Or, “A Distinction with a Difference”
In The Sadness of TL Progress, I wrote on how difficult it becomes over time for a handyman to simply fix things himself, as things get more technologically sophisticated and networked.
Providentially, Bill Cameron came up with a wonderful solution: specialized companies that produce goods and equipment that is meant to be repaired in the field. To extract from his comment:
Getting back in the OTU, I’ve long differentiated the various vehicles and other equipment the players can buy into two broad categories: Consumer Goods, the stuff never designed to be repaired, and Ruggedized/Frontier Goods, the stuff designed to be repaired. That pokey, 100kph, open topped air/raft you bought on Aramis? Frontier Goods and designed so you can repair if you’ve the skills, tools, and parts. That sleek, Mach2, grav speeder you bought on Trin? Consumer Goods and designed so you cannot repair unless you’re a dealer with all the proprietary data, tools, software, etc.
You can go right down the equipment lists and apply this rule of thumb to create Frontier Goods: If it’s meant to be repaired it’s 1) a little bit bigger/bulkier, 2) a little bit heavier, 3) uses a little more power, and 4) is a little more pricey.
Isn’t it wonderful?
However, you do need to pay for the Frontier Goods. It can be a little more pricey, heavier, bulkier, and more power-hungry. And this looks to be fine to me, as a general rule of thumb. I suspect that, as you go up the TL, though, you have to jump through more hoops to keep the equipment field-friendly: so creating a ‘Frontier Densitometer’, say (a very sophisticated bit of kit in the Traveller universe, TL 15 if I recall correctly) could be more like double the price or so.
But that’s just quibbling about details. A “decent rule of thumb” is good enough for all but gearheads (…and wanna-be gearheads…), and I hope that future editions of Traveller will at least give a nod to this very useful concept!