A century or so ago, we began to dream of a communication network that would span the globe with crisscrossing lines of neon light that you would surf across the pull forth information known and obscure. While the general idea was indeed accurate, the reality of what became the Grid and the Solar Net is vastly different as well.
The Internet of the 20th century came to dominate the world before the dawn of the 21st century, but it was the 21st century that it really bloomed into a network of knowledge, creativity, and expression. Computers were first linked into networks over copper wires, giving way to fiber optics and soon long range wi-fi blankets across cities, relayed across the world. At this time, terminals would connect to each other and exchange information in the form of “web pages”
After the Solar Event of 2033 knocked out most telecommunication systems over the course of the week of the Blackout, the chance was given for the UN and the telecommunication ventures to restructure the Internet as the Earth Grid. Utilizing advances in technology, the Grid was more than the simple information delivery service. The Grid connected the so-called “Internet of things”, the network of interconnected device, along side the old vanguard of informational services along with connections and icons to buildings, places, and people. While the immersive virtual reality of 1980s classic literature existed, the Grid of the 21st century and onward saw the emergence of an augmented reality – the Internet (Or more accurately, the Earth Grid) overlaid with the physical reality.
The 2030s also saw the need for a means of connecting Earth to its solar cousins. While the communication lagtime between the Earth and the Moon was only 1.3 seconds, signals to Mars could take up to 21 minutes simply to be received. Red Planet Industries communications relay would become the prototype for the wideband communication system that would become known in the later half of the 21st century as the Solar Net. Unlike the blistering fast communications of planetary Grids, the Solar Net was reminiscent of BBS and Email systems from before the Internet. A user from Jupiter requests data (Such as research on new Peripherite alloys or the latest Earth movie), the request is sent to Earth with a delay time of 30 minutes to an hour. The request is processed nearly instantly and then the data is sent across space and received by the user on a spread, wideband blanket signal.
Typically, to connect to the Solar Net, you need to have access to a long range communication system such as those found on starships, in cities, and on stations. On occasion, there is a fee required to use station and city based long range communication systems due to power concerns, but otherwise the Solar Net is typically free.
User data requests and responses are protected by encryption key systems. Almost all data on the Void Net is similarly protected by encryption services as well. (In game, there will be a perk that will allow a player to start with a Void Net Encryption Key.)
Connecting to a planetary Grid can be accomplished by sitting down at a computer as it has been for over a century now, but most access the Grid through a gridcasting device like a data slate, the Gauntlet, or even through internal cyberware. A neural link allows for faster dissemination and control over information, though it is typically displayed through a means of augmenting the user’s perception of the physical reality they are in. In this merged world of physical and virtual, the use is depicted by their shadow: Part personal avatar, part Personal Area Network, it is the point of contact in a Grid. A user could be walking down the streets of Hera Station alongside a virtual shadow of a friend down on Europa, while also talking to their partner physically walking next to them.
Of course, this also leads to a new form of cybercombat – Shadow Combat. Instead of the typical attacks on a system, hackers of the 22nd century may instead directly attack the Shadow of a user. It should be noted that some Shadow attacks have been known to damage the equipment and also cause damaging feedback through neural link systems. For most, this is likely never to be a problem as Grid Police work to ensure the safety of the average user, but it is an ever present danger to those who might lurk or work in the darker areas of a Grid.