Islands in the Net
"Like gods, we have created a new universe called 'cyberspace' that contains great good and ominous evil. We do not know yet if this new dimension will produce more monsters than marvels, but it is too late to go back." -David Horsey
“Netrunner” is the colloquial term for a hacker, also referred to as a console cowboy, data jockey, decker or pejoratively as a goblin. Almost without exception, Netrunners rely on cybernetic augmentations to interface directly with the Metaverse, a graphic interpretation of data abstracted from the banks of nearly every computer worldwide.
Cybernetic augmentation affords netrunners the ability to operate computers without the use of a terminal and stream data directly to the central nervous system. This significantly reduces delays between conception and realization. The computer interprets raw data from The Metaverse into patterns familiar to the user, which then supersede the user’s native senses (sight, sound, smell, etc.) The user perceives an entirely different reality so long as they are “jacked in” to a computer. To an external observer, the user appears to fall into a comatose, trance-like state.
The reality experienced by the user is known as The Metaverse but is colloquially referred to as cyberspace, the net or the matrix. Informed public discourse regarding the philosophical and ethical implications of direct neural interfacing has not kept pace with the technology and remains largely unexplored.
Direct Neural Interface (DNI) technology was originally designed to aid fighter pilots in the third Korean conflict in 1999, but was eventually introduced to mass markets as a breakthrough medical technology. Consumer-friendly derivatives followed shortly thereafter.
Consumer-level DNIs typically consist of a neural headset and ocular projectors (commonly referred to as “Helmets”.) The neural headset monitors brainwaves and electrical impulses while the ocular projectors transmit a stream of data directly into the optic nerve though the wearer’s eyes. This technology requires no surgery and can be purchased at most retailers.
Among Netrunners, “helmets” are considered to be little more than children’s toys. Implanted DNIs offer the most immersive cyberspace experience with vastly superior response times compared to headsets. However, medical-grade cybernetics are illegal without a permit, C2 citizenship and the recommendation of a board-certified physician. These surgeries are often prohibitively expensive and come with risk of personal injury or death associated with invasive cranial surgery. Naturally, a thriving black market for such implants has appeared in recent years.
A cyberdeck is a portable console operated directly by an individual with a direct neural interface (DNI). Cyberdecks are markedly different from most consumer computers in several ways.
Cyberdecks are solely intended to be used with a DNI and provide a wide array of serial jacks for popular consumer (and medical) cybernetics. Cyberdecks are lightweight and portable, rarely weighing more than a few pounds at most. They are usually equipped with slots for ROM cartridges, which are significantly faster than loading programs from magnetic tapes or floppy discs. Most models also include decks for floppy discs and cassette tapes as well.
Most importantly, all cyberdecks include a cyber-modem. While this is typically an optional external accessory for most desktop and laptop computers, all cyberdecks have one built-in, and can be connected to nearly any phone line to access The Metaverse. Popular manufacturers include Microtech, IBM, Ono-Sendai and SegAtari.