Friday October 1, 2004


Over at OxBlog, David Adesnik responds to a reference by Fred Barnes to "the Washington-New York-Boston axis", saying:

First of all, who let Boston into our axis? (The axis of yuppie?) There may be a Bos-NY-Wash corridor thanks to Amtrak, but there is no axis.

I suspect that David hasn't read his William Gibson.

From Gibson's Neuromancer (1984, p. 43):

Home was BAMA, the Sprawl, the Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis.

Program a map to display the frequency of data exchange, every thousand megabytes a single pixel on a very large screen. Manhattan and Atlanta burn solid white. Then they start to pulse, the rate of traffic threatening to overload your simulation. Your map is about to go nova. Cool it down. Up your scale. Each pixel is a million megabytes. At a hundred million megabytes per second, you begin to make out certain blocks in midtown Manhattan, outlines of hundred-year-old industrial parks ringing the old core of Atlanta.

Barnes must be a big cyberpunk fan.

Language note: you can tell this was written 20 years ago because it talks about thousands and millions of megabytes, instead of gigabytes and terabytes. Over time, we're bound to need larger and larger units for measuring data traffic. As a base unit, I propose the loc: the amount of printed data in the Library of Congress as of the year 2000. According to this site, that's about 10 terabytes—a nice, round number. In about 2040, I expect to be shopping for a wireless network hub that supports the new IEEE petaloc standard, so that I can easily transfer AIs between various appliances in my home, say from my toaster to my toothbrush.

[Now playing: "Combat Baby" by Metric]

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There's always avabits - an Avogadro's number (about 6.02 x 10^23) of bits.

Posted by: Brian L. Matthews at Oct 2, 2004 9:46:17 AM