From the Desktop: Looking Back From the Next Millennium
The Origins of the LinterfaceNA ArchSurv 3412, old Indy, grid 64, 33.
System date 2134.5.01
(Old Gregorian Calendar: December 27, 3000)
"Watch out for that supporting beam. It looks like the fibrous material is rotted."
"'Terran Gs'? Going native on us, Yerm?"
"Well, you know what they say sir, when on the home world--"
"--Watch out for fluorocarbons! Ha ha!"
"Heh, good one, sir. Sir! I think we may have found another old comp device in this chamber."
"Really? Let me see..."
"It's there sir, under that pile of old texts. They must have protected the unit when this home collapsed."
"You're right, Yerm. This domicile must have been active in the early days when Terran digtech and the old print media were still competing with each other..."
"That must have been an odd time, sir. Information coming at them from so many different sources."
"Correction, Yerm. Remember, in this era, information was passive. People had to seek out all of the information they desired. Only a small portion of information was being actively delivered."
"You're right sir, sorry. I wonder what happened here?"
"Judging from the location and the depth of this structure, I'd say it was destroyed in the 2004 New Madrid Quake. The shockwaves easily reached this part of the old American territories. That was the last big quake before tectontech was truly--are you listening, Yerm?"
"Hm? Oh, sorry, sir. I was just scanning this device. It's appears to be perfectly intact. Perhaps we should activate it."
"That would be a good idea, but these units ran on over 100 volts of electricity. Where are you going to get that kind of power?"
"Actually sir, I brought a entransfer unit down with us. The power from the solar collector on the surface should be enough, if I place the en-t unit here on the back of the metallic case near the power input..."
"Be careful Yerm. That casing is conductive... We should comm the rest of the party on the surface and warn them of the energy drain."
"Attention all personnel in NA ArchSurv 3412. This is Yerm, announcing a power drain about to occur on main landing site collection unit. Please confirm all perscomp units are switched to kinetic power for the next 25 ticks. Thank you.
"It's amazing how much energy these old silicon-based processing units required. This thing will consume as much energy as 300 of our quantum-based units that can run on our own bodies' kinetic energy"
"It is incredible, sir... Activating en-t unit. Cycling to proper frequency, voltage, current... match reached, sir."
"Activate the unit."
"Starting... look, sir! It's, wait is it starting? Where is the interface?"
"Steady, Yerm. These old machines went through a lengthy process of startup before the interface came online. It could take upwards of 2 ticks just to see the interface."
"Two ticks? Why, I could transfer the entire LunGov repository to MarsGov in that amount of time!"
"I know. But this machine was likely the cutting edge at this time. Practically all of these machines used a common interface, too. An interesting phenomenon in their society. Without a government mandate, almost their entire tech base shared a common interface called 'Windows'."
"I scanned that when I was a little boy. They had some thing called a free-market economy, then, didn't they? Why weren't other interfaces introduced?"
"I have a theory about that. I believe other interfaces existed at that time. But the records have been unclear since the Great EMP Accident of 2023. It was rumored that one of these Windows comps actually had some kind of binary logic error that touched off the accident, you know."
"A binary logic error? Sir, how is that even possible? Even the simplest perscomps designed by students would never--"
"Understood, Yerm. But you are thinking in terms of quantum variables, where uncertainty is built in. You must also remember that this Windows tech came from just one source, and was not manipulated by the population at large. No one could change the base code for the interface, save a handful of developers. It was nothing like our open system today. This closed, for-profit only mentality may have led to the EMP incident. It would certainly explain the Redmond Riots in 2024."
"I... I just can't fathom it, sir."
"They were different times, Yerm. Information was still horded based on the old economic set of rules. But I believe that at least some of those other interfaces were created under a different set of rules. I think that there were open systems before 2023."
"Have... have you ever seen evidence of this, sir?"
"Regrettably, no. There are glimpses of something to do with penguins in some of the old hardcopy archives that survived 2023. So few comps survived after that era. This one may have made it intact because of the depth, but all of them we have seen to date have the Windows interface."
"Sir... I believe the interface is ready. But this machine's visunit is malfunctioning. The screen is inactive, I'm afraid."
"Transfer the v-sig to my perscomp. Set comm at chan3."
"Yes, sir. Initiating transfer... Sir? Sir! Dr. Raman, what's wrong?"
"I... I can't believe it... It's here. It's really here?"
"Sir? What's here? What are you seeing? Let me tie in!"
"It's the precursor, Yerm. It's the interface that is the basis for all of our tech, on all the Humworlds. We've found the very beginnings!"
"I don't under--is that a penguin?"
"It is Yerm! We have found it. We have found one of the very first examples of what would become our perscomps' linterface. And look! In the old Anglish language, perhaps the very roots of the word 'linterface'"
"Sir, I didn't study Anglish yet. Just Mandarin and Standard... what does it say?"
"It says 'Linux', my boy.
"It says 'Linux'."
Brian Proffitt survived the 2004 New Madrid Quake that leveled his house and lived happily with his family for most of the 21st Century. After the Great EMP Accident, he stopped working on computers and went on to become a concert harmonica player with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
His oldest daughter, as President of the Old United States, was instrumental in rebuilding tech on old Earth and in starting the first wave of Colonization to the Inner System worlds.
His youngest daughter entered the medical profession, and became a pioneer in for cancer research that eventually led to the meta-cure she co-discovered in 2056.