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Living Space in the 30th Century

This article was originally posted to the Terra/Sol Games blog at http://terrasolgames.com on January 13, 2012, and is reprinted in Freelance Traveller’s March 2012 issue with the author’s permission.


In this installment of ‘Slice of Life’ we’re going to look at your living space in the Twilight Sector Campaign Setting. Where do you live? What does it look like? What major appliances do you own?

First, let’s give this all some context. We’re going to take a look at what the typical ‘Coffin Apartment’, Standard Apartment, Condominium and free standing domicile looks like on Terra/Sol in the Twilight Sector. We’ll look at size, standard fittings and locations. But first, let’s talk about some of the 30th century tech you can use to dress up the old living space.

Most living spaces in the 30th century do have a few key technologies in common. Most are smart places run by computer technology running a household expert program. The residence responds to the occupants, turning on lights when you enter a room responding to verbal commands like “make me a cup of coffee”, et cetera. Your digital butler can tell you how much butter or cleaning solution you have on hand and with your permission order up additional supplies as needed. It can create a personalized diet for every member of the household and relay that information to your food synthesizer. In short, it does most of the domestic thinking for you.

Home Tech and Appliances

One of the most ubiquitous home technologies is memory plastic. Blocks of this remarkable material can be shaped into any number of preprogrammed configurations, everything from a vase to a couch. This material can be condensed and stored recessed into the floor or wall thus taking up no valuable floor space until it is needed. So, when, for example, it’s meal time, a command can be given that activates the plastic to become a table and chairs. When dinner is done, simply give the command for the couch, and voil, the material morphs back into the floor and returns as your living room couch.

Wireless access to the internet is a part of your living space and because we know what comes in can go out, in some places like the Orion Confederation that has become a personal privacy issue. In others like the Archenar Peoples’ Republic it’s just another tool the state uses to keep its population in line. Monitoring for fire, pathogens or medical emergencies can be a public safety issue and provides an excuse for the state to have some access to your home for at least the performance of these functions.

One of the most common kitchen home appliances in the 30th century is the flash freezer. It provides ice or instant freezing for your leftovers as long as they fit in its admittedly small dimensions. The average model is only 12”12”6” (about 30cm30cm15cm). It can provide a couple of cups of ice in approximately 3 to 8 seconds (depending on the quality of the model you own) and can just as quickly freeze food for later use. Actual refrigerators are now somewhat rare and if present are usually quite small since the storage of raw foodstuffs isn’t really necessary with the advent of Gloop and our next common home appliance, the Food Synthesizer. This ubiquitous device is present in most homes or apartment complexes. They range from the fancy with almost an unlimited range of foods that can be provided to much more limited versions for which you have to switch programming every so often so you don’t get bored with what the machine is spitting out.

For housekeeping, cleaner bots are quite common. These are usually 12” (30cm) diameter flat circular bots, which are 4” (10cm) tall and equipped with anti-grav. They roll around the floor cleaning but can also levitate to surfaces to clean those up and with a retractable arm clean up dishes and such. A single bot can clean 800 square feet (about 74.5m2) in 4 hours.

For the bedroom, memory plastic beds or in lower end dwellings old fashioned Murphy pull down beds are the norm. A high tech option that is gaining popularity is the zero-g sleeping field. These are of course powered by grav plates and because they aren’t really zero-g but low gravity they are surprisingly not that expensive. Since they don’t have to handle as high of load capacities as they might when installed on a skid tractor or in a starship they are very reasonably priced.

Entertainment comes from a number of sources. Net-based VR can be accessed through home Sensoriums, basketball sized devices that can interpret complicated net programs designed to make you feel like you are in the action. Other, far more expensive, options like Holographic and Immersive Tech display areas might be available in higher end homes. For a lower tech option when you just want to veg out, wall sized Tri-D displays can play your favorite shows. These can also be used to give your home a different feel depending on your mood. A wall sized display of a tropical reef might provide some needed relief from an Antarctic winter in Defiance City.

Coffin Apartments

To start our tour of the various living abodes lets discuss the proverbial Coffin Apartment, the smallest and most standardized type of living space. Typically a coffin apartment is a space 10 feet wide 20 feet deep (about 3m6m) and so contains 200 square feet (about 18m2)of living space. That’s not a lot of space! But it could be worse; the Archenar equivalent only comes in at 128 square feet (about 11m2), only 8 feet 16 feet (about 2.4 m4.9m). Because of the size issues the technology for these apartments is specialized to save space. Fold down Murphy beds, Murphy couches or Murphy tables (assuming you don’t use memory plastic described previously), toilets that lower into the floor when you want to take a shower, kitchen cabinets flush with the wall, taking advantage of what would be dead utility space in most dwellings. In short the idea is to make these apartments highly configurable based on what the needs are of the occupant at a particular time. So for example when it’s bedtime you configure the space as a bedroom, at dinner time a dining room and for leisure a living room.

Depending on the apartment building you might not have a kitchen at all but access to the communal gloop machine, with the cost of your meals being part of your rent or dole benefit.

Residents of these types of apartments range from singles to dolee families. Though some are surprisingly affluent, they might simply be single and only need a small living space. In a large 30th century urban environment there are plenty of common areas both indoor and outdoor where people can spend their time so that small living spaces will not make them feel claustrophobic.

Average Rent: 250 to 400 cr., but that usually includes a meal plan. The price variation is accounted for by location, location, location!

Standard Apartments

The next step up in living accommodations is the standard apartment. Like the coffin apartment, they’re still somewhat cookie cutter in shape and accouterments but they are a definite step up. They typically range from 600 to 1,000 square feet (about 56m2 to 93m2) in size.

Most come with their own food synthesizers, no more waiting in line at the gloop machine like so many coffin dwellers. Individual spaces (i.e. rooms) can offer multiple occupants some privacy and some status objects like the odd piece of real furniture.

The main upgrade the standard apartment offers is space—the thing most at a premium in densely populated cities like those on Terra/Sol.

Average Rent: 500 to 900 cr.


The next step up is a condominium. The name implies ownership but that is not always the case, some are simply luxury apartments but in the common parlance whether the domicile is owned or rented these types of living spaces are called condominiums.

Average space in a condominium has a rather wide range of 1,200 to 3,600 square feet (about 112m2 to 336m2). This of course leads to a wide range of rent or mortgage payments as well. Price goes up with size and location of course.

Condominiums usually have purpose-driven rooms, bedrooms, kitchens, dining rooms, et cetera, instead of the multipurpose spaces common in lower end accommodations. Owners or renters are also more likely to have the income to afford some status items like handmade furniture, and to be able to afford real food items (hence the need for kitchens). However, they would likely still be equipped with a high quality food synthesizer for those meals on the run. The use of wall screens becomes commonplace with an average of two or more in each room so the owners can catch up on the latest entertainment programming or set their surroundings to anything from mountain vistas to the latest rave club.

Memory plastic is still used but it’s usually pulled out for spare chairs and such when required to accommodate company or those pesky relatives who stop by to get a look at your place, prompting comments like “Can you believe it Harold? They have a room just for the toilet! It’s nice and all but it just feels a little too ostentatious for my tastes.”

Average mortgage or rent: 1,200 to 4,000 cr.

Free-standing Domiciles

The final step in living places is a free standing domicile. These can range from the truly outrageous prices charged for a house in the middle of a city to the more affordable suburban homes. But any ‘house’ in a major city is an expensive item that it takes a substantial income to be able to purchase.

In the distant past many futurists believed that as the ease of transportation increased and technology advanced to the point that you didn’t need to physically go into the office that humanity would spread out. Everyone would have their own plot of land and their own house.

What the future was yet to reveal was that while transportation became faster with ever greater numbers of humans ease did not follow. The sheer volume of traffic absorbed the gain in speed.

Technology did indeed advance to the point that you could work from anywhere and you could even dial in virtually to sit in on meetings. However two factors combined to save the office and cities for that matter. Productivity did not increase for virtual workers in fact it declined. Much of the population were not self starters, they needed the proximity of other workers and supervisors to inspire them to productivity. Even beyond that and maybe far more importantly, Man is a social creature and even those who lived far from the city center found themselves coming into the city for entertainment and interaction. Societal Engineers coined the term ‘Human Gravity’ to describe the effect. They found that society creates its own gravity, the more humans that were present the more they are drawn to each other much the same way as the matter in a solar system accretes to form ever-larger objects with their own gravity.

These social realities of course affected houses. Although they are extremely popular with those who can afford them, owners still want to be close to the center of the human gravity. This fact is just another factor that plays into the old real estate axiom, ‘Location is everything’.

As for the houses themselves they boast the entire range of technology. They are usually run by a powerful computer that takes care of everything from stocking the pantry to sensing when the roof needs repaired and then even hiring the roofer.

Status symbols abound, full kitchens, natural foods, dedicated rooms, custom made handcrafted furniture, virtual reality sensoriums and holographic rooms. The range of amenities and the size of houses is enormous and cannot be easily described.

Average mortgage: 1,500 to 100,000 cr.

Editor’s note: As received from Mr Cross, the article did not have the clear section titles; these were inserted as part of our editing process. Also, the metric measurements were not supplied, but added in by our editor; see the Author’s note following.

Author’s note: A note on metrics, for this article I have used U.S. Customary units of measurement most notably feet and square feet. This is because that is the way I can visualize the size of the areas I’m describing. If you’d rather have the information in metric units the conversion factor for feet to meters is 0.305 and the conversion for square feet to square meters is 0.093. You do the math.