Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ralph 124C41+

Patrick sat down in his chair, which had a back that had been specially designed to curve like a human spine. He flipped a switch and a glass screen before him lit up. It was a Liquefied Crystalline Displayer. Unlike the old fashioned cathode ray tubes which glowed with phosphorescence as an electron beam rapidly played over the inner surface of the glass, this new LCD could paint images as realistic as a colored photograph, using nothing more than energy. Patrick's Computation Machine began to hum and whirr as high voltage electricity flowed through its circuits. This machine could store and manipulate data hundreds of times faster than the human brain. It was the major totem in Patrick's life.

The Computation Machine could, at times, serve as a Communications Machine. During those times, it broadcast a signal on the 12.5cm wavelength to a smaller machine located in the parlor of Patrick's house. This smaller machine, known as a Modulator/Demodulator, converted the wireless signal into electrical impulses that could travel along a high speed cable no bigger than a man's thumb. Such a cable snaked out of Patrick's basement, joining other cables from other buildings, until the mass of cables filled hundreds of conduits buried in the bedrock of New York City.

From there, the communication signals from Patrick's Computation Machine traveled across the country at the speed of light, until they reached a set of Computation Machines near the city of San Francisco. These Computation Machines served as a "meeting place" for the best and the brightest thinkers in the world! Patrick pulled toward him a rectangle of neo-bakelite plastic: it contained 101 electric buttons, each marked with a letter or other typographic symbol, and was based on the layout of ancient printing machines. A skilled operator, which Patrick was, could "compose" as many as twenty words per minute on such a device. He gathered his thoughts, and rapidly began to typewrite:

"I just started the book 'Ralph 124C 41+' for the first time, and I
love it! It's so mindbendingly dorky; how could I not love this
book?! It has no real plot, crepe-paper characters, cinderblock
dialogue, and a tendency to wander. But oh, wow; such
marvels! Especially if you try to put yourself back into a 1911

It's the way my science fiction would come out if I wrote science
fiction: as a catalogue of really cool technology, presented in
Aspergerian detail, with ill-defined people walking through it
doing...not much of anything, really.

Has anyone else here actually read this book? What did you

Patrick hoped his friends enjoyed the message he left for them. They'd see it the next time they connected their personal Computation Machines to the ones near San Francisco, however many hours or days later that be. Patrick looked at a small box on his desk. The figures "1:45 am" glowed in red light on one face of the box. "Getting pretty late," Patrick thought, as he turned off the Computation Machine. He stretched and flipped a wall switch. His office light, a spiral tube of low-pressure gas which ionized and glowed whitely when energized, went dark. Patrick removed his synthetic acetate shirt, manufactured by a process that created a silk-like fabric from nothing more than plant chaff and vinegar, and headed off to his petroleum-based extruded foam mattress, and to sleep.

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