Gateway Late Night
Hitchhiker’s Guide Entry
The “ansible” is a device capable of superluminal communications. It functions using principles of quantum entanglement. Each ansible exists as a pair, able to communicate bi-directionally with its mate at a rate of about 2400 baud.
The vast majority of ansibles exist with one unit aboard a ship and another located at a planetside relay station. However, out of necessity, some units are simply split between relay stations, allowing information to be transmitted in near-realtime from any ansible to any other. This is the basis for AnsNet.
Most ships carry two ansibles connected to relays in disparate locations, so that a disaster at one relay station would not completely cut off ship’s communications. Most military vessels, for this reason, carry at least three ansibles.
A user rarely needs to interact directly with a ship’s ansible array — the ansible signals are processed and displayed via terminal hardware or hardware-emulating software on the ship’s computer.
Every ansible pair has a unique identifier number, used in AnsNet addressing. These numbers are independent of an individual’s messaging address or service userIDs. The addressing space is capable of handling quadrillions of possible addresses; despite the enormous popularity of the ansible, there appears to be no danger of running out of such addresses in the foreseeable future.
Ansibles are a T3 technology — while current physics suggests they might be impossible due to the weirdnesses associated with quantum mechanics and particle spin, as far as I know they haven’t been definitively ruled out so we’re going with it. While the Omega and the Fosterites may have their own FTL communications, which are no doubt capable of much higher bandwidth than 2400 baud, ansibles are freely sold by the Jotun at very affordable prices to any they do business with. Thus, virtually all T2, and even some T1, ships and cultures have ansibles and maintain relay stations.
Ansibles are incredibly handy but they’re also a dead-end tech; there isn’t any practical way to increase their baud rate so, despite their wide promulgation, the ansibles are about as advanced as they’ll ever be.