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By LEG (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This is a small, mobile robot that can print or draw on paper or other suitable
surfaces. Ink Bugs are a common substitute for computer printers when only
a few pages must be printed, and a printer would be too large.
An Ink Bug receives data from a nearby computer via radio or infrared, but
it can also store the equivalent of 20 pages (double for ever TL above 8)
and print them when a tiny button is pressed or when it is placed on paper.
This is very practical for standard form and contracts; businessmen and civil
servants may carry several Ink Bugs instead of an attache case full of forms.
Many small computer have a housing for an Ink Bug from TL8 on.
Several Ink Bugs can work on the same print job, but this requires a computer
to coordinate them below TL9. A handful can print even a large poster or
For practical purposes, assume an Ink Bug requires negligible amounts of
energy. It recharges from a base station that also replenishes the ink. A
base station costs $20 at any Tech Level and can be built into a computer;
offices have "Bug Houses" for a dozen Ink Bugs. An early TL8 base Station
is the size of a cigarette pack, all more advanced models are matchbox-sized.
A late TL7 Ink Bug is possible, but sensor and robot technology are not very
advanced at this stage, and the little things keep missing the edge of the
paper and continue printing. The cost would around $200, and the resolution
An early TL8 Ink Bug costs $50, is roughly the size of a palm and moves on
wheels or legs. It has sufficient sensor capacity to recognize paper sizes
and to format correctly, but is easily confused by non-standard paper sizes
and types (vellum, alien paper, etc.). It prints about one page per minute
in black or white at 600dpi.
A late TL8 Ink Bug is the size of a walnut shell, can be disguised as a brooch
or other piece of jewelry (egyptian scarab replicas or tiny Bugatti race
cars are always in fashion), print two pages per minute and do very well
with odd paper sizes and types as long as appropriate printer drivers are
available. Cost is $40. It can print color very well, and its resolution
is about 1200dpi.
A TL9 Ink Bug does not get much smaller, but can climb and print on walls,
write and draw like a plotter instead of just print, and imitate handwriting
rather well. It costs $30 and does three pages per minute. Forgers use TL9
Ink Bugs to imitate another persons handwriting. Most commercial Ink Bugs
have a precise, steady writing that can be recognized as the work of an Ink
Bug with even a cursory analysis (though not with the naked eyes), but some
makes imitate the way a human writes very well, and resist all attempts to
detect the forgery with a Skill of 14 (cost $300 at least, often illegal).
A good forgery also requires samples of writing and analysis equipment. The
Ink Bug just writes the false document from available data.
Scan Bugs: The Scan Bug is the brother of the Ink Bug. It scans as quickly
as an Ink Bug prints, and costs the same. It TL9, a Bug can do both equal
to a late TL8 version that does only one thing.
The charm of an Ink Bug lies in its small size. Bigger versions are always
possible, but must compete with regular printers. Large ink Bugs are the
size of a modern cellular phone and are most likely specialized for jobs
where printers fail, such as printing on irregular surfaces (T-shirts, stickers),
very large surfaces (posters, flags) or three-dimensional objects (statues,
mannequins). They are also very good for the military, or guerrilla fighters,
because they can give ordinary clothing a camouflage pattern.
The Night of the Berserk Bugs: A radical political organisation
spreads a computer virus that makes Ink Bugs come out at night and scrawl
slogans on the walls. This can be anything from a running gag to an adventure
Little Lost Bug: A scientist of a foreign power wants to defect
with an important secret formula. He does not get far. Counter intelligence
finds him and silences him - permanently. They remove all traces, but miss
his Ink Bug that was detached from his Pocket Pal computer at the time they
struck (See the Near Future Telecommunication
page for more information on Pocket Pals). The Ink Bug with the valuable
data is found by someone who sells it to a Character on a flea market. Just
wait till he gets home and turns the Ink Bug on...