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I've read a few Warhammer 40k books, and I've seen multiple references to STC's and how amazing they are, but i don't truly understand why they were made and what they did.
From what I gathered, they date back from the Dark Age of Technology.
they containthe templates, blue prints ifyou will, of old technology lost to the imperium. the adapts of mars will do anything to get them back and anyone who wuld like to boost their own technology also wants to do so.
The STC system was originally created for human colonists moving out into space long before the Imperium appeared. The STC system can give detailed instructions on how to build almost anything out of very basic materials. This is because it was designed so that colonists who found themselves on a planet with only wood and mud could still prosper. I could also give very advanced instructions if needed. Most of the Imperium's most advanced technology comes from the STC system.
Here is a full explanation of what the STC system is. Standard Template Construct - Lexicanum
The Mechanicus is also obsessed with regaining the lost STCs, to the point that they send entire fleets (Explorator fleets) after rumours of their existence. The complete system is the equivalent of the Holy Grail to King Arthur and his knights.
Very, very, very rarely are complete functioning databases found, buy even finding scraps or even a single dataslab image of STC information (which led to the creation of the Land Raider) are extremely valuable.
so a fully functioning one has never been found?
Not that I know of. As has been said, printouts were rare enough and constitute some of the most advanced technology the Imperium currently has. There was some suggestion in First and Only (I think) that a functioning device for producing some STC designs was found, but quite how canon that is is debatable.
No, there definitely have been fully functioning ones found, but it is a rare occurrence. Needless to say, whoever finds any STC data is rewarded very handsomely, be it parts or a fully functioning database.
Sorry, I'll clarify, I was under the impression that fully functioning STC databases did not have every single blueprint, but contained different, select, blueprints. For example, like you said, I'm pretty sure that the one found in the novel First and Only was a fully functioning one, but was just corrupted by Chaos.