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Canon Facts Backstage Info  Speculation

Created by Dr Richard Daystrom in 2243, the Duotronic circuit was a revolutionary advance in computer power and speed. Such was the increase in performance possible with this technology that they formed the basis of a computing revolution comparable to that caused by the silicon chip itself. Every Federation Starship computer for eighty years was based on duotronics, and elements of this technology was also used in sensor technology. Duotronics were eventually replaced by Isolinear optical chips in 2329.

The isolinear chip replaced the duotronic circuit in 2329, and remains a major component of Federation computer systems over forty five years later. The major advance which came with isolinear chips was the combination of storage and processing power into a single totally integrated unit. Adding memory to a computer therefore automatically added more processing power, making upgrading a much easier task. Small numbers of isolinear storage units are used in both PADDs and tricorders, while large computer systems can mount hundreds or even thousands of chips, all running as parallel processor units, to give enormous storage and processing capacity.

The main computer system of the Galaxy class Starship, as launched in the early 2360's, comprised three redundant computer cores. Each core was a ten story structure which had 2,048 dedicated storage modules containing 144 isolinear chips - a total of 294,912 chips per core. At 2.15 kiloquads per chip this gave a total storage capacity of 634,060.8 kiloquads per core, making the system one of the most powerful mobile computers in service. The Library Computer Access and Retrieval System user interface is widely used in Starfleet, and allows the core memory to be accessed at 4,600 kiloquads per second. Accessing the entire memory of a core can therefore be done in under 2.5 minutes.

Other species also use isolinear technology - the Cardassians use rods rather than chips, but the operating principles are otherwise very similar to Starfleets technology. Starfleet has gained considerable experience in the use of Cardassian computer systems since taking over the running of Deep Space Nine.

One development common to several users of isolinear technology is the use of symmetrical (and therefore non propulsive) subspace field encasement. Jacketing a computer system in such a field allows the chips to run at faster than light speeds, greatly increasing processing speed. The original Galaxy class computer could speed up operations by up to 335% using this method.

Bioneural gel packs are a relatively new advance in Federation computing. The system is not a replacement for the isolinear computer system, but is rather an augmentation of it. By distributing gel packs throughout a Starships computer system information can be organized more efficiently, speeding up response time. Early use aboard the new Intrepid class starships proved reasonable successful, although the biological nature of the packs has led to problems such as infection. The packs are now being used as standard aboard all new Starship designs, as well as some support craft.

Developed by Dr. Noonian Soong, the positronic network is undoubtedly one of the most unique forms of computer ever fielded. The system uses the decay of positrons to form a sophisticated neural network. First suggested in the fictional works of Issac Asimov in the 20th century, the positronic brain was long thought to be impossible but was finally realized by Soong in the 24th century. As far as is known, Soong created only two fully working positronic nets for the androids Data and Lore. Lore was judged unsuccessful after developing undesirable personality traits and dismantled; he was later re-assembled by Starfleet personnel, but his unstable personality led him into various criminal endeavours and he was eventually disassembled again by Data.

Data remains the only successful example of an independent positronic network as yet, and one of the very few examples of sentient artificial life within the Federation. He has been operational since 2338; at this time his personality was almost a complete blank, and he has devoted considerable effort to the development of social skills in order to integrate into Federation society - with a considerable degree of success. Study of Data has revealed surprisingly few clues as to how Soong was able to create a working positronic network. It is known that Datas neural network has biological components, and this has allowed his behaviour to be affected by the Psi 2000 virus. In 2364 Commander Maddox of the Daystrom Technological Institute proposed dismantling Data in order to learn more about his functioning, including Soongs method of resolving the problem of electron resistance across the filaments in Datas brain. However, Data objected to the procedure on the grounds that Maddox did not yet have sufficient knowledge to carry it out safely. As of 2364 Data had an ultimate storage capacity of 800 quadrillion bits and a processing speed of 60 trillion operations per second.

An advancement in submicron matrix transfer technology in 2366 allowed Data to attempt to create a new positronic network, resulting in the android Lal. Lals brain was in many ways superior to Datas, allowing her to experience emotions and overcome some of the program limitations imposed on Data by Soong. Unfortunately, Lal suffered system wide cascade failure and ceased operating after only two weeks.

By 2371 positronic technology had advanced to the stage where implants could replace some of the functions of a damaged organic brain, although there are considerable ethical difficulties inherent in this type of procedure. As yet, Data remains the sole example of a fully artificial positronic brain in existence.

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This page is Copyright Graham Kennedy 1998.

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