A Logic Named Joe

By | November 19, 2006

I recently heard an old radio show ("X Minus One" from 1955) based on a sci-fi short story from 1946 called "A Logic Named Joe." It is said that the personal computer was not predicted by sci-fi writers, but this one came quite close. The "logic" was a box something like a TV, but with a video screen, keyboard, microphone, and speaker. The main interaction with it was speaking, and the "logic" would speak in return. When questioned, it might ask a question in return to clarify.

Here is a list of some of the things predicted in this story. There are more I can think of. What I found most amazing was the prediction of something like the Internet, including voice and video phone conversations, online banking, etc. It appeared to work in a wireless fashion, also, since it just had to be plugged in like any other appliance. The author basically abandoned the idea of regular phone service in favor of this wireless computer-based telephony. Keep in mind he was writing in 1946!

One thing he did not see was video games. The boy in the story only wants the computer to help him to make real things (no virtual reality here). He still prefers to play outside.

Another thing that was predicted was a danger of the Internet. What if someone wanted help in doing something evil? At the beginning of the story, the answers to dangerous questions are protected and cannot be accessed, but things begin to change…

In the end, the author Murray Leinster recognized that massive access to tons of information would cause lots of trouble (or I would say aid in the spread of sin), and thought that it could actually be the end of civilization, because many people would give in to the temptation to use it in bad, even the worst ways.

This is happening somewhat ‘ey?

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