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Traveller Solution #1: Computer Architecture: 'Stempel' Architecture

--The "problem" statement--

This Computer Architecture is designed to allow a referee freedom in dealing with issues that may be beyond their ability to cope with all of the ideas and/or assumptions of what the future evolution of Traveller's timeline may bring.

Many players are biased by the simple times in which we currently live, having lived through a rather phenomenal time period in which the development of computers proceeded at a rather rapid rate.

Few could forsee, even in their own lifetimes, the limited usefulness of the von Neumann (architecture) machines which they were most familiar.

Consider the following sample dialog:

Ref: "The Zhodani seneschal has given you the integrated library data software/database."

Plr: "I make a backup copy."

Ref: "You can't copy the software. It is designed to grow and learn from its interaction with you. Besides, if you could just copy the software, you could pirate all the software on the ship's computer. I can't allow that."

Plr: "It is all just 1's and 0's, there is no magic to the process. I should be able to store the program on disk, copy it, and run it as many times, from the beginning, as I want to. I just need to setup a Virtual Machine, set the execution steps to monitor the progress of the program, and if something changes, I'll know it."

The point is here that the referee's lack of understanding of just what really is possible with a computer, based upon present-day understandings, lead to a complete and total distraction to the issue at hand, which is having fun playing Traveller.

This gave rise to the following.


The von Neumann architecture was a very logical and popular one given its primary attribute: scalability. Its primitive memory structure gave rise to procedural processing theory, yet it was that very limitation that allowed its own failing: the speed of light.

The Stempel architecture is named not for its inventor, but its first Terran interpreter--Simon van Stempel--interpreted from Vilani machines which were probably first assembled from remnant Ancient's tech on Vland. It was the perfect thing for Terran systems overworked, and overtasked for their role in the First Interstellar War. Terrans eventually revised their old admonition to, "Keep It Simple, Stempel."

The Hivers actually improved upon the architecture for their machines, thus explaining the differences in their systems.

The retroteching of the Ancients, to allow maintenance at any of the most backward of ports, is what allowed the technology to be brought down to the most backward of human levels. Some expertise is required to produce the lattice, but it is advanced technology designed for a lower tech embedded base.


Common Terran 20th century terms such as CPU were retained, though they are now only arbitrary measurement values, not even actual components in the Stempel architecture. Even activities such as programming, storage, and writing programs hold their old labels, while all other similarities were lost long ago.

Basically, the Stempel architecture does all processing in linear time. Where the archaic von Neumann machines were scalable, i.e. multi-processor and multi-programmable, the Stempel machines have a different focus. The best description dates back to van Stempel's first papers on the subject.

"While faster and faster processors, to a point, were the hallmark of von Neumann machines, the Stempel has run-time as its hallmark achievement. Of course, that is not the only thing, just the most pronounced for those of us in the 'old school.' And yes, just as run-time was scalable, now scalability is still available, just not at previously exponential rates of growth."

"The achievement of the super-conducting non-determinism tree stores a seemingly infinite amount of conclusions, the apparently non-deterministic infinite state machine 'processor' is not CPU or I/O bound as our old ancestor was, which by the way, achieved its maximum potential in 2006 AD. In the Stempel architecture, for programs which require input, the answer is virtually instantaneous for simple problems, and the set of NP-ultra problems are computed in a matter of hours."

"The Stempel crystal lattice (tree) holographically stores information rather than the old (and primitive) silicon-based feedback-derived memory storage systems."

--Referee Briefing--

As I said in the Introduction to the Series, Stempel architecture allows the Traveller Referee to even justify/explain the AI Virus. Armed with the Stempel architecture, even the unarmed Referee can stand up to the most experienced computer expert.

Most direct statements can be answered with, "Sorry, but I'm using Stempel computer architecture in my campaign. Keep it Simple, Stempel."

--The Guarantee--

As long as the user of Stempel Architecture does not "overdefine" the technology, all assaults from knowledgeable players like myself, can be successfully fended off. Computer knowledgeable referees may not even need Stempel Architecture, but may enjoy incorporating it into the campaign as an "alien" computer architecture.

I'll be happy to answer any questions "offline" to assist in the use of this technique.