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The Technology of Neuromancer After 25 Years 203

Posted by timothy
from the where-were-you-when-it-came-out dept.
William Gibson's Neuromancer was first published 25 years ago. Dr_Ken writes with an excerpt from an article at MacWorld that delves into the current state of some of the technology that drives the book: "'Neuromancer is important because of its astounding predictive power. Gibson's core idea in the novel is the direct integration of man and computer, with all the possibilities (and horrors) that such a union entails. The book eventually sold more than 160 million copies, but bringing the book to popular attention took a long time and a lot of word-of-mouth. The sci-fi community, however, was acutely aware of the novel's importance when it came out: Neuromancer ran the table on sci-fi's big three awards in 1984, winning the Hugo Award, the Philip K. Dick Memorial Award, and the Nebula Award.'"
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The Technology of Neuromancer After 25 Years

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  • The Theme (Score:2, Interesting)

    by newcastlejon (1483695)

    Gibson's core idea in the novel is the direct integration of man and computer, with all the possibilities (and horrors) that such a union entails

    It's been a few months since I read it but I remember the humans staying human all the way to the end.

    • It's been a few months since I read it but I remember the humans staying human all the way to the end.

      And I seem to remember quite a few characters going insane, some quietly, some in a more bugfuck manner. Not always 'integration' to blame, but there was futsie (future shock, fellow thrill lovers) all over that book.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SoupIsGood Food (1179)

      Gibson's core idea in the novel is the direct integration of man and computer, with all the possibilities (and horrors) that such a union entails

      It's been a few months since I read it but I remember the humans staying human all the way to the end.

      They weren't human to begin with. Not a one of them, except, perhaps, the Finn and Maelcum.

      Case, Molly, Armitage, Riviera, 3jane, Dixie Flatline - not a human in the bunch, all of them creatures - monsters - of the Information Age dystopia Gibson envisioned.

      It was kind of the point of the book.

      • Re:The Theme (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Yokaze (70883) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @12:57PM (#28586973)

        I have a quite contrary view on that. They were all human, and to some degree even the AIs (to an increasing degree over the series of books). They weren't monsters, merely products of their culture.
        On the matter of distopia, let see what Gibson has to say on that himself [io9.com]:

        None of us ever live in dystopia. That's an imaginary extreme. They just live in shitty cultures. And these societies [in my books] seem dystopian to middle class white people in North America. They don't seem dystopian if you live in Rio or anywhere in Africa. Most people in Africa would happily immigrate to the Sprawl. [...]

        I think, you can safely say this over the characters, too. Their behaviour and personality simply reflect the situation they live in. Being a drug dealer and -(ab)users, asocial and delusional is hardly desirable but far from seldom among human, as can be observed in the slums of the large cities around the world.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by SoupIsGood Food (1179)

          No, I mean they really weren't human. They are fully realized and empathetic characters, but they really, really weren't like you or I. Their existence was so intertwined with technology, they did not have the same perspective or motivations that ordinary humans do. (Which is a major theme in the book - humans transformed into something else by their circumstances.)

          And yes, they were monsters - murderous and dangerous - and made that way by their integration with technology even more than their economic cir

          • by RDW (41497)

            'Their existence was so intertwined with technology, they did not have the same perspective or motivations that ordinary humans do.'

            They'd fit right in here then.

  • 160 million copies!? (Score:5, Informative)

    by trawg (308495) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @08:27AM (#28585809) Homepage

    160 million sounds like.... a lot.

    BBC tells me [wikipedia.org] Da Vinci code sold 30 million (back in 2006). Wikipedia refers me to this article [reviewcanada.ca] from 2006 which says Neuromancer sold around 6.5 million copies - which seems a bit more believable.

    • by JackSpratts (660957) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @08:30AM (#28585817) Homepage
      it sold 160 million copies, by the year 6010. it was in the footnotes.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by downix (84795)

      You do realize that is 6.5 million copies... in Canada, right?

      • by trawg (308495)

        Yeh, I wasn't sure about that, but compared to Da Vinci code (woops, I linked the wrong page in my first post, meant to link this BBC article [bbc.co.uk] it didn't sound that unreasonable that 6.5 million was the world total, given 30 million was Da Vinci code, and I would have said that would have massssiiiveeellyyy outsold Neuromancer, even given the massively different amount of time they've been made available. I'd love to be proven wrong though.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by LS (57954)

        you realize there are only 33 million people in canada right? If 6.5 million copies were sold in canada, that means 1 out of 5 people read neuromancer. Does that sound right?

    • by charlie (1328) <charlie&antipope,org> on Sunday July 05, 2009 @08:52AM (#28585907) Homepage Journal
      Terry Pratchett's total career sales track is around 66 million books. Steven King sold somewhere upwards of 100 million, total. J. K. Rowling is around the 70-120 million mark, worldwide. I call bullshit, by at least one (and probably two) orders of magnitude.
      • by soliptic (665417)

        How many have you sold? (I know that n > 4, based upon a quantitative survey of my bookcase.)

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by HarryCaul (25943)

        Your Rowling figure is off by a considerable amount. Last estimate was 400+ million copies.

    • by julesh (229690) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @09:13AM (#28585969)

      Yeah, to be honest, a lot of this article is basically bullshit.

      What Gibson introduced was the idea of a global network of millions of computers, which he described in astonishing detail--though the World Wide Web, as we know it today, was still more than a decade away

      Such global networks featured in the fiction of Heinlein, Asimov and plenty of others before Neuromancer was published. Plenty of authors predicted the growth and utility of world wide computer networks, although none (including Gibson) grasped the full implications of this. And basically, everyone here was copying the ideas of Vannevar Bush, anyway.

      But Gibson took the World Wide Web much further. By introducing the concept of cyberspace, he made the Web a habitable place, with all the world's data stores represented as visual, even palpable, structures arranged in an endless matrix.

      Gibson didn't "introduce the concept of cyberspace". He may have invented the name that eventually became associated with it, but the idea of a visual 3D interface to computer networks was old by the time Neuromancer was published. Hell, the film Tron was highly popular 6 years beforehand, and basically involved almost exactly the same concepts: a three dimensional world in which a person can interact on a physical level with the virtual components of a software system. Sure, the way the world is presented is different, but the idea is basically the same. And Bruce Sterling was writing stuff _extremely_ similar to Gibson's work a few years ahead of him.

      This article is basically placing Neuromancer in a historical context that it does not warrant: it did not innovate these ideas.

      • by julesh (229690)

        Replying to myself to correct an arithmetic error:

        Hell, the film Tron was highly popular 6 years beforehand

        I meant, of course, 3 years beforehand.

      • by g253 (855070) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @09:25AM (#28586013) Homepage
        You're absolutely right, a particular 1946 short story worth mentioning (and reading!) is Murray Leinster's "A Logic Named Joe" : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Logic_Named_Joe [wikipedia.org]
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        And don't forget Philp K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep", where people communed with animal spirits in a virtual world, and the lines between religion, mind, and reality became increasingly blurred. I highly recommend it to people who only ever say "Blade Runner" and have no idea of the very different story that it was connected with. Neuromancer was wonderful, and compelling, and intriguing. But it was nearly "Megabytes and sorcery" in the kind of magical spellcasting by mystical, incomprehe
        • by PachmanP (881352)

          ...Let's be nice to the youngsters, and help them see where this stuff really came from.

          As long as they stay off my lawn!

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Abcd1234 (188840)

          And don't forget Philp K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep", where people communed with animal spirits in a virtual world

          Uhh... I must've missed that part. Last time I read it, it was about a real, entirely non-virtual, post-apocalyptic world in which humans where confined to dreary cities and took care of the few remaining animals, the possession of which was an outward expression of both social status and inherent humanity (people believe that compassion and empathy are uniquely human traits,

      • by bcrowell (177657) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @10:36AM (#28586287) Homepage

        Such global networks featured in the fiction of Heinlein, Asimov and plenty of others before Neuromancer was published. Plenty of authors predicted the growth and utility of world wide computer networks, although none (including Gibson) grasped the full implications of this.

        I think you're incorrect about Heinlein. If you look at his books [wikipedia.org], the closest I think he comes is The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress in 1966. A big central computer on the moon becomes self-aware, and he can project a synthesized voice and image over a video phone network. He's also networked to a lot of stuff, and can, e.g., make toilets run backwards. However, it's really not depicted as anything at all resembling the internet. All he really did was take existing time-sharing systems (the Dartmouth time-sharing system started in 1964) and extrapolate to the case where the central computer was self-aware, and the network spread across the whole moon. The way humans use the network in the story is always as nothing more than a video phone network. There is only one computer, and nobody ever transfers any digital data other than video telephony. It's true that the network is described as global (meaning global on the moon), but it's really only depicted as a telephone network, and a global telephone network already existed in 1966. A global network of computers would have been an innovation, but Heinlein doesn't depict the existence of any other computers on the network.

        Probably "A Logic Named Joe," by Murray Leinster, is the most relevant example that predates the actual internet.

        • by julesh (229690)

          I think you're incorrect about Heinlein. If you look at his books, the closest I think he comes is The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress in 1966

          While I haven't read it, I've seen recent reviews of Friday [wikipedia.org] that comment on how accurately it foretells the Internet as we have it today. It's not a central part of the book, but just part of the background of the world that it's set in. I've also seen suggestions that For Us, The Living [wikipedia.org] (which I also haven't read), while off in some admittedly important details (like the

          • by mvdwege (243851) <mvdwege@mail.com> on Sunday July 05, 2009 @01:18PM (#28587097) Homepage Journal

            Meh. Friday is from 1982. How about 'The Shockwave Rider' by John Brunner? Written in 1975, with a global communications network as a central plot point, and the first literary description of the concept of a computer worm.

            Really, here on Slashdot I'd expect people to know their classics.

            Mart

          • by bcrowell (177657)

            >>I think you're incorrect about Heinlein. If you look at his books, the closest I think he comes is The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress in 1966

            >While I haven't read it, I've seen recent reviews of Friday that comment on how accurately it foretells the Internet as we have it today. It's not a central part of the book, but just part of the background of the world that it's set in. I've also seen suggestions that For Us, The Living (which I also haven't read), while off in some admittedly important details

        • by jamstar7 (694492)
          Heinlein came closer to the 'WWW' model in a couple of his later books, for instance, 'Time Enough For Love' (1973) where he wrote about massive computer systems actually running and managing a planetary government. He didn't predict almost universal access to that network, though. Most of Heinlein's 'computer systems' tend to be humoungus 'heavy metal', limited access, heavily centralised machines that wake up and become 'human' - Mike in 'Moon Is A Harsh Mistress', Teena in 'Time Enough For Love'. I do
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by DMUTPeregrine (612791)
          Don't forget Harlan Ellison's "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" (1967), or Isaac Asimov's "The Last Question" (1956). It's a much older concept than Neuromancer.
          • by bcrowell (177657)

            Don't forget Harlan Ellison's "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream"

            Huh? The story has a single big, evil computer in it. Nothing about a network at all, much less the internet.

        • by hitmark (640295)

          Iirc, gibson said he got the inspiration of neuromancer from a apple ad.

          Funny thing is that if one look at it closely, the internet is basically a collection of now graphical bbs's, with packet switched connections between, rather then the line switched phone system.

          Take the bbs's and the phone system, give it a 3d sensory spin and presto...

          The really big change is the jump to packet switching, as it allowed all manner of tricks, like rerouting a call mid-sentence with little disruption to get around a prob

      • Such global networks featured in the fiction of Heinlein, Asimov and plenty of others before Neuromancer was published. Plenty of authors predicted the growth and utility of world wide computer networks, although none (including Gibson) grasped the full implications of this. And basically, everyone here was copying the ideas of Vannevar Bush, anyway.

        But... where does Al Gore fit in this!?

      • by mvdwege (243851)

        None grasped the implications? That's a bit strong. I think John Brunner did a very good job in 'The Shockwave Rider'. Heck, he was a acknowledged influence of Robert T. Morris. How is that for grasping the implications?

        Mart

  • by FourthAge (1377519) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @08:37AM (#28585843) Journal

    When stating the specifications of future computers, never, ever use real units such as "megabytes", because whatever number you use, it will be hopelessly wrong within a few years.

  • by Daemonax (1204296) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @08:38AM (#28585849)
    Perhaps I should read this again. On the first reading it was incredibly hard to make much sense of the story. It does though drip with atmosphere, but some parts of the story are just so damn bizarre.

    Anyone know if the other two related stories are any good (Mono Lisa Overdrive, and Count Zero)?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Thyamine (531612)
      I just read it for the first time about a month ago, and thought the same thing. There are parts of the story where you just need to accept what is being said and delve into it later, otherwise you keep going back thinking you missed some explanation of a word/thing/scene. Thankfully I've played Shadowrun which is basically based on Gibson's stories that I can see (although he's not a fan of it apparently). I'm about half-way through Count Zero and so far its ok, but is starting to refer back to Neuroman
      • by hitmark (640295)

        Shadowrun have some cyberpunk themes, yes, but its just as much high fantasy.

        I guess one could say they took gibson and tolkien, stuffed it in a blender and hit turbo...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Aggrajag (716041)
      It's a trilogy so yes you should read them all. And I would suggest reading Johnny Mnemonic as well. I really cannot say which one is the best as I've always thought about it as one work.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Goaway (82658)

        The later two are pretty tightly intervowen, but Neuromancer really is more of a stand-alone work that the later books only vaguely reference. All three are definitely not a single work.

        • There I disagree a little -- in a lot of ways, the latter two books are all about the fallout from what happens at the end of Neuromancer. Neuromancer is the cause and the latter books are about the effect.

          They don't reference it directly a lot, true.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Goaway (82658)

            More importantly, the story of Neuromancer is entirely self-contained. You don't need to read the later books to appreciate it. Therefore it is a separate work.

        • by Aggrajag (716041)
          Well, you are quite right but *I* have considered them as a single work.
    • by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @09:22AM (#28586007)

      Gibson is no easy read because he doesn't explain things. He writes as if he wrote a story for someone who lives in that time and needs no explanation of terms and technology. It makes it hard to read, but it also adds a lot to the atmosphere once you got into the mindset.

      I don't like stories that explain everything in detail to make it easier for you to read. They take away from the experience IMO.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        That's called "immersion". A good writer will make it easy by slowly introducing the words and concepts to you so that you have a good idea of the environment by the time the story really starts moving. Anathem was excellent in this way. Even though it had a lot of made-up words and a totally different society, the concepts were introduced so that you could easily follow them. Now if only the story had been a bit better...

        Of course, some authors prefer to just dunk you into the midst of everything.
        • Well, whatever you prefer, I like Gibson's style. Not really understanding what's going on often puts you in the same situation as the (anti) hero. :)

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Exactly. The parts of the novel which make little sense on first reading quite literally read like a series of fleeting impressions, experienced by the main character (Case, in this book). It's a great way of putting the reader in the action.

            You know ONLY what the main character knows and no more - you don't get to cheat with help from the Explaining Narrator.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        I don't like it if it becomes narrating/lecturing either, with some exceptions like HHGTTG. But some authors are very good at introducing it through the plot by having someone in the story who needs an explanation, is cause for a discussion around it, or pre-introduce it in the passing at some earlier point. When they do it right, it makes up for very good books without feeling like you're treated like a 5yo but it's a rare talent.

      • by gandhi_2 (1108023)
        In contrast to garbage like Clancy where he explains everything every time, in every novel, as if retards are his target audience. I'll take Neuromancer, Mono Lisa Overdrive, Count Zero, Idoru, and Image Recognition any day. Although The Difference Engine I hated.
    • by mihalis (28146)

      Anyone know if the other two related stories are any good (Mono Lisa Overdrive, and Count Zero)?

      They are good, but as Gibson himself said Mona Lisa Overdrive was where he started to run out of material a little. Still they hold up much better than, say, the last couple of Dune books (in my opinion).

    • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @09:56AM (#28586123) Homepage

      Anyone know if the other two related stories are any good (Mono Lisa Overdrive, and Count Zero)?

      As an open implementation of .NET Lisa Overdrive, I thought it was a pretty good attempt, although, as usual, it's a slavish imitation of a paradigm invented by others and released in closed-source format long ago. What's especially weird in this case, though, is that the Lisa, which stole shamelessly from XEROX PARC, had to be overclocked in order to be able to run the bloated .NET Framework, which itself, erm, "borrowed" many toolkit widgets that came out of over nearly decades of Macintosh development, which itself obsoleted the original Lisa project --- only to be being re-implemented in the opensource Mono project so that it could be run on a non-Windows OS stack. Talk about chasing your own tail. Especially since OS X has been out for about a decade, and XCode makes everything else pale by comparison.

  • Pay Phones (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bhima (46039) * <Bhima.PandavaNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday July 05, 2009 @08:42AM (#28585859) Journal

    Sorry, I enjoyed Neuromancer as much as anyone. However, you can't talk about what Gibson got right without talking about what he missed... most interestingly he missed the invention of mobile phones and so pay phones make an appearance in the book.

    • by hitmark (640295)

      Thats the thing about scifi, it will most often just project the experimental tech of "today" into the future, making it smaller and lighter...

    • Re:Pay Phones (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dmala (752610) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @10:09AM (#28586185)
      Yeah, there are definitely parts of Neuromancer that are hilariously dated. The one that always sticks out for me is the part where Case has 3MB of stolen RAM that he's trying to move. It sounded impressively futuristic in 1985. Today, not so much.
      • by bhima (46039) *

        For some reason that storage space business got me more in the film adaption of Johnny Mnemonic with Keanu Reeves, than the books. Though admittedly I'm sure I had more RAM in my own computer the last time I read Neuromancer.

        They could have easily slipped in another SI prefix...

    • by fermion (181285)
      I disagree. Nueromancer is important because it translates common themes into a new language. This is all science fiction was and is. A literary form that helps us deal with a technologies(the telling of skill) that the average person has increasingly difficulties understanding. I think most people understood a pencil or a lever or even a car, but how many people understand a transistor, or the working of a stage two booster on a Saturn V, or how Little Boy is different from Fat Man. I certainly don't.
    • bluetooth headsets (Score:5, Insightful)

      by je ne sais quoi (987177) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @12:26PM (#28586787)

      most interestingly he missed the invention of mobile phones and so pay phones make an appearance in the book.

      It's true that he doesn't have any mobile phones and seems to prefer implants, but he had a lot of those that do similar functions to a phone. E.g., Molly has some sort of implant that gives the time, and radio functions and then Case monitors her position through his cyberspace rig (more than just her position, her whole sensory apparatus), of which a video conferencing phone might be considered a clumsy version. Also, throughout the book, one sees people who insert some sort of chip called a "microsoft" into a jack behind their ear that give them some extra knowledge, or some enhancement. When those Bluetooth headsets became popular and people just started wearing them around like they were an item of clothing, it reminded me precisely of those "microsofts" in Neuromancer, or whatever they were called.

    • Re:Pay Phones (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SpectreBlofeld (886224) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @02:52PM (#28587663)

      Everybody likes to focus on the technology when discussing William Gibson, but the real focus of his stories have always been about the psychology/sociology/culture of the people in his books.

      Take the Bridge Trilogy. The virtual glasses which (in part) drive the stories are simply plot macguffins. The real focus of the stories is the San Francisco-Oakland bridge and the people on it, which is decidedly low-tech - an interstitial, lawless zone, where, due to the class divide, the city's poor and homeless have taken residency, living in makeshift cabins strapped to the suspension cables. A metalsmith on the bridge forges knife blades, hammered out of motorcycle chains, giving them a damascus-like blade, while a vendor sells soup from a pot that is never emptied, rather continuously adding new ingredients... the 'wild folk' living on the bridge are feared by those living on land, but on the bridge itself, there is a sense of cooperation and fellowship.

      Compare to the real-life (and now demolished) city of Kowloon.

      Anyway, if you focus too much on the tech, you're missing the point.

    • Speaking of pay phones / cell phones influencing story lines... If you go back and watch TV shows from the 70s and 80s, you'll see that a bunch of the stories just won't work today. Many of the plots turn on character X having to jump in a car and race to point Y to warn character Z about threat G. If these shows were re-shot to be set in modern times, the writers would have to perpetually make characters forget to charge their cell phones or put them in areas with spotty coverage.

      Seth
  • I simply didn't find the book as compelling as the hype. I don't think it was predictive. It certainly pre-dated fiction like the Matrix, but the terminology, and the feel of how things work feel very much rooted in a sooped-up virtual reality extension of the technology that was around back then.

    It's a while since I read it, and I'm not inclined to revisit it. Perhaps its just me *shrug*

    • by dzfoo (772245)

      No, it's not just you. The same happened to me. I read it when I was 18 or 19 years old on the enthusiastic recommendation of friends and strangers alike, and I found it extremely weird and hard to follow. I "got" most of the plot and theme, I just didn't care much for it.

      I then tried to give it another chance later on, when in my 30s, thinking that perhaps I was too young to grasp and appreciate the book on my first read. You see, I fell for the hype (again), and wanted to make sure I wasn't missing ou

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TerranFury (726743)

        I read Neuromancer and Pattern Recognition on similar advice. I disliked both, but probably for very different reasons. (I also read his collaboration with Bruce Sterling, The Difference Engine, and though I won't say I disliked it, I also wasn't impressed by it; I simply didn't feel strongly about it either way.)

        My problem with William Gibson is an impression I get from him: That he is a popular-press reporter, trying desperately to be "hip" and "relevant," and writing about subjects about which he knows

        • by Goaway (82658)

          Gibson is, technically speaking, a far better writer than Stephenson. But Stephenson is so obviously enjoying writing his ridiculous tall tales, and that enthusiasm adds a lot to the reading experience, and can easily make up for what he lacks in literary skills otherwise.

        • by Yokaze (70883) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @02:05PM (#28587401)

          > That he is a popular-press reporter, trying desperately to be "hip" and "relevant," and writing about subjects about which he knows rather little.
          > You may be surprised to hear this in the next sentence, but I love a lot of Neal Stephenson's work [...]

          Not so much. While they work with similar themes, I think their writing style is quite different.

          William Gibson is much more terse and relies on cultural references ('name-dropping') for setting the scene. The story evolves more around such scene descriptions, than a particular sequence of actions.
          As you seem to find those scene descriptions rather pretentious, it is hardly surprising, that you dislike his works. But quite frankly, I like sentences with such references like:

          Walking up Roppongi Dori from the ANA Hotel, where she's had the cab drop her, into the shadow of the multi-tiered expressway that looks like the oldest thing in town. Tarkovsky, someone had once told her, had filmed parts of Solaris here, using the expressway as found Future City.
          Now it's been Blade Runnered by half a century of use and pollution, edges of concrete worn porous as coral. (from Pattern Recognition)

          In my opinion, Neal Stephenson writes more approachable. I feel more involved. His writing seems to me less constructed and more flowing. But to me it also seems his down-side: The plot seems a bit unplanned, getting out of hand, the ending somewhat hurried.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Kidbro (80868)

            In my opinion, Neal Stephenson writes more approachable. I feel more involved. His writing seems to me less constructed and more flowing. But to me it also seems his down-side: The plot seems a bit unplanned, getting out of hand, the ending somewhat hurried.

            Some slashdotter, in some previous thread about Stephenson uttered the excellent words "Neal Stephenson doesn't do endings. At some point, he just declares victory and stops writing." (admittedly, I'm not sure I got the quote entirely right - it's been s

    • by Blakey Rat (99501)

      That's ok, I can't stand Snowcrash. (That's almost a crime on this forum.) No opinion on Neuromancer, since I haven't read it since middle school.

  • Murray Leinster predicted the future of computer technology better in the '50s than Gibson did in the '90s.

    • by solanum (80810)

      Don't forget he wrote it on an old typewriter (see his own blog: http://www.williamgibsonbooks.com/blog/2006_10_01_archive.asp [williamgibsonbooks.com] )and was well known for NOT being a computer nerd. I love the book (got it in the 80s and have read it a number of times. I don't think he as trying to predict anything. He was trying to write a good story in a new way and he did both of those things.

      • I don't think he as trying to predict anything. He was trying to write a good story in a new way and he did both of those things.

        Absolutely agree. I'm not saying he didn't write a good yarn or three.

      • by sootman (158191)

        Don't forget he wrote it on an old typewriter and was well known for NOT being a computer nerd.

        It took the power of eBay to get William Gibson online. [wired.com] "I went happily along for years, smugly avoiding anything that involved a modem. Email address? Sorry. Don't have one... Then I found eBay. And I wanted to go back."

    • by MisterSquid (231834) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @09:13AM (#28585977)

      This is the man who coined the term "cyberspace"--first in "Johnny Mnemonic" in his 1982 Burning Chrome collection and popularized in Neuromancer--and imagined the representation of information as virtual/geographic landscapes. All of it pounded out using a manual typewriter. This 15-year-old interview [wordyard.com] may give you some sense of why Gibson's novel will probably matter more than any cultural artifact you or I will ever create.

      • by julesh (229690)

        This is the man who coined the term "cyberspace"

        And we still haven't cyberrecovered from all the cybershit that people keep cyberinventing.

        I mean seriously, the term was a stupid one when he invented one, stupid people adopted the prefix without even considering what it meant, and suddenly everything's cyber-something. And none of them cared that "cyber" refers to electronic control of real systems, not virtual interfaces.

      • I read just about all of Gibson's novels the week they came out, and they were super cool... but they have had about zero predictive power.

        The word "cyberspace" almost always means that the person using it has no idea what they're talking about. Oh, there are exceptions, but the people who are most taken by Gibson's vision are sorely lacking in insight.

        The representation of information as landscapes has been a repeated dead end.

        Not believing in the predictive power of Gibson's novels doesn't mean I don't consider them important, it just means I'm aware that they're fiction.

        Lord of the Rings is a great cultural artifact without having people yammering on about Ringwraiths being real.

        • by MisterSquid (231834) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @09:58AM (#28586133)

          Excellent points taken.

          Regarding "the representation of information as landscapes" as "a repeated dead end," I agree it has been done to death and the idea may not have any meaning as such. However, considered as a metaphor, the idea that networked information and the traversal of these domains would/could serve as a replacement for physical/real/actual landscapes is, to my mind, prescient.

          Vannevar Bush, Tim Berners-Lee, Marshall McLuhan, Jaron Lanier, Sherry Turkle, and many other theorists and creators of human-machine interfaces have helped produce what we recognize as contemporary information systems and, in my opinion, Gibson's fictional vision to some degree shaped what has been created (e.g. Second Life) and what we imagine possible (e.g. real-time augmented reality). I think you too quickly dismiss Gibson's influence when you claim Gibson's work has no predictive power.

          Gibson may not have predicted anything, but his vision indisputably reflects and affects some of the very real technologies that have since come to pass.

  • by localroger (258128) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @09:56AM (#28586121) Homepage
    First line, oft quoted: "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel" When Billy wrote that that would have been grey, but today it's bright blue.
    • First line, oft quoted: "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel" When Billy wrote that that would have been grey, but today it's bright blue.

      So maybe it was a pretty day out?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by RDW (41497)

      'The sky was the perfect untroubled blue of a television screen, tuned to a dead channel' - Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere (yes, of course it's deliberate).

  • Weirdly, this article about saline face modification [bizarremag.com] in Bizarre magazine. Makes me want to reread Neuromancer and Johnny Mnemonic (but definitely not watch the movie again)

  • What I liked most in Neuromancer, is the use of figures, such as ice as a firewall, and the hero hacking and melting through it to access the protected part. I could easily imagine this in a movie ...

    • by DynaSoar (714234)

      ICE is "intrusional COUNTER electronics". Firewalls detect and reject. ICE fights back. A firewall might detect, say, attempts to locate an unsecured machine via banging on commonly used and traditionally unsecured ports. ICE might send back a response many times, each with an enormous payload of junk data, and convincing the origin to accept those oversize packets, in so doing slowing it down if not knocking it offline. Even more damaging payloads can easily be imagined. This would make for an even better

  • by billybob_jcv (967047) on Sunday July 05, 2009 @11:44AM (#28586595)
    Great sci-fi is rarely about the technology. Neuromancer was first and foremost a great cyberpunk story. The technology that the main character Case used was secondary to who Case was - a guy from the underbelly of society who lived by his own brand of ethics and was being manipulated by evil-doers. The technoworld in which he lived is simply an interesting setting - like Sam Spade's San Francisco.
  • Others have rightly called BS on TFA already for the grossly inflated copies-sold figure. If the movie comes out as planned http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1037220/ [imdb.com] his total readership + moviegoers + game players for all his works and derivations might total something like the 160 million figure, but only if that's not constrained to sales of those.

    Before taking the article to task for other details, it's worth noting that it's not very original. At the 20 year mark the Neuromancer was reviewed by Velvet Delor

  • Everybody keeps neglecting his use of derms to deliver drugs. Yet, the first "patch" I saw widely in use was the anti-smoking patches in the mid-90's. I'd bet he didn't invent them, but he did envision they would be widely used. Derms even got mentioned in a recent computer-animated flick where a lady peels her sleeve up and shows us about 15 "coffee derms."
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by YttriumOxide (837412)

      Everybody keeps neglecting his use of derms to deliver drugs. Yet, the first "patch" I saw widely in use was the anti-smoking patches in the mid-90's.

      Interestingly, I did recently come across it as a delivery mechanism for illegal psychedelic drugs also - definitely the first time I've seen that. The "sales pitch" for it was that it'd give you a longer trip, since it absorbs more slowly in to the system. Basically it's (purported to be) about 4 trips worth of LSD, but given at a rate of approximately 1 per 4 hours, so you'd come up at a pretty slow rate, but eventually reach the intensity of about one and a half trips, and then remain at that state for

"Irrationality is the square root of all evil" -- Douglas Hofstadter

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