Steamtech, the precursor to modern dieseltech, is a set of technologies which leverages steam heat and pressure - whether generated on-site or tapped from natural geothermal vents - to power machinery. Definitionally, 'steamtech' is only considered as such when steam power is combined with technologies beyond simple propulsion, as when a steamtech computer (an antiquated analogue to the dieseltech computer) uses pressurized steam jets forced through a gasket to perform calculations.
Steamtech devices had a dramatic impact on the Manifold throughout the late 9600's into the early 9800's AX. While steam engines were bulky and required separate reserves of fuel (combustible materials) and propellant (water) to operate properly, they quickly relegated manual and animal power to secondary roles in industry and transportation. Steam power plants could turn electric dynamos (invented in 9590 AX) to provide electric power as a utility to the masses. Geothermal heating plants could keep whole buildings warm in the winter, while simple air conditioning systems powered by steam turbines could cool those buildings in the winter. Steam trains made quick access to distant regions of a nation possible, while the increased logistical capacity the trains provided was matched by an improvement in factory output due to steam mills and improvements in market policy due to spreading use of steamtech computers in accounting. The antecedents of the modern Autonet also appeared during this era, though the size of these early networks was limited by the heft of the machinery involved and the primitive nature of industrial lubricants at the time. While steamtech revolutionized the industrial, transportation, and information sectors at the time, steam engines remained too heavy to power cargo airships or permit access to the inflection layers. These advancements would remain out of reach until the age of dieseltech, beginning with the invention of the diesel internal combustion engine in 9800 AR. Despite the growing dominance of the dieseltech paradigm, steamtech systems persist into present day in certain domains (i.e. central heating and air systems). Steamtech also remains popular in times of resource scarcity, as - unlike dieseltech devices - a steam engine can be powered by any sufficiently intense source of heat.
Like with dieseltech devices, the design and construction of steamtech devices required specialized steamtech engineers and technicians. Above all, anyone wishing to construct a steamtech device needed to have a grasp of mechanical engineering and materials science concepts, with a firm understanding of thermodynamics in particular. Sending an inexperienced engineer to work with steamtech devices was often called 'suicide/homicide by steamtech' in the industry, as explosions laid many incautious engineers low during the heyday of steamtech.
The steamtech age began with the invention of the steam engine in 9630 AX. Researchers at the Voxelia Academy of Sciences built on previous knowledge of thermodynamic engines to create the first steam engine as a stationary source of mechanical force. Because the Academy's primary concerns were scientific rather than industrial, the first use of a steam engine to supply power to another mechanical device came in 9631; the steam engine was hooked up to one of the Academy's many mechanical calculation engines to supply power in lieu of the laborious efforts of research assistants at the motive cranks.