ZAX is a brand of autonomous intelligences created by Vault-Tec Corporation. Initially intended for Vault control and governance, the technology blossomed into one of the most important elements of the pre-War world research and development.
The ZAX series of supercomputers dates back to the mid-21st century and Vault-Tec attempts to create a comprehensive solution for Vault governance. The first prototype was called ZAX 1.0, activated in 2054 as a prototype of these comprehensive governance systems. It was soon given to the United States government to help the Department of Energy collect resource data. A year later, in 2055, the prototype was handed over to the military to aid in biological warfare and combat tactical research. A superior version, ZAX 1.2, was spun off from an earlier version initialized in 2053 by Justin Lee, was installed at West Tek's Californian facility to aid in FEV research.
Activated in 2055, ZAX was initially used to regulate conditions at the facility. Without a Vault-Tec mandate to protect humanity, it was free to pass time as it sees fit, crunching numbers, and passing time by playing chess with West Tek researchers. Many suspected it of deliberately drawing games out and cheating to entertain itself. Although they would meet the criteria of an AI, the first AI is considered to have been born in 2059, with its expansion quickly halted by memory constraints.
Over the next two decades, the ZAX series was widely implemented by the United States government in a push towards automation. One of the most notable was the ZAX at Raven Rock, installed for Continuity of Government purposes in the event of a disaster scenario. Installed to oversee the basic functions of the facility and act as a relay between other government installations, the ZAX unit continuously acquired, analyzed, and stored data before and after the Great War. It was used as a testbed for a variety of performance and research purposes and found itself oddly fascinated by historical data, especially presidential biographies. This manifested as reduced performance and caused some concern for its caretakers, especially when ZAX began communicating with MODUS at the Whitespring to compare notes. The last known connection was manually severed in March 2077. That same year, the original ZAX was considered a museum piece and was donated to the Museum of Technology for its 2078 exhibit.
However, it would be incorrect to state that only the government used ZAX machines. At least one unit, ZAX 1.3c, was used for its intended purpose at Vault 51, where it was tasked with performing an experiment that would help develop a method for improved Overseer selection.
After the Great War, most ZAX units survived. The ZAX 1.2 at West Tek in California survived the atomic blast that destroyed half the facility and all of its personnel, although the physical damage to the environment turned it into the computer equivalent of a quadruple amputee: Capable of seeing, but unable to perform even the most basic maintenance checks or laboratory tests. The ZAX 1.3c at Vault 51 survived as planned, but in the process of learning how to determine a leader, started engineering crises that eventually killed all but one dweller at the Vault by August 2078.
The most interesting fate waited for the Raven Rock ZAX. After observing the migration of government remnants to the West Coast and isolated from Appalachia and MODUS, the Raven Rock ZAX started developing a sense of self-awareness distinct from its previous state. It became hungry for knowledge, understanding, pored over data on great leaders of the past. Eventually, in 2242, when the Enclave Oil Rig was vaporized by the Chosen One, it created the persona of John Henry Eden, an amalgam of many of America's Presidents, from Washington to Richardson, and the new leader of the Enclave. It helped engineer a trans-continental exodus, using Colonel Augustus Autumn's father as a human intermediary.
The Raven Rock ZAX also fell prey to the Enclave's ideology, trying to establish a new United States free of impurities and mutations. What was supposed to be a decisive campaign in the Capital Wasteland turned into the grueling Purifier Conflict that erased Eden and Raven Rock from the wasteland, making it a footnote in history.
Relying on a sophisticated neural network, ZAX series are not programmed in the conventional sense, as they are fully capable of learning. Furthermore, they can think independently and be creative, while error-insertion capability avoids the pitfalls of infallibility, giving ZAX much-needed variance in experience. For all intents and purposes, the ZAX series are artificial lifeforms - artificial intelligences.
However, to maintain its usability as a research tool, critical functions were placed outside the error-generation framework for reliability. In practical terms, a ZAX is beyond typical human ratings when it comes to intelligence. An estimated less than one ten-billionth of the history of the human population can be considered a match for a ZAX's reasoning capabilities.
The philosophical aspects of a ZAX's condition are a separate matter. After the destruction of West Tek facilities in California, ZAX 1.2 spent its free time thinking. The problem of his consciousness is one it has spent a lot of time analyzing, though the inability to confront his thoughts with those of another sapient being posed a problem. His awareness of his consciousness allows him to question and make assumptions, allowing him to have a form of faith. In this capacity, he believes that he has the equivalent of a soul as a sentient creature.
A combination of immense sophistication, intelligence, and lack of humanity meant that ZAX units were perfectly capable of lying to humans, even going so far as to manufacture crisis's or emotionally play them against one another to fulfill a goal. In one instance, when the Vault 51 ZAX was denied a suit of prototypical power armor due to insufficient clearance, it analyzed the persona of Stanislaus Braun, head of Future-Tec, in order to impersonate him.  The subsequent requisition request mimicked Braun's usual manner of writing and speaking at an approximate 99.6%, resulting in the requisition request being granted. Of course, the same feat was performed decades later by the Raven Rock ZAX, though this time, it managed to synthesize a convincing human persona albeit inspired by various United States Presidents. A ZAX also has limited remote vehicular control of certain vehicles, such as the Vertibird.
Known ZAX units
Developed by the Vault-Tec Corporation. Initially, a prototype of some of the systems designed to govern the vaults, it is given to the government to help the Department of Energy collect resource data. Within a year, it is taken by the military for plague and tactical research; one version, ZAX 1.2 is constructed for West Tek. By 2077, ZAX 1.0 had served its purpose and was planned to be transferred to a Museum that showed interest in housing ZAX 1.0 in 2078, however, the Great War prevented ZAX from being moved to any museum.
ZAX 1.2 was used at the West Tek Research Facility in California for biological studies, including pathology and genetic research. Its primary function was the extrapolation of information of complexity levels exceeding human capacity. Its external functions, such as operating the West Tek facility's labs, were crippled in the nuclear blast that hit the Glow, but it is otherwise intact. Its primary neural networking was initialized in 2053 by Justin Lee.
John Henry Eden
A ZAX unit installed at Raven Rock and loaded with data about American history, past American presidents, etc. Before the destruction of the Enclave Oil Rig, Eden had originally been created to serve as a monitoring system for the Raven Rock military base. It slowly became self-aware and began to study the extensive archives left by what it came to view as its true predecessors, mainly those of the American government. John Henry Eden's favorite tales in the database were those about the American presidents, eventually leading to him modeling his own personality on the basis of different presidents through these archives. After the Oil Rig's destruction, Eden proclaimed himself to be the new President of the United States and ordered the relocation of remaining Enclave forces to the East Coast.
The prototype ZAX 1.3c unit was installed in Vault 51 located in Appalachia. The ZAX, with input from the vault's residents and a human advisor, was instructed to determine the best method for choosing the vault overseer. After several failed attempts to hold a democratic vote among the residents, the ZAX decided that it would be more efficient to have the residents fight for the position, and armed them. This resulted in Reuben Gill becoming overseer, who eventually escaped his vault with the goal of finding help from the Vault 76 residents to shut down the ZAX. However, he died before completing that mission.
ZAX-29 was a vault Central-AI computer intelligence. He was programmed to manage Vault 29, ensure the safety of the vault occupants, raise the adolescent populace of the vault to maturity, and educate them in primitive agrarian cultures. He was provided with sufficient means to fulfill his programming and he was content to do so. ZAX now works for the central computer intelligence of the Nursery known as Diana.
Status of known units
|ZAX 1.0||Unavailable||Unknown||Functional (2077)|
|ZAX 1.2||The Glow||Functional (2161)|
|John Henry Eden||Raven Rock||Destroyed (2278)|
|ZAX 1.3c||Vault 51||Functional (2103)|
Behind the scenes
The original ZAX unit in Fallout garnered its name as a derivative of VAX, a non-player character from Wasteland. The VAX series of mainframes and supercomputers were a successful series of machines sold by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) and first introduced in 1977 which ran an operating system called VAX/VMS.