Or, how I committed legacy, and got caught

So that's my excuse: not plagerism, re-invention by legacy.

My blog on January 31, Using Cell: a modest proposal was built around the idea that IBM's Cell processor is the first low cost device capable of supporting an inteligent approach to bandwidth minimized teleconferencing - and by corolary that its presence in millions of teenaged male hands via the Sony PlayStation would push the porn industry into being the first to deliver the functionality needed.

Here's part of my write up:

build a display client that combines a few initial jpegs, a compressed sound file, and the Cell processor's awesome computing power to generate lifelike imagery, reproducing facial movement, hand gestures, and seat squirming in real time on the display end at a two way communications density achieveable with nothing more than a 1MB DSL link

Talkback contributor Kirkaiya recognized the similarity between my idea and something from a science fiction novel by Vernor Vinge, A Fire Upon the Deep:

Here's part of what she(?) said:

It's interesting to see a technology that was used in a science fiction novel (Fire Upon the Deep, Vernor Vinge) about 10 or 12 years ago now being proposed as a real solution.

In the book, "ultrawave" (faster-than-light) bandwidth is very constrained, and so video-conferencing is done exactly as this article's author suggests: a few key frames are sent at the start of the conversation, after which the computer at the receiving end (the client, in this case) uses whatever limited information it gets to reconstruct the video at the source.

Turns out I've had a copy of the book for some time so I read (or reread?) it and found this direct statement of a general theme -making it clear that Kirkaiya was absolutely right:

The screen showed a color image with high resolution. Looking at it carefully, one realized the thing was a poor evocation... Kjet recognized Owner Limmende and Jan Skrits, her chief of staff, but they looked several years out of style: old video matched with the transmitted animation cues. The actual communications channel was less than four thousand bits per second;

So, plagerism, unconsious memory, or re-invention?

There is a long tradition of science fiction writers inventing realities before science and engineering get together to make them real and, of course, there's a great deal of cross pollination that goes on between the writers and realizers. Jim Baen, publisher of Baen's Books recently tried to address one aspect of this question by setting up a forum specifically devoted to it. Here's part of what he said:

I'm instituting a new topic on the Bar, Legacy. In it you will find a lexicon of all the notions I have stumbled upon over the years that are technically viable and would make the world (in MY terms not Amory Lovins'!) a better place. These ideas will range from the famous Skyhooks to the not so famous, but buildable, Towers of Power, from orbital nuclear power stations to microwave space ships, from momentum-conserving space travel to, well lots of stuff. And alas, you will probably have read most of it first in Legacy, a new topic on Baen's Bar.See you there -- but first you will have to log on to the Bar.

So that's my excuse: not plagerism, re-invention by legacy.


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