The League of Oddfellows
The technology of Europa is, in some ways, more advanced than that of its real-world analogue, that being the Europe of the 1890s. In other ways, owing to the tropes of the Steampunk genre and the demands of interesting storytelling, it maintains parity with or even lags behind the source material.
A key thing to understand is that sparks have been behind most of the advances in technology over the course of history. Ever since the first spark, Leonardo da Vinci, developed his whirlygigs and flying machines, sparks have been creating technology far ahead of the curve. An important trait of spark technology, however, is that it tends to break down fairly readily when a spark is not present to maintain it. Thus, the rest of the world has not substantially benefited from the presence of sparks and their artifice.
Some sparks have devoted their lives to developing versions of their pet technology that are easier to understand and more “user friendly,” so as to provide the benefit of such technology to the rest of the world.
Outside the hands of sparks, airship technology exists but is rudimentary. Airship travel is by no means commonplace — it is the pastime of the idle rich. The proletariat is limited to ocean steamers by sea and train travel on land. The auto-voiture is in its infancy, powered by steam or Diesel engine. In most of the less-civilized parts of the world, the horse and stagecoach remain the mainstays of travel.
Aeroplanes, autogyros and whirlygigs do exist, but they are owned and maintained exclusively by sparks. A few sparks are working on developing versions that are simple enough to be used by the average person, but their research has a long way to go.
The telegraph has been in regular use for roughly fifty years. Nikola Tesla and Tesladyne Corporation have begun work on the first wireless radio sets, but that technology remains highly experimental. Postal services do exist, notably the Royal Mail, which can deliver letters and packages fairly reliably throughout the world.
The news media rely almost entirely on newspapers, and every major city has at least four or five competing papers. The news in major cities usually lags a day behind the event, while the papers in more remote areas might be up to a week behind the times.
The gun has long-since replaced other weaponry on the field of battle and on the homefront. Most guns feature rifled barrels and black-powder cartridges. Revolvers have been in use for half a century, while semi-automatic pistols are a more recent development.
There are very few other weapons in common use. Naturally, weapons such as swords, axes and daggers exist, but very few people outside the gentry carry anything more than a boot knife. Walking down the streets with a greataxe in hand or a broadsword strapped to one’s hip would be a sure way to draw a lot of attention.
Tesladyne Corporation and Westinghouse Electric are currently engaged in a struggle to be the first to electrify the cities, but by and large even the largest cities remain off the grid. Streetlamps are gas-fueled and coal furnaces are common in every home and building.
As far as the power of industry goes, most machinery in the world is powered by steam. Steam engines drive trains, airships, sea ships, auto-voitures and factories, and distributed steam systems are used for heat in buildings of appreciable size. The steam turbine has not yet been invented, meaning that all devices that use steam as a power source are using reciprocating engines.
The Diesel engine was invented some thirty years ago, but remains very bulky, stinky and expensive, and Diesel fuel is not commonplace. The internal combustion gasoline and kerosene engines have not yet been developed.
Some sparks have created devices that run on a strange energy source known as “orgone,” but these engines are extremely rare and without exception examples of artifice.
Manufacturing and Industry
The assembly line factory has been a fact of life for almost a decade, and has resulted in the exponential population growth of several major cities.
The coal industry is very big, as coal remains the primary fuel source for both home and business use. Manufacturing has exploded in Brittania over the last ten years, and now employs more workers than agriculture. Construction is also very big, as the infrastructure of the empire has needed to keep pace with the march of progress.
Wood, brass and iron are the most common materials used in manufacturing. Steel is expensive and thus restricted to applications in need of high strength. Tin, conversely, appears where strength is not needed. Aluminium has not been developed as a manufacturing material, and plastic has not yet been invented.
In the Home
Most of the conveniences of modern life are notably absent. A home might have a gas-powered stove and oven, but would not have a refrigerator or electric appliances. Running water is a feature in most cities, but only the richer homes would have running hot water. There is no such thing as television or radio, meaning that the primary form of home entertainment is reading and discussion.