Dateline 1982 - 1983

A World without transistors!!! Vacuum Valley in California.

Thermionic valves are highly sensitive to vibration when working, in addition to having a limited lifetime. The working lifetime can be extended by having multiple heaters in a valve. As one would expect all items of electronics are far bulkier (though the valves are smaller as they have had an extra 20 years of concentrated development) and consume far more power. Computers are essentially owned just by the military and large corporations (with data storage on reels of ferromagnetic wire). There is a small DARPA-like internet between the corporations and friendly governments to allow them to share data and processing capacity.

The jet engine is considered to be a crackpot idea (though manned rockets have broken the sound barrier). The main freight carriers (and intercontinental passenger transport) is via helium zeppelin. A minor disaster provoked the abandonment of hydrogen but was not major enough to provoke the abandonment of the entire airship program (no Hindenberg disaster). Helium is a major strategic resource, being evolved from radioactive ores - USA, USSR, Australia, South Africa. Intercontinental travel is slower, though rockets can still transport weapons of mass destruction.

The motorcar is not as widely spread as it is in this world, and indeed is banned in two USA states (Utah being one) for 'health reasons'. To compensate for this the rail network in USA is far stronger. This makes oil less of a strategic resource, though it is still widely used in plastics.

MHF: Oil and Helium are in joint supply

There is a cold war between USA and USSR, with Europe divided. The corporations maintain economic links around the world despite political frigidity. In some ways the cold war is no longer relevant but there is little political will to end it (and the corporations find it useful in pushing up the prices of their products).

WWII ended in 1944, shortly after the excommunication of Hitler lead to Italy abandoning the war and Germany splitting along religious lines. The religious split was followed by forced migrations splitting the country into east and west. When the allies split Germany these lines were used for the split. Thus Berlin is not divided between East and West. This has also given an iron curtain which is physically less strong in Germany as social pressures mean that no German would want to cross over. Japan continued to fight into 1945 and VJ day.

In USA McCarthyism is still very strong with 'reeducation camps' for those convicted of 'Un-American' activities. The corporations have a strong influence over who is considered to be 'un-American'.

The USSR, under Andropov who suffered a stroke and is now largely a figurehead, is being 'corrupted' by the corporations with a steady move towards a capitalist market system, though political power remains in the hands of the Communists (as in the China of this world). Primarily this involves exploitation of the natural resources in Siberia though there is increasing penetration of the service and high-tech manufacturing sectors. Finland acts as the primary gateway for the flow of goods as it is 'neutral'. The Punk rebellion in USSR is being strongly put down and has retreated to an underground with "God Save The Party" as a rallying cry. There are suspected links with the equally suppressed heavy metal fans in the USA and the Scandinavian countries are often accused of acting as a sanctuary for these subversives.

China is an enigma to the rest of the world. During the communist rebellion the country was sealed to all foreigners and there has been no contact since. It is unclear whether Mao succeeded.

In the past few years a power axis between Japan (technology) and India (manpower) has formed with much of South-East Asia and Australasia becoming at least loosely affiliated.

The corporations tend to cooperate against the governments though, of course still willing to stab each other in the back for a bigger share of the pie. Corporate power is mainly concentrated in Africa and South America (though there are still political spheres of influence, these are secondary). South Africa, with its valuable metal, mineral and helium reserves, is essentially owned by a consortium of the largest corporations. In an attempt to resist external control the smaller nations did band together in a reformed League of Nations, which the larger powers left in disgust after it failed to prevent WWII. The League is supposed to coordinate joint action but is generally split by internal politics and external pressures.

The UK joined the EEC in the first round due to weaker links with USA. The EEC is dominated by an Anglo-French axis with its own deterrent, due to the weaker NATO.

The Middle East is a mass of warring states split by religion (as in this world). Israel does not exist though Palestine (still under UK protectorship) was opened to Jewish immigration and the Arabs largely forced out. Both UK and France retain strong links with the region, which provides the oil which is used by the EEC to trade for helium. The USSR is also a major player in the region with the USA and the corporations acting as a third force.

The 'Race to the Moon' continues, though both the USA and the USSR are close toaccomplishing it. The Japanese - Indian axis also has access to space technology and may be attempting to pre-empt the other two and reach the Moon first. In general, due to the failure rate of valves, if you want a satellite to remain functional for more than a couple of months it has to be manned. This has made space technology far more expensive and explains the slowness of progress (higher death toll as well). In general satellites are for military / espionage use.

Cuba is still communist but Che lives as well as Castro.

Antarctica is largely ignored and unexploited.

Kennedy was assassinated by the corporations as he moved to limit their power in the USA. Kennedy's death is blamed on a lone gunman.

The conflicts in east Asia (Korea and Vietnam) were smaller affairs due to the difficulty in transporting troops. In both cases no USA aid was sufficient and both countries are communist.

Ecological activism is condemned by each of the major power blocks (especially the corporations).

Blue sky research is rare. Unless research is likely to give results within the year which can be marketed it will have great difficulty in finding funds.

A Problem

If we want nuclear devices in this world (Mutually Assured Destruction being vital to the balance of terror which kept the cold war cold) then we have a problem explaining the absence of transistors as both grew out of Quantum Mechanics. The following have been suggested as possible explanations.

  1. The nuclear bomb was developed with the help of a semi-empirical / quasi-classical theory, possibly after it was noted that a mass of uranium gave out heat and a failed attempt was made to use this to generate electricity. This theory does not include band structure and so cannot be extended to give the theory of semiconductors.
  2. For some reason (religious / political / economic) QM was not pushed any further than that required for the bomb. The problem with this is how to cover the whole world.
  3. Give the world a higher flux of cosmic radiation so an electronic device is rapidly destroyed, valves being a lot less sensitive). However this is a radical change from our own world.
  4. Abandon the idea of nuclear weapons, either totally or else in favour of hell-bombs made from an intense high explosive / chemical weaponry / biological weaponry. The hell-bomb would still be difficult to create and only available to major powers.

MHF: You're working far too hard. It's quite patently obvious that transistors don't work, and this fictional world is far more plausible than the real one (which wouldn't fool anyone with half a brain for a minute).

Still needed for this world


Text: Robert Kinsey,
Original markup: 25 November 1998, by Owen Dunn,
Last recorded update: 25 April 2002, by Mark Waller
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