Related Characters

Size & Capacity

Like modern pen-drives, these come in several sizes and capacities. Most are multiples of yottabytes.

The yottabyte is a multiple of the unit byte. The prefix yotta indicates multiplication by the eighth power of 1000 or 1024 in the International System of Units (SI). The unit symbol for the yottabyte is YB.

The yobibyte (YiB), using a binary prefix, is equal to 1024^8 bytes.


The Centaureans have a strange and often illogical favour of the number thirteen. It is always composed of: Twelve, and One.

Centaurean computers all use Base 13, or multiples of 13 x 13, 12 bits for information, and one bit for control (say, directory listing). 1 Ancestor's Byte contains 13 bits.


When Phœbe discovers the Ancestors use of base 13, she has 'fifty fits', and immediately begins preparations to upgrade all computers to base 64.

The outcome was a long time coming, but in Book Four we learn new technology is created using base 1024.

Science and Technology

Science Explained: Memory Devices


Glass Crystal Memory


Ancestral Technology: Glass Crystal Memory

Over millennia, and before leaving Centaurea, the Ancestors developed many forms of memory devices, some capable of holding unimaginable amounts of data. As with the contemporary Last, they embraced digital, and then nano technologies with alacrity. But there was one flaw; the data degraded over time. What could not be replicated anew, or was held on analogue media, could not be used to refresh the digital or nano media, which eventually became useless.

As they matured as a race, they came to realise that durable memory was often more important than capacity. They did not develop the gramophone, or vinyl records, but made progress in other, and much more advanced ways.The 'grail' was that when the data was set, it could never degrade, and would remain forever. That was perhaps impossible to accomplish, but using sturdy media, they adapted, and increased the storage capacity of many options.

The breakthrough came when they discovered how to grow silicate crystals to defined parameters; a seemingly impossible thing to do. The faculty trying to create Singularity Crystals, discovered the means to grow glass crystals, but the results were not suitable for use in their their project.

The Memory faculty had looked at glass, and different versions several times, but it broke easily, so development was always abandoned. The media was great for storage, but it was never durable enough. That was until a cleaner (automaton) was working in the Singularity Crystal faculty, and a scientist hastened to fill his trash bucket, knocking a glass crystal ont the floor. The robot picked both the trash and the crystal up, and put them in the recycling bin.

After work, the cleaning androids were relaxing together, when one arrived late, complaining about the mess of broken glass he had to clean up in the memory research faculty. Just as humans might, he was ribbed and joked about, but then one of their number remembered something, made excuses, and left.

As Fate would have it, the robot was just in time to retrieve the glass Singularity Crystal that had been dropped. She took it, and dropped it. It remained intact. Her artificial intelligence was on a par with, if not better than most of the human population, and she held the crystal up before her eyes and peered at it.

The rest of the story quickly became history; the robot took the glass crystal to the memory faculty, and dropped it on the floor. Slowly staff gathered, learning it was glass, possibility the form of glass they had been searching for. It was.

Being crystalline in nature, the internal layout was logical, and could be written to without process of manufacture. This heralded the beginnings of the Ancestor's development, and later reliance upon, glass crystal storage media. It can withstand temperatures of up to 1,800 degrees F, is unaffected by water and can last for thousands of years without losing any data. Information can be written, wiped, and rewritten into the molecular structure of the glass crystal.

The process changes the way light travels through the glass, creating whirlpools of polarised light that can be read in much the same way as optical data. The recording process is accomplished by focusing a laser to imprint tiny dots called "voxels" into the pure silica glass crystal. Processing turns the glass slightly opaque, and polarises light as it passes through. This can then be read using an optical detector.


Laser Science

Glass Crystal Memory is based on laser science, as opposed to analogue, and digital (binary).

The Ancestors did not use binary, but much greater powers of 2^n.

These small memory modules should be considered as standard Centaurean storage media.

The Great Cobweb

In Book Three, several of these memory devices are recovered from below various Ark's, and are highly encrypted.


These memory devices are impervious to degradation, and unlike glass itself, are solid structures.

Glass is technically liquid. These crystals are solids.


The crystallised glass resembles a short, stubby candle, being round and slightly tapering to the top. Most are three, four, or six inches high, by one inch wide, but wider versions also exist.

The base is similar in style, but less than one quarter of an inch high. The whole unit looks like an elongated cone set upon a stubby cone.

Image: The Ancestors came from the stars ... Alpha Centauri - click for larger image




Contact Us

Top Of Page

Star Gazer © ® ™ is the international copyright and intellectual property of John Morris, webmaster. Graphics copyright Boris Junkovic.
All rights reserved.

Image: Alpha Proxima, a planet of the sun the Ancestors fled from - click for larger image