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Sci-Fi Hacks   Leave a comment


I’ve been reading a bunch of other people’s blogs tonight, and an excellent one, charliejane, has a wide range of subjects that thoroughly discussed all things science fiction, with a slant towards readers and writers of sci-fi.  Many participants eagerly join in on all the topics presented, and I even learned a thing or two.

One thing I did notice on the site was the very real question of science behind science fiction.  One person who was engaged in a conversation said, “It drives me insane when someone writing space opera gets physics all wrong.  It drives me nuts when authors of stories that feature computer hacking don’t know anything about hacking or programming.”  That’s a valid point.  However, if we’re talking about the future, it’s guaranteed that what exists today regarding hacking and programming isn’t going to be around 40, 60, 80 or 100 years from now.  

Jeez, I clearly remember IBM’s cards and the exciting career one could have being a keypunch operator.  In 1984, at my first real job that didn’t involve flipping hamburgers, I used an IBM PC jr., which is laughable by today’s standards.  I had an “A” drive and a “B” drive, both requiring floppy 5 1/4″ disks.  In order to print sideways, I had to put in a separate floppy just for that.  And oh, how jealous I was of the resident programmer who had an IBM AT that had – get this – 20K of memory on the hard drive.  20K!

Then, I got a new job in advertising.  The agency’s client, among others, was IBM.  Since there’s IBM offices worldwide, we needed a way to contact them that didn’t involve staying up all night to make a phone call for a yes or no question.  So we had this nifty solution called PROFS.  Again, we had a special disk we put in that connected us to the phone line, and we typed up a message that was whisked off to Japan, Australia, Europe – anywhere IBM was located.  Several times a day, we’d go and have us a look and retrieve messages.  Generally, they’d come the next day, so there was always something in the loop.

You know what they call that technology today?  Email.  You know what year that was?  1988.

How many of you remember that magical day when the freshly-titled IT guy hooked up a phone line to the back of your computer and you were instantly introduced to the great world beyond your desk?  It was 1994 for me, and we had the Internet installed.  I had email, too.  Netscape was our browser, and we used Webcrawler, Alta Vista and Yahoo! too.  There was this button on Yahoo! that said, “Surprise.”  One click would take a surfer on a fascinating ride around the internet.  I saw plans for plumbing the bathroom, horoscopes, blueberry pie recipes, and all sorts of nifty stuff.

Right along with all of this, there were the evil hackers who learned to take from what the Internet had provided, only to steal and corrupt whatever they could coax their keyboards to type.  I dated someone who knew how to do this and back then, it didn’t take much.  Today, there’s little that smart kid can’t figure out how to break into.

But in the future?

We know how programming works today and most likely can predict how it’s heading.  But there are things we don’t know.  My only experience with e-books was watching characters on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” read from them.  I didn’t know about iPads then.  All right, not the best example, but still.

All I’m saying is, true, it’s not a good idea to write about programming and hacking if you don’t know what it is now.  But if I lived in 2080, who’s to say what will be the shape of code to come?


Posted March 6, 2014 by seleneymoon in science fiction

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