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This article takes an up-close look at Chronocoms and their functionality in the Frontier. Ideas presented in this article are in use in my personal campaigns, in an attempt to correct a small portion of the naivety of the 1980’s view of the future presented by the original editions of this game. At the same time, I try to keep the feel of this naivety by not going overboard with where personal communications might actually be in a society that spans the stars, as that might ruin the “frontier” feel to the game system.

History of the Chronocom

The first appearance of a wrist-worn communications device came from the expedition to explore the Timeon system, by environmental scientists getting samples and performing atmospheric tests of Lossend in 148PF. They commissioned the communication devices in order to keep their hands free to use their envirokits while still keeping in verbal touch with one another. At that time in history, humans, Vrusk, and Dralasites had already coordinated their frequencies and standardized on a communications methodology that was in line with Yazirian technology – but until this voyage, all communication was via hand-held devices. This early “handycom” could tell the time and could communicate on a single open frequency for 2.5km, resulting in small expeditionary trips from the mission’s landers.

As the need for more portable communications gear rose, and people began settling the systems of the Frontier, the handycom evolved. Slowly taking more of the functionality of other hand-held devices, by 50PF it already had most of the functions of the Chronocoms sold in the modern Frontier. But the military still hadn’t gotten a hold of it.

In 12PF, as PanGalactic Corporation was fighting for supremacy over the stars on a corporate front, agents of this and other corporate upstarts began clashing over unexplored and unclaimed prizes throughout the Frontier. These clashes seldom took the form of corporate mergers and negotiated financial arrangements: the Frontier was heating up, and it wouldn’t throw these differences aside for another 15 years when the Sathar would arrive.

During these 15 years, the more militant elements of the maga-corporations began adding their needs to the otherwise domestic application of handycom technology. Multiple channels of communication became necessary to coordinate larger scale efforts, and longer range became vital. The military required occasional subspace relay of communication, and demanded the development of secure encryption. Each corporation worked independently to create functions for the com gear of their special teams (of course, nobody called them armies – this was a corporate cold war). Many of the advanced features of the modern Frontier Chronocom are credited to the bright corporate minds of this era.

When the Sathar arrived in 3PF, corporations temporarily set aside their differences to fight this common enemy – and were forced to share trade secrets about their technologies. Before the fated meeting on Morgaine’s World that would lead to the formation of the United Planetary Federation, the technical department figureheads of each of the megacorporations met at the first Corporate Technical Conference on Lossend (Timeon system – in the same building in which the handycom was engineered nearly fifteen decades ago) to discuss formulating a better way for the Frontier to pass information, media, and communicate. The schematics of the subspace communications network (later to be known as S-CoN) was born from this meeting, and a new standard was born in portable communications: the Chronocom.

Satellite Communication Network

All worlds with Heavy or Medium population are covered by S-CoNs in the modern Frontier. Planets with Light populations lack satellites but have relay towers located at strategic locations to allow major population centers that exceed 5km in size to have the exact same coverage as a world monitored by a satellite – but as soon as you leave the major population centers the digital signal fails and you’re back to using radio broadcast channels. Outpost worlds typically have no such towers, but entire population centers are usually within 5 kilometers in diameter.

The satellites themselves are made by Nesmith Enterprises of Triad – NET. They were built during Sathar War I to keep the forces of the corporate armies in touch while building the fleets that would later help form the fleets of the United Planetary Federation. The satellites are self-sustaining and are monitored by engineers around the clock, typically from remote locations. When a satellite goes down, Nesmith Enterprises of Triad can dispatch technicians to work on it within a day. All mega-corporations pay a small fee to NET for use of their services, which keeps the services free for the rest of the Frontier’s population.

The satellites are able to pinpoint someone’s location but will only do so for licensed Star Law detectives with proper clearance, and only under certain circumstances. For a huge fee, bounty hunters can obtain a license to give them similar rights for a single use of the triangulation process. Of course, triangulation is only possible if you know what world is under the boots of the person you’re seeking.

The Basic Chronocom

The modern Chronocom is a small, thin, watch sized device worn on the wrist. It has an adjustable band to fit all races. It has a very small but quite vibrant screen and a micro-camera capable of only a very short range. It is a combination wristwatch, calculator, and communicator. This is all well known, but there are many other functions and uses of this clever device that are examined below.

Standard Functions

It’s reasonable to assume that a Chronocom used in the modern Frontier has all of the functionality of a base-model cell phone from our own earth of today... but the special needs of the Frontier forces the inclusion of a few more abilities. Below is a list of basic standard functions found on all Chronocoms.

Power Supply. The power source is able to last nearly 5 years of regular use. It consists of a rechargable chem-cell microbattery. It is recharged by vibration and motion; as a being walks about and performs normal everyday activities, he keeps the charge on his Chronocom full. If it sits idle for a year or so, it tends to lose its charge.

Memory. The specialized memory is divided into three main storage areas, each reserved for specific use. When one of these three memory areas is full, the wearer must delete some to allow more. Address Book memory (enough to store address, Chronocom number, and minor personal comments for up to 200 names), Voice Message memory (enough to store 200 minutes of voice messages), and Text Message memory (enough to store 200 short text messages). The memory can be removed from a small panel on the back of the Chronocom and switched to another device where the archives of messages and contacts can be viewed or modified.

Calculator. The device is a full-functioning calculator capable of doing math with different bases and floating points with a mantissa of 32.

Timepiece. The Chronocom has a free-running time which can be set by wearer/owner. If a Satellite Communications Network relay is present, it will synchronize with Galactic Standard Time. It is also possible to set the watch to self-adjust to local time. When this feature is activated, the timepiece evaluates solar and lunar activities through several sensors and estimates a local time.