859 words later…technology and breaking stuff

I’ve been taking it easy (read: being lazy) about the book. I’d hit a conflict, and was mulling about where to go from there.

I read a few best-sellers from the NY Times list, and thought, “well, shoot, if he can make it look easy, I can do that too.” I added in some back bits at the beginning to throw in some POV for the opposing forces.  I had a scene which I retold from the police POV, and decided I liked those characters and wrote a followup scene.  One aspect of the world I’m writing is that it has recently had a troubling turnover to a foreign government, and something that holds true in modern Los Angeles will forever be a problem in the future– the new government’s tech isn’t compatible with the local government’s tech. Their radios can talk to each other, it’s just that they don’t, because someone has to make important decisions on how it all goes together and who gets to talk on which frequencies so you don’t step on each other.

Those people are always in the government, and thus, beyond malcompetence and inability to do their jobs, the people take a long time to decide that the fire department will be on this frequency, the police on this one, the military will use this band, and so on. The new government isn’t stupid–they essentially said “all laws are the same for the time being until we give you new ones.” And they’re not screwing with the local nets and how those go together. But they brought in their own military, and that’s a big fat ball of blubber sitting in the middle of the room that can’t communicate.

Even though the police force comms and computer systems are integrated and can track and understand things that are happening, it turns out that the people you need to inform about operations can’t be reached and you don’t have their number. Unlike Star Trek where the communicator always knew who to call, you have to direct your calls to the right person.  The police officers have valuable intelligence about who and what is happening, but no way to tell the military who is about to enter that situation.  And that creates chaos and of course the police being able to sit and watch and do nothing.

So many sci-fi novels just assume that stuff works with other stuff because of future magic, er, I mean science. But when someone designs a piece of technology, they design it to work a specific way and with specific things. It’s why your cell phone does not have an AM/FM tuner to pick up radio. It could have that, but the designers don’t think it’s necessary or useful, so it doesn’t have it.  As always, the amount of features designed into technology is reliant on the profit desired by the designer, so no radio on your phone.

That’s not to say that there aren’t devices that do technological multi-tasking, sort of like a tech swiss army knife.  There are–the smart phone obviously is one of those.  But those devices tend to get weighty and the more stuff you pack into a device, the more complexity you need, and the more complex, the more things will break.

And a government agency concerned with saving a few bucks isn’t going to install more radio bands than necessary. You only need this frequency, so why pay for others?