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May the 4th be with you: Emailing and the Star Wars universe

Today is Star Wars Day! To celebrate, we're wondering why email is not that much represented in this saga George Lucas created almost 40 years ago.

Hermes and Hera with Star Wars legos



Even though the action of the Star Wars movies and the Expanded Universe is supposed to happen a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (where guys like Ray Tomlinson have close to zero chance of existing), email is a thing. Oh yeah, it is. Trust us. We checked the Star Wars wikia (wonderfully named Wookieepedia) to find confirmation of this. Though, in worlds where you can find Electro-whips or Mechno-Arms, you'd expect a system that allows people to exchange digital messages through various networks to be a done deal, wouldn't you?

Cool! So why don't they use email more often?

Believe us, we don't know either. With the high level technologies displayed by the different nations and races in the Star Wars Universe, you would think that sending electronic messages is as common as drinking blue milk on a nice Tatooinian afternoon. We know for a fact that droids communicate using binary code. We also know that computers and networks are widespread tools in the Universe. So, come on, we've got everything here for some good, proper email communication.

But the thing is, we think this with our little Earthling minds, which aren't able (yet!) to travel through space at light speed or to establish civilizations light years away from our planet. Because once you start expanding the borders of your empire beyond the known universe, communicating through wavelenghts (we're not even talking about landlines, let's be serious here, please) is not that simple.

Firstly, because, like any kind of wave, frequencies used to communicate will disperse if they are left indefinitely in wide space. Providing good, stable and clear communication between two planets or two systems becomes quite challenging. At some point, you'd have to agree that using message carriers (like R2D2 and C3PO in A New Hope - more on that later) is more practical and reliable.

Then, you have to deal with all the background noise generated by the different spacewaves crossing the universe, which can alter the channel you are using and degrade the message. You can see it with some of the holographic communications that the Empire sends: they can be pretty lousy sometimes. Why? Because of the background noise.

By now, you've probably understood that email is better as a short (let's say, one planet only) range communication system rather than something practical over space.

But since we love email and we'd be honored to power the Rebel Alliance's campaigns (can you imagine?), we've come up with two possible (yet challenging) solutions:

  • Drag gigantic landlines through space to connect - digitally - the different planets and systems of the Universe. The only issue here is that the space, as wide as it is, would be filled with cables and wires, which are difficult to spot when travelling at light speed (yeah, it could be dangerous).

  • Get relay satellites all over space. This way, the short range issue won't be a problem anymore, each satellite being close enough to another to distribute your email efficiently. Though, once again, it would lead to an overcrowded space. Plus, with all the money spent to build and launch those satellites, we could build a third Death Star. So yeah, the Empire needs these resources. Priorities, people. Priorities!

So that might be why engineers in the Star Wars Universe just dropped the idea of emails sent over space and preferred to send droids carrying holographic messages.

That's too sad. Emails could have really helped the Rebels...

We know. It is sad. Email would have been a great way to solve some of the many tricky situations the characters put themselves in.

For example, Watto could have sent Anakin an email to tell him that Shmi, his mother, had been freed, got married, and had eventually been abducted. Anakin would have also been able to get in touch with his new step-father. This way, he could have reached Tatooine way before having that weird dream of his, which led him to arrive in his home planet only to find his mother dying, and got him dragged over to the dark side of the Force.

Same goes for Leia, when trying to get in touch with Obi-Wan Kenobi at the beginning of A New Hope. Instead of sending two droids to a desertic and dusty planet in the middle of nowhere, with all the problems that involved (soldiers of the Empire looking for them, smugglers trying to buy them, sand in their articulations…), a secured email communication would have been way more efficient and would've given the Rebels plenty of time to organize their attack.

Email would have also spiced other things up throughout the films:: Darth Vader sending Luke a "Guess who's your father…" e-card, Obi-Wan scheduling a post-mortem message to Luke with Dagobah's (Yoda's planet) precise location, Anakin BCCing the Jedi Council in all his private conversations with Palpatine…

Life in the universe would have been easier and more peaceful. But it would have killed all the drama, though.

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