a catch-all term for a variety of small, portable communications devices that allow individuals instant real-time audio, visual, telemetry, infostreaming and data communications on a global and sometimes inner-orbital scale.
Description / Specifications
Depending on the technology level, PGCs used a variety of different transception media, which were informally gathered under several different categories. Please see the Representative Examples section for more information.
A typical PGC at any given tech level usually consisted of four components:
- Transceiver: This unit would handle the data communications via the band (or bands) used. The sizes vary widely by tech level and type of device: P-wave systems became very small very early, while X-wave devices remained a bit bulkier (in a very relative sense, given their immense power).
- Control unit: A tiny computer that managed the system, its frequency allocation and power usage, and contained other user-specific data, including security, cryptography, and "contact list" applications, among many other.
- Interface: This was the collection of microphones, earphones/transducers, screens and data displays that would allow the user to transmit and receive, as well as to share information among other devices and users, forward data to exterior devices such as large view-screens in dwellings, in offices and on ships.
- . Power Supply: Usually a rechargeable battery, with a connector to allow charging from an external power source - a local or ship power grid, a generator or solar collector, even power-generating clothing.
Advances in technology allowed these units to become radically miniaturized in relation to their power.
These configuration of these devices varied widely by tech level and type of user, and could include:
- Microphone/Speaker/Screen assemblies that slide into or folded over the Transceiver assemblies
- Wireless assemblies that interfaced with earphones, "glasses", helmets, earphones, implants, or other devices appropriate to user physiology.
History & Background / Dossier
Node & Spoke Systems
These systems, built upon TL–7-TL–9 wireless systems, use a network of intermediate stations to take signals from personal devices and re-transmit them globally. A personal device would send a signal to the nearest intermediate station, which would send the signal to the intermediate station nearest the device intended to receive the signal; the transmission between stations was via cable, fiber-optic, satellite or other electromagnetic or electro-optical means.
"NS" systems took advantage of massive advances in electromagnetic conduction, computing, power management, and signal discrimination technology to provide a logarithmic advance in bandwidth, range and power; a single "station" could serve millions of units in a radius of dozens (TL11) to hundreds (TL12+) of miles from the intermediate station.
- The comms systems of many interstellar and intrasystem liners also provided station-like services to passengers' NS systems, allowing them (often) to communicate planetside from the ship.
- This was generally the least technically sophisticated system, and relatively inexensive to the consumer - but it was relatively easy for central authorities or others to eavesdrop.
- NS systems generally work reliably on the system on which they were originally configured; they may be usable in other systems that are under the same basic governmental umbrella (i.e the Imperium, the Principality of Caledon, etc), at the same tech level and have a similar law level
- Absent any of these qualifications, an NS-based PGC will not be usable on a system other than its "home" system without at least a significant software upgrade.
Even less expensive, but less flexible, was a variation on Node and Spoke called "P-Wave". "PWS" systems used modulation (usually phase modulation) in power lines, routed through phase demodulators near large fusion power plans, taking advantage of the radio-frequency (RF) field that naturally radiates from a developed area's power grid. The demodulator stations would route the data to other demodulator stations via fiber-optic, microwave or satellite trunks to other such stations. Such systems were extremely inexpensive - but required being within 10 km (TL–11) and 50KM (TL–13) of a power grid connected to a demodulator. Thus, it became an extremely successful, inexpensive, mass-market option on large-population, TL–12+ systems. PWS was as a rule even less secure (absent sophisticated aftermarket cryptography plugins, illegal on many repressive systems) than NS systems.
- P-Wave systems are almost never portable between different systems.
Satellite PGC Systems
By TL–12-TL–13, mid-range Satellite PGCs (SatPGC) could communicate with geosynchronous satellites provided by mass-market bandwidth providers (for middle-class mass-market consumers), specialized satellites (for people who needed/could afford them), or - with more sophisticated equipment - the either or both. Potentially much more secure, due to the abiliity to programmatically select different satellite destinations and frequencies.
- SatPCGs can interoperate with other SatPCGs, presuming they are configured to operate under local standards.
X-Wave PGCs were the ultimate development; they utilized the ultimate advances in electromagnetic transception technology to allow a reasonably portable system to transmit and receive point-to-point, globally, along with quantum advances in computing and processing technology to allow autonomous hand-held and even implanted devices to build and manage self-supported networks of peer nodes without the need for a centralized network.
Expensive, but incredibly powerful and, with the right technology, utterly secure, they were the apex of electromagnetic PGC technology.