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Teaser, June 4, 2055
A couple of weeks later, I received a curious invitation. It was courier delivered snail mail, a photocopy of a letter of inquiry from some guy to a toy company, which read:
Dear Customer Service,
I am a happily married engineer with a 4 year old daughter, Rena. Recently as I was home sick, I sent the babysitter home for the day.
You can imagine my considerable alarm when I walked into the front room and found my little angel cutting up the hand of her toy doll. And I am sure you understand my surprise when she sealed the toy in its biochamber, waited five minutes and removed a wholly restored doll with a completely different hand. She sat on my lap examining the new hand which worked perfectly with the remote control and when she got bored, she repeated the process. She did that seven times before she became tired and lay down for a nap. Each time the hand was completely different — pincers, tentacles, fingers, a whole gamut of designs — and each fully functional.
I am not sure this is a good example to set for children, but above and beyond the moral issue, how does this work?
I look forward to hearing from you.
At the top of the page, the letter was stamped “Do not acknowledge.”
And at the bottom, Matt had scribbled: Curious? -F3M
I knew it had to be from Matt, because at one time when we were teenagers, we three had christened ourselves F3 — the Fontaine Tornado. And privately we had used the F3x form of signature ever since.
The next day, Matt dropped in. He only ever showed up when he wanted something, so I waited to see what it was.
After a minute or so, he said, “I’m going to call Jon.” Matt opened a large window on the front room wall to place the call.
Smart surfaces used the same technology as microbugs. One sprayed an ordinary surface, like a painted wall, with vbugs and they organized themselves in a swarm intelligence to display the signals they were given. Audio required a tympanic surface which often took the form of a nearby picture. Dad had a sound system as part of an old smart house system, so we usually just used that.
When Jon answered, he looked surprised — not in a good mood.
“Matt, I’m busy. What is this shit?” He waved a sheet of paper which I guessed was his copy of the Witheringspoon letter.
“I want you to meet someone,” said Matt.
“Oh. You got a new girlfriend?”
I smiled and dropped my head. Matt carried on as if the remark held no barb. “No, a business associate.”
“Does this person have a name?”
“That programmer you mentioned?” I asked.
“Okay. When? Where?” said Jon.
“The factory. I don’t know when.”
“It’ll have to be before the weekend after next, cause I’m going to Ottawa.”
“Ottawa?” I said.
Jon looked up at me. “Yeah. I just found out myself. The Senator is going back early.”
Matt pulled out a daytimer and leafed through. “How about next Thursday?”
“Works for me,” said Jon.
“I have no classes.”
“Good, see you then,” said Matt and closed the connection window.
Matt hung around for only a few minutes after that. He had just wanted to call Jon with me in the picture.
Excerpted from _The Bottleneck Years_ by H.E. Taylor
For further information see:
A Gentle Introduction.
Last modified September 25, 2012