Monochrome Vertex Ch. 1

A few years ago, I started writing a story set in a world where the GUI was never invented — a world with cultural norms and economic pressures shaped by different technological trends. I never finished it, but I will post the first 2 parts here.

Chapter 2

The scant light through the venetian blinds gleamed against the machine on the table. It was a luxury model produced by Texas Instruments, but clearly based on the GRiD and QL in industrial design: a sharp-edged clamshell, it now resembled a set of precision-machined wedges, but closed it would resemble nothing more so than a small steel briefcase. It seemed vaguely out of place on the expanse of the dark mahogany desk. Behind the VP sat an equally expensive dark mahogany bookshelf, one shelf dominated by a sparse row of carts, each probably a whole gigabyte (though it is inconceivable that the VP could have so much to store) and designed to look like extremely short leather-bound books. The other shelves were full of non-solid-state media: tapes, magnetic disks, and even a few optical disks.

“Could you give me the condensed version, Mr Logan?” The VP looked at the printed report as though it was a rotting snail.

Dex kept himself from sighing. “Well, your network security is good.” The VP nodded solemnly, and Dex suppressed a smile. “But, that doesn’t really matter because your personnel training sucks. I tailgated into the building and bluffed my way into the air-gapped network.”

“And the files?”

“The evidence has been uploaded to a public FTP in the Caucus Republic. The hostname is in the report.” Dex stood for a while in silence.

The VP made chewing movements with his mouth. Nervous habit? “I’m not paying you by check,” he said finally. “The agreed-upon sum has been wired to your account as of this morning.”

“That is highly ir-”

“Goodbye, Mr Logan.”

Dex took the hint.

The noodle shop was busy, as always. Soon, Dex would be bustled out. He curled his hand around the china bowl protectively, and peered at the television across the room, machine generated closed-captions scrolling across the bottom of the screen in a language not entirely unlike English: “…FRANKLIN-KYOCERA RELEASED NEW CLAMSHELL WILL CLAMSHELLS TAKE OVER FILM AT ELEVEN IN OTHER NEWS ARCTEK DOWN TEN POINTS IN RESPONSE TO LEAKS ABOUT TUESDAY PRESS RELEASE LETS TALK TO EXPERT JAMES JAMES ROGERS WHAT DO YOU THINK OH ARCTEK HAS ALWAYS BEEN…” Dex reached into his coat in search of a toothpick, hand brushing a small bottle of amphetamines. “…WOZNIAK CLAIMS NEXT-GEN OS DOES NOT VIOLATE GPL TERMS COULD THIS BE STALLMANS REVENGE FOR…”

“Three fifty, please.” The young woman seemed pleasant. She must be new.



“I’m sorry?”

Dex swallowed. “Sorry, not you. Here,” he handed her a twenty. “Keep the change.” He pulled off his pager and dropped it in the trash can on the way out.

Turning his collar up, Dex crossed the street and then turned sharply into the subway stairwell. He used his Metro card to reserve a spot for Coney Island, then walked to a neighboring counter and bought a ticket to Grand Central. He slipped the Coney Island ticket into the crack between two empty bricks in the tunnel, then took the next trip to Grand Central. From there, he took the train to Albany.

Written by

Resident hypertext crank. Author of Big and Small Computing: Trajectories for the Future of Software.

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