The device at the center of the BBC radio series and books by Douglas Adams. Used by many as a guidebook that can get you around the galaxy on less than 30 Altarian dollars a day. In some of the more relaxed civilizations of the Eastern Spiral Arm of the galaxy, it has completely supplanted the Encyclopedia Galactica as the repository of all knowledge.
It has two advantages over the Encyclopedia Galactica. It is slightly cheaper, and it has the words “Don’t Panic” written in bold friendly letters on the front.
The knowledge contained therein is written by a large population of galactic hitchhikers that travel the galaxy and write about what they find. As is to be expected, topics tend to be what the travelers are interested in writing, and due to the massive amounts of information, editing can be heavy. For example, Earth’s entry, after a massive update rewrite, was edited down to two words: “mostly harmless.”
A few technical and functional considerations:
- The knowledge contained in the book is updated quite frequently, so there must be some sort of network connection reaching across the galaxy to update the book.
- The book is quite sturdy, and is known to survive space ship crashes and time warps.
- Because the knowledge found in the book is as vast as space itself, there needs to be a good user interface to find the data that includes the ability to search for information, consult an index, cross-reference, and browse. When one finds themselves on board a ship of the Vogon constructor fleet, they need to know what to do — quickly!
- To allow for updating while on the go (or on the run), hitchhikers will need a user interface that facilitates quick edits.
- The book has both a screen for reading, and a voice that can read entries aloud.