Story Research: Non-Internet Networking


This is actually for two separate books I’ve had on the backburner for years; One being post apocolyptic AI driven, and the other being sort of ‘the apocalypse hit fantasyland #5218484 and now they’ve started to rebuild enough to consider themselves a stable society.’

Two very diffrant setups so ‘one size fits all’ probably wouldn’t apply. I’m leaving out specifics because ‘the non internet network’ is a good general topic of discussion.

Sneakernet? Classic guy running from A to B with a dufflebag full of stuff.
Use networks for some types of traffic between ‘core’ nodes, runners for outlaying nodes, and go asynchrenous for those outlaying nodes (such as BBS/fidonet/usenet?
Anyone here familiar enough with minitel-like systems to explain how that worked?

Going Asynch would seem like a good common ‘thing that is good’ since that means each node isn’t useless when it can’t instantly connect to its fellows and can still serve something to end users.

I mean it’s my setting technically I can do whatever I like especially since in both cases it’s ‘use whatever is on hand’ as opposed to ‘the only things working are the museum pieces’ but I’d still like input from folks who are more knowledgeable or in cases actually have memories of that ‘era’.

So here’s the Scenerios for each (which setting is going with which is less important than it might be if I were going for specifics more than ‘shape of things’ I imagine.)

  1. One has a city that is transitioning away from courier based mail and message running to essentially repurpose found technology for hardline communications as a hub/spoke to cut down on the number mail persons. Biggest downside Isee to this is it doesn’t precicely remove the need for couriers as it’s hub/spoke rather than a true ‘network’ and the system itself needs mantinancing. On the other side depending on how lines are run you can get faster communication to specific businesses more securely (line straight into town hall, banking, differing ‘important’ points where near instant communication would be useful, etc.))

On tehe other hand current notes put the hub/spoke as being ‘stage one’ where the backgroun problem beyond the big plot moving situation is 'this was built on salvaged technology that with smaller feeder lines radiatinng out from each spoke could tap into each and keep these hubs from acting as potential gate keepers.

  1. Scenerio for the other story involves a still organizing settlement using land-line network for the core ‘built and established’ settlements, and radio links to outlaying nodes that are part of exploritory units that are either resource gathering, acting as security, or trying to act as that first step in expansion of the core settled bits so that new settler groups can be integrated and have a communications link without having to leave their immediately safe area.

I dunno if this is even proper for this group I’m just kinda spitballing a set of ideas I’ve had half baked for a few years I’ve done depressingly little with. It’s just something feels ‘off’ about both, or maybe it’s just personal fear that both feel somehow inauthentic.


Could be an interesting discussion…

First off, Minitel is, I think, very much a case of dumb remote terminals. No storage or compute power at the terminal end, only at the server end. Much like running a text mode browser, or a gopher client. But with teletext-style graphics.

Yes, store and forward makes a lot of sense when connections are intermittent, unreliable, high latency. Usenet is like this: UUCP over dialup.

I’d add packet radio too. The original shared medium network connection, IIRC, was the ALOHA radio system in Hawaii.


Seems useful for the tenetive steps during the hub and spoke phase. Easy to impliment, but really doesn’t offer a whole lot beyond a ‘dumb’ access point. Superficial as all hek but I actually like how the terminals look like the keyboard folds up to form a protective layer over the monitor. Not sure if I’d incorporate that, might though for the sake of either flavor or a moment of ‘guy breaking in and using someone else’s credentials but the reason it isat least partially detected is a broken case lock’

I’d been rewatching Jason Scott’s BBS documentery to try getting a feel of the sentement of the era.

Kinda makes sense really given how hard stringing cable on the islands would be.

1 Like

One thing about UUCP is that it’s more like flood-fill than hub and spoke. You can imagine, for an important message, sending it out in three independent directions, and re-fanning at each changeover at intermediate nodes.

Possibly you could use the power line network - or whatever remains of it - to get signals over long distances. It’s very difficult to run new wires!

A long range mesh of wifi might be possible, if you had loads of talent in rewriting firmware! Wifi can work over some kilometers with appropriate antennas. And even after the techno-apocalypse there will be very many wifi routers to be scavenged.

1 Like

Memories of me attempting to wie a dish antenna to my router to see how far out it could go…

Flood fill is like what ‘message radiates out from wherever the newsgroup discussion is stored at to all subscription nodes’?

Your bringing up wifi does bring forward interesting ideas.

1 Like

Yes, by flood-fill I mean each message goes to every next-hop node, which then forwards to all its neighbours.

1 Like

Lets not forget The Clacks:


You would really think by now I would’ve read the discworld books given how often those seem to pop up in discussion.

1 Like

I love the Clacks. The system got constantly improved throughout the stories, often in order to increase the bandwidth. I remember a description which was clearly classic run-lenght encoding. And getting more bits per transaction too, somewhat like going from binary to dec to hex to b64.

There’s a round-world equivalent of the clacks, as mentioned in the article Gordon linked. Used in France, I think? I didn’t follow through the link and it’s been a while since I read about it (the roundworld system). Not sure if it was as efficient as Terry Pratcher’s system.

And of course it would be possible to run tcp/ip over the clacks too… possibly using the RFC mentioned in the same article. If tcp/ip by pidgins works (and it does), then The Clacks will have no trouble.

1 Like

Indeed, T.P. did seem to have done his research and put a lot of real-world understanding into his books. From that Clacks page:

The real-world counterpart of the Clacks was known as the optical telegraph or Semaphore Line. Invented in the late 18th century and operated into the early 19th century before being made obsolete by electrical telegraphy, semaphore lines were used by the governments of France, Britain, and other European countries to convey vital information more rapidly than horseback riders could. Semaphore lines could only send about two words a minute and were thus much less efficient than those of Discworld. They also were not available to the general public, being used only for military and government use.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas père contains a fictional account of a successful exercise to subvert the operation of one such semaphore tower. This scene almost certainly had some input into the Discworld events along similar lines.

There’s also “The Victorian Internet” a good (factual) read about telegraphy.