The Orion's Arm Universe Project Forums

Stories that "Predicted" eBooks and Flash Drives
Perhaps the most famous example would be the title guide book in the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy (radio series 1978; novel 1979), which is very clearly what we would call an eBook reader today.  Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game (1985) depicts devices similar to todays tablets and iPads, and also predicts how online political debate can influence public opinion.  Perhaps one of the best predictions of this kind is Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), with its constantly updating digital newspads.

A while ago I was skimming through A Pliocene Companion by Julian May (1984).  It is a guide to her science fantasy series The Saga of the Exiles (1981-84).  It is definitely not hard SF or cyberpunk.  Yet consider this entry:

"fleck, in Milieu electronics, a microscopic component utilizing quasi-living molecules to encode data.  Although expensive, they were capable of prodigious storage.  For instance, Mercy Lambelle brought with her to the Pliocene a music fleck with 5Ku capacity and a library fleck holding 10Ku.  Each subunit (u) represents the equivalent of ten minutes of stored audiovisual material."    p. 38 / 39

Today, ten minutes of good quality video would take up about 160 MB, depending on the format.  So Mercy's music fleck would have had at least 800 GB (about 18 months of mp3's in todays terms), and her library fleck would have had a capacity of at least 1.6 TB (equivalent to over a million novels worth of text).  However, it is made clear that "tri-D" is common in Mercy's home era (the main time travellers come from the early 22nd century), so my estimates might be far too conservative.  I seem to recall Mercy being a fan of opera, so it would be plausible that her music fleck would have included holograms of live performances or dramatic presentations.  Also, her library fleck might not be limited to text alone, but could also include detailed artwork and tri-D dramatic adaptations.  (I haven't re-read the series since the mid-90's, so I'm not 100% certain - and I think this detail was only mentioned in passing anyway).

Here is another entry that seems to (imperfectly) predict todays eBook readers.

"plaque-book, an audiovisual device of the Milieu, typically about the size of a twentieth-century paperback book.  The plaque had a liquid-crystal display in color or black and white and could be programmed with the contents of any book by inserting it into a library machine and paying the fee.  Pressing one of the four corners of the plaque "turned the pages" slowly or rapidly, forward or reverse.  Plaques could be reprogrammed or stored with the contents intact virtually indefinitely.  Larger format plaques were used for picture books, maps, graphs, and the like.  Paged books were not entirely obsolete in the Milieu, but they were expensive compared to the plaques."     p. 88 / 89

I do not recall the series mentioning anything resembling today's internet, so downloading books via wifi was not an option, and users had to insert their plaque "into a library machine" and pay a fee.  Then again, this could be a government mandated way of reducing breaches of copyright.

The idea of the plaques being cheaper than printed books is an interesting one.  This hasn't quite come true yet.

Amazon ebook readers

However, when you compare the price of today's paperbacks with the price of ebook / kindle editions, you notice an interesting trend.  While paperbacks may be cheaper than ebooks if they are second hand or on special, ebook editions tend to be cheaper if they are new releases.

Messages In This Thread
Stories that "Predicted" eBooks and Flash Drives - by DarrenRyding - 05-16-2021, 02:41 PM

Forum Jump:

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)