Lilahaa

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Note: this page is a holdover from my childhood writing, which I cannot fit into my current storyline even metaphorically. However, it represents the political attitudes of various Political parties of Teppala quite well.

Introduction

Computing on planet Tebbala in the Cold Era was dominated by the two OS's Lilahaa and Kulapila, used by the rival empires of Camia (Lilahaa) and Wamia (Kulapila).

The so-called Cold Era spanned the first half of the 3900s, when people living on planet Tebbala had faster-than-light space travel but were in many ways technologically comparable to or even behind humans on planet Earth in the early 21st century. (I rewrote the timeline several times, moving it as far forward as the 4200s and as far back as the 2300s, but here I will stick to the 3900s because I need a consistent way to refer to the decades).

Operating system as programming language

Computers in this era merged their operating system (OS) with an inbuilt programming language, and generally supported no other programming languages.

Binary code

Yet, the OS itself was stored as binary code and thus could not be edited later on except by people who could read binary code. Thus, any bugs that happened to be included in any release of either of the two major operating systems would remain there unless someone was able to hit on the exact spot in the binary code where the problem manifested itself. Thus, there was no concept of open-source programming.

This severe defect affected both OS's, as it was common to the shared nature of their computer hardware, but there were more bugs in Kulapila than in Lilahaa.

For example, since Kulapila could not read files larger than about 11 MB, when it became necessary to allow larger files to be created, the programmers came up with the idea of splitting files up into 11 MB chunks and creating a new type of file manager that displayed the groups as if they were a single file. The Kulapila of the 20’s had been a mostly textual interface, but GUI features were added throughout the 30’s to make it easier to use. But the programmers were never able to remove the underlying layers, so much like Windows 95/8 a lot of seemingly graphical programs would launch with a console in the upper left corner of the screen that was quickly hidden to suggest it was not real.

Divergence and early development

Lilahaa was much more powerful than Kulapila. Kulapila incorporated many user-friendly design principles, aimed at making computers easier to use for casual users, but soon these decisions made Kulapila worse for everyone, including casual users.

By contrast, Lilahaa was a raw-mode OS aimed only at experts, and was far superior in performance to Kulapila in every way. It was very difficult to learn, and even experts sometimes had difficulty using it, but the people of Camia were patriotic enough to learn how to use Lilahaa the expert way, even if they had no general interest in computers. Thus all the groups in Camian society that one would stereotypically expect to be unfamiliar with computers were at a level beyond even the best of the Wamians, since Wamia's Kulapila essentially made it impossible to be a computer expert by controlling everything from the top down at the highest level.

Lilahaa's difficult UI was a handicap early on. In the 3920's, Kulapila's easy-to-use approach actually succeeded. Lilahaa expected to win in the long run, but knew that to win they would need to slowly catch up from a starting point far behind Wamia's. Camian programmers were up front with their citizens about the fact that they were using (for now) inferior technology, whereas Wamia's Kulapila programmers tried to hide the truths about those few things in Lilahaa that were superior even in the 20's, such as greater power for individual users.

Developments in Kulapila

As Kulapila forged ahead unchallenged, their programmers soon became unbearably perverse. Conflict arose within the company about which direction to take the operating system, with one side sabotaging the efforts of the other at no gain to themselves and increasing costs to the customer. Because all OS's were written in binary, there was no way to undo these acts of sabotage.

Error messages

Though Kulapila advertised itself as a user-friendly OS, it was much less so when making a computer user weak could lead to increased power for the programmers. For example, error messages were meticulously documented, but gave the user no real clue as to what to do about them. A common error message dialog would be something such as

System Error Six,

Where only a few people knew what the 6th error was and fewer still knew what to do about it. The rest would have to hire help from the government, which was expensive.

Sometimes, an error message would be so cryptic that the GUI's attempt to display it would itself produce an error.[1]

Growth of advertising

Even though Kulapila still had vastly superior resources, they began to fall behind Lilahaa in certain areas and again tried to hide this from their customers. Kulapila sent advertisements over its network extolling the few strengths of their operating system, and then charged the customers for the money they had spent sending the ads.

Computers in control

Soon, backdoors were built into the OS allowing the government to take full control of any citizen’s computer, even to the point of having them buy things online to raise more money for the government. A clock-like device with a numeric currency display was provided to each citizen to show how much money the Wamian government had cost them so far each day. The computers were also made to be easy to destroy, so that if the government wanted people to buy more computers they would send out a virus that would cause the computers to physically self-destruct. However the debt meter was not possible to destroy, and would continue to add up more money owed even when it wasn’t attached to a working computer.

Monetization of essential functions

Though Kulapila was produced by the government, they were not so powerful as to force their customers to buy new products outright. Instead they prodded their customers to buy new products by disabling essential functions in the software, such as the ability to delete certain files, and then selling a temporary license to delete for an additional fee.

Helpless citizens try to adapt

By the middle of the 30’s, Kulapila was so bad that citizens were secretly buying up old computers from the 20’s since they were easier to use even though they had to keep on buying the new computers as well to satisfy the government’s insistence that everyone own a modern computer. Meanwhile, the Kulapila government ran itself mostly on computers from Lilahaa, since they were unable to produce anything of their own that was capable of running such a large nationwide network.

Wamia digs in

The Kulapila programmers sometimes sued their own customers. Wamia's heavily centralized government both developed the operating system and ran the court system, so the courts were strongly biased in favor of the Kulapila programmers, and the customers rarely won. Sometimes the programmers would instruct a judge to simply rule in favor of the programmers without bothering the customer to come to trial; this was because the programmers were powerful enough to take action against judges who did not rule their way. As in many other situations, however, the programmers could not do this in every single instance, as they were not quite that powerful.

Sometime around 2001 I decided that the word for lawsuit in the Wamian language would have their word for play (a game) in it, as these lawsuits were a source of great amusement for the plaintiffs. Play may have been the original name of the shared operating system before the two nations went their separate ways.

Cybernetic warfare

Lilahaa programmers knew that Wamia's government still ran mostly on Lilahaa computers, and periodically sent out viruses and other attacks to the Wamian government's few working Kulapila computers in order to cripple the Wamian government, as well as exploiting a few secret backdoors in Lilahaa. Computer skills were widely distributed throughout the entire Camian population, and these hackers were both male and female, young and old. And some of the young were very young indeed, as Kulapila was so vulnerable that Lilahaa users could break in with little effort.

Wamia hired an army of programmers to write antivirus programs to head off the Camian programmers, but only distributed them to government employees. The common people were still helpless, and the government used these virus attacks as an excuse to their citizens for why the new computers ran so poorly. Antivirus programs were illegal for common citizens in Wamia because the government had no way of designing one that could not also be used to keep out the government spies. (Generally viruses written by Camians disguised themselves as the Wamian government, so any antivirus program designed by the Wamian government would have to allow such viruses access anyway.) Thus the citizens of Wamia were attacked by viruses both from Camians playing around and their own government deliberately targeting them in order to spy. Despite this wide-open vulnerability, Wamia's government refused to protect its citizens from Camian viruses. They realized that, in order to spy on their citizens, they needed to require that all Wamian computers allow the Wamian government unrestricted access.

By contrast, Camia did not allow its government to spy on its citizens, and therefore Camian computers generally could not be hacked even by Camians, let alone by Wamians. Some Camians did hack other Camians to prove it could be done, and were considered heroes for doing so, but even the most successful among them accomplished far less than the typical hacker who went after Wamians. Camian hackers typically chose to present themselves as the Wamian government in order to gain access to private citizens' computers. However, the best among the hackers could hack the Wamian government itself.

The hacking holiday

Camia even had a national holiday, April 12, set aside specifically to allow anyone to sit down and hack into Wamian computers, particularly those of the Wamian government, while remaining entirely invincible to Wamian revenge because of their own network's much better security. On this day each year, Camians in each town visited a local computer lab, which was then connected to the Wamian government's network. Then they competed to see which of them could hurt Wamia the most. Because the hacking was on the same day every year, Wamian citizens prepared themselves for it by turning off their computers. However, Wamia still needed some computers to stay on at all times in order for the country to run properly; when Wamia's government once tried turning them off, the Camians stayed in their chairs all night, eating meals donated by local restaurants, and then when the sun came up the next morning and the Wamians figured it was safe to turn everything back on the Camians began the hacking. From that point on, Wamia agreed not to attempt to evade the hacking holiday, and left its essential computers turned on.

However, the very fact that fewer computers than normal were operating every April 12 meant that those computers were more likely than ever to get hacked. Wamia's government tried to encourage its citizens to leave their home computers turned on, hoping that some of the Camians would pick easy victims and leave the government alone, but Camia responded by promising higher rewards for hackers who attacked the generally better-protected Wamian government computers. During one competition, 41 Camians simultaneously hacked into the Wamian central government network from 41 different entry points. Even though they were competing with each other, the 41 Camian hackers cooperated with each other and hid each other from the Wamian government so they could chat with each other. These conversations were broadcast live on electric billboards all over Wamia, but yet remained hidden from the Wamian government officials trying to stop the hackers.

With so many illegal outsiders roaming around their network, the Wamian computer security team was forced to admit defeat and try to make compromises with the hackers in order to lessen the amount of damage they were causing. The winner of the competition that year was a teenage girl named Ginger who managed to get into the Wamian government's tax collection service and raise everyone's taxes by an enormous amount. Because Wamia used instant electronic debt collection to collect its taxes, the government computer believed that the entire nation owed the government money and withdrew large sums of money from the bank accounts of every citizen instantly, putting many into bankruptcy. Then, she transferred the money into her own bank account and realized that she had become one of the richest people in Camia. Wamia tried to reverse the transaction, but found that Ginger had immediately spent much of her money on tangible goods and therefore ensured that the money could not be recovered.

Endogenous viruses

Bugs in Kulapila were much more dangerous than those in Lilahaa because of the infighting and general aimlessness of the Kulapila programmers, such that most of the computer’s resources were spent on fighting different programs in the OS that were trying to delete each other. Sometimes a programmer being fired would deliberately add a virus to the OS that would only activate much later on, long after he was gone. Often a computer user would encounter an error that required the user to press a certain key to bypass, only to discover that the modern Kulapila keyboards no longer had that key. Then the person would have to call a technician who would come by with a special keyboard that had that key on it, press the key, and hand the customer a bill.

Wamia takes action

Wamia realized now its product was vastly inferior, even without the government spying on its citizens, but continued to spend ever more money advertising to its people about how superior it supposedly was. In the early 3940s, the Camian government made a list of ways in which the Kulapila software was still arguably superior: for example, all Kulapila computers ran at a fixed resolution of 640x480, and therefore all graphical programs could fit on the screen; by contrast, display size had always been optional in Lilahaa, and some customers with otherwise modern computers were still running on 320x240 because they had never needed to upgrade. Thus, these programmers were forced to write multiple versions of their programs, and some customers had better UI's than others. In the next release of Lilahaa, Camia solved the problem by offering free upgrades to 1920x1536, giving each customer room to accommodate nine windows the size of Kulapila's maximum window size. Each other remaining weakness was also solved with this update, some at great cost to the Camian government. Wamia's response to losing its few remaining advantages was to charge its customers for an ad campaign explaining how Kulapila at its best was almost as good as Lilahaa at its worst.

People of the Meteors

Eventually the situation got so bad that Kulapila realized they needed to start from scratch on a new OS that would work properly for everyone, even if it meant giving up total control. All of their code was contaminated now, so they made a new OS called People of the Meteors (Testapta). They advertised the new operating system by reminding their users of the features that had given early Kulapila a healthy lead over Lilahaa, such as its GUI. Customers wondered what relevance this could possibly have, but had no choice to buy the new OS.

Wamia was now 30 years behind on programming, but still had roughly comparable hardware resources. At first the new OS was given to only a few people, since giving it to everyone would put the government’s hold on power at risk. In order to keep old software running properly, the programmers decided that every Testapta computer would come with a fully working Kulapila computer running its own OS, and to keep developing Kulapila as a side project even though it would only run within a window attached to the side of the Testapta monitor.

Many people predicted that Testapta would soon become as bad as Kulapila, but because the Kulapila hardware was isolated, the Testapta code never became contaminated. Wamia still spied on its citizens through the Kulapila devices, but was forced to surrender control of its citizens' new Testapta computers. Therefore, the Wamian government was able to track certain user activities that were routed through the Kulapila device, but for the first time in fifteen years, Wamian citizens were able to perform most of their online activity anonymously.

Camia was scared that they might have a real enemy for the first time in thirty years, so they obtained illicit copies of the Testapta binaries and adopted some Testapta features into Lilahaa order to keep their own OS ahead in the race. Perversity was beginning to creep out from within the ranks of the Camian programmers, as well, and for the same familiar reasons; Lilahaa had been so much more successful than its competitor that the programmers realized nothing they did wrong would hurt them at all and they gave up trying to make anything more than incremental improvements to keep their bosses happy. A war of purity erupted in Lilahaa, with the pro-adoption programmers fighting against the Lilahaa purists. Eventually the pro-Testapta people won out, and even Wamia's Testapta developers took this as a sign that cooperation might be the best way forward, even though the two empires were still at war.

Scratchpad

Usually I put my scratchpads at the top of the page, but here I put it at the bottom because it is less important.

This is over half of the page length now, and has strayed from its original purpose.

Many of the ideas here are childish because my parents exposed me to computers at a very young age. I may have been tapping away on an Apple //c at the age of three, and there is a photo of me with a friend at a computer where I look not much older than that. I have a distinct memory of being driven to a room lined with computers, and then lifted up onto a chair. The man teaching the class told us not to press the ESC key, and immediately I decided to type ESC letter by letter on the screen. The man came to me and said, "What did you do?" Now, as an adult, I suspect he knew exactly what I had done, but was humoring me to make me feel smart. On the other hand, this was the mid-1980s, so maybe I really did fool him.

Exploding computers

Possibly the earliest idea I can remember ... in perhaps first grade (third grade at the latest) I decided that Camian computers would explode at the slightest unexpected user error, but that this was okay because Camians were such experts that they simply never made errors of any kind. Thus, effectively, Camian computers only exploded when "Wamians" used them. I put this word in quotes because Wamia did not exist in my mind until I was in fifth grade ... the "Wamians" here were simply the misfits of Camian society. Camia did not consider this to be a defect in their computers' design, but rather blamed the user, and therefore the users would have to pay $10,000 whenever a computer exploded in front of them. This high figure I came up with might even have been an attempt to portray the Camians as forgiving of their lesser fellow citizens, as at the time, I believed that a typical computer cost around ten times that price. (I did not come up with a private currency for Camia until several years after this.)

By contrast, in my later writing, Wamian computers exploded on purpose whenever the Wamian government decided it was time to force their consumers to buy a newer model. In one scene, fifteen office workers crammed together saw their fifteen computers go blank, then spell out a message letter by letter, and then explode in the users' faces in the same order.[2]

In both situations, I apparently thought of the monitor as the main body of the computer, perhaps because it was the part right in front of the user's face.

Keyboard design

The first Halloween memory ... Camian keyboards have extra control keys, meaning that they can do things that Wamian keyboards cannot. This idea would make more sense if both computers ran the same operating system, which again shows that this is a very early idea, perhaps even earlier than the exploding computer idea above, when I did not know that such a thing as an operating system even existed.

I have always been short for my age and had difficulty reaching the control keys when the schoolteacher was teaching us how to type. I distinctly remember deciding that Wamians would have this problem and Camians would not. Since Camians and Wamians are the same size, this could be explained by giving Wamians larger keys on their keyboards, or placing the control keys in an inconvenient location.

BIOS and bootup sequence

When I was young, I thought that the OS in BIOS stood for "operating system" and was a rudimentary operating system. Technically, it is. I dont know if I want to use this idea or not, but I was sure when I was young that Camian computers would have a "BIOS". I also associated this word with the scientific word βίος "life", and thought of the bootup process as the computer becoming aware of its body.

Even "in the fifties", beyond the scope of this writeup, Lilahaa still used a text-mode boot sequence. It is very similar to modern Linux in that the superficial appearance is the same whether a computer has one megabyte or one terabyte of RAM, and likewise for the other parts of the computer. It could be that Lilahaa retained its primitive bootup sequence for the same reason that the child superheros of Camia had animal-like powers ... the primitive model was the strongest model, whereas the prettified Kulapila bootup sequence was weak and soft in the same way humans without such powers had become. But this is adult speculation on a childhood idea.

Names of programs

Programs probably had similar names on both OS's. Thus, it is not like the divide on Earth where traditional Linux programs have lowercase names while mainstream and mobile applications use fruity names like Bumptop that look like loans from Pabappa.

If dreams are considered canonical, there will be a text editor program for Lilahaa called Piss. Customers would likely consider the name to be funny, not obscene, though it could have alternames. Perhaps the name originated as some other word beginning with P, was then shortened to "P", and then expanded to Piss. This program may even predate the split between the two OS's and therefore appear on both sides. If so, then the name Piss could be seen as a Camian vulgarity, whereas the Wamian side of the divide would keep such names unofficial because of their more parent-like approach to marketing.

The trash icon could be a bomb, and "bomb" would be the verb used to delete something. At least optionally, however, it could be replaced with a toilet icon at least on Kulapila.

Reflections of situations on Earth

As a child, I had no concept of operating systems. The #Exploding computers idea represented my thought process well ... Camian computers worked well because Camian users worked well. These computers used a command line interface because that was all I had ever seen at the time.

When I made some computers more powerful than others, I was familiar with the MacOS interface of the day, and therefore both the strong and the weak computers were GUI-based. Not until the mid-90s ... that is, my early teen years ... was I aware that an operating system similar to the ProDOS i had used as a child was still around. I still didnt know the difference between Windows and Unix ... I thought Unix was a program used to connect to the Internet, perhaps confusing it with telnet.

Text mode interaction

At some point, I decided that Lilahaa (from Camia) was text-based and Kulapila (from Wamia) was entirely based on GUI. I'm not sure if this was before or after I had first seen Linux computers up close in 1999, when I was just turning 18. I know that for at least a few years prior to that, I had similar feelings for the DOS/Mac split, seeing that DOS was superficially more primitive but in fact more powerful beneath the hood. Also in 1999, I remember using Windows NT and realizing that (on that PC installation) there was no full-screen command prompt, as if Windows was ashamed of its text mode and tried to hide it.

It was not all about the text for me, though ... I fondly remember that my first experience using Linux was with the icewm interface, which was a very space-efficient GUI. That is, it had titlebars and buttons like any other, but they were small, and the keyboard could be used to operate them. Terminal windows within icewm thus had most of their space available for the text within them, and were easily resizable. Thus, Lilahaa was not a text mode operating system, but merely an operating system that provided a text mode interface openly and without shame.

Another animal metaphor is appropriate here .... humans are "prettier" but less powerful than animals because humans have lost claws, sharp teeth, and many basic animal abilities unrelated to combat. Thus, e.g. one could say

             ABILITY SCORE
             ANIMAL     HUMAN
Lilahaa      50         50
Kulapila     0          200

Superficially, Kulapila appears more powerful because it has a higher total ability score, but it turns out the key variable here is not the sum but the product: survival requires both human and animal abilities, so Kulapila will win battles against Lilahaa on evenly matched human terms, but when the battle shifts to the natural world, Lilahaa will always win even when Kulapila vastly outnumbers them.

Late in its history, perhaps around the year 3940, Wamia launched the "text mode revolution", where the GUI was replaced with a text console running in the GUI that ran in the inaccessible console. The letters were all graphical images.

The magazine advertisement

I remmeber that in the mid-1990s, a tech company, possibly Netscape, ran an advertisement in a computing magazine showing one male and four female computer users packed together in the same room. The man is proud and accomplished because his computer is a modern computer that does what he tells it to, whereas the four women are frustrated because they are stuck using outdated equipment that isn't adequate for the tasks they need to accomplish, and won't do what they want. Such was the relationship between Camian and Wamian computer users, even though the physical appearance of the UI's was the opposite: Wamia's Kulapila OS developed a superior GUI early on that even Camia acknowledged, but was much more difficult to use because it limited its users' abilities.

Tech support

Note: much of what is here is from a restaurant which I have in my newer work placed in Camia, not Wamia. This is because Camia's STW corporation used similarly perverse customer service tactics.

Unrealistic expectations

When Wamians called helplines for tech support, they were given unhelpful instructions. The Wamian government distributed a program called BINEDIT that allowed the user to modify the binary code of the operating system, screen by screen, and would instruct users with difficult issues to open the binary editor and scroll through the OS's executable file until they reached the place where the bug was so they could fix it.

The Wamian government expected their citizens to help with network issues, even though they did not give the citizens proper tools. Wamian tech support staff would periodically call random citizens at home to alert them that there was a network problem at a certain place, and order them to head out and fix the problem.

Denial of service

Wamian tech support was perverse in other ways. Early on, tech support people realized that their jobs were much easier when there was no Internet, so they purposedly exaggerated network outages and responded to complaints by blaming the customer. Despite all this, Wamian tech support people were hard workers, because their software had so many bugs that even the small fraction of customers that actually got through to the tech support lines was enough to fill their day with work.

Wamian tech support employees considered it a good deed to refuse to help a customer. Those who left customers to their own devices were praised by the others and were eligible for social rewards. This is because the tech support people considered their jobs among the least desirable in the nation, and that any aggression against the customers meant they were standing up for justice. They did not refuse service all the time, however, because the Wamian government needed them to promote good expectations among the customer base.

Some common phrases used by Wamian tech support employees were:

  • We're not gonna do it! said with a smiling face (requires in person contact). This happened when a customer made a request but the tech support employee judged that the customer would probably mess up again.
  • The system froze. Often repeated three times. The tech support employee used this as an excuse for refusal to help. The tech support employee here is saying that their *own* computer froze and they therefore cannot help the customer, although they will continue to bill the customer.
  • Who needs it? Occasionally repeated three times. Used to argue that if some customers could get by without a particular ability, everyone could.
  • You asked for it! To blame the customer when the administrator was undeniably at fault. Wamian tech help people were government employees, and thus could claim they were voted in by the citizens even though there was no direct appointment of employees at government bureaus.
  • Nobody cares! Used when no other response would work.

An organization of tech support employees existed, and plotted a revolution to overthrow the customers, planning a future society in which the tech support employees would still be paid the same but would not have to do any work. Their slogan was "I can't take this oppression anymore!"

Dismissible dialog boxes

Some dialog box error messages could be ignored. this behavior may have been common to both OS's. At the time of my writing, MacOS was such that the entire OS would freeze whenever it displayed a dialog box "Please insert the disk: _____", and if the user did not have that disk on hand, the computer would need to be rebooted, losing all work in all open applications. This sounds like an idea that would make perfect sense for Kulapila, but perhaps I thought it might be too perverse even for them.

I imagine most computer users nowadays take dismissible dialogs for granted and even those old enough to have used early graphical operating systems may no longer remember the experience of being trapped by a dialog box in one particular program and having to restart the computer.

If dismissible dialogs are normal even in Kulapila, then those situations above where the whole computer freezes until the user presses a certain key would be due to bugs in the code, and not the intended behavior. Also, the system could freeze if a command prompt needed a certain input, even if the command prompt was only occupying part of the screen. But the government profited from the resulting tech help fees, and therefore showed little interest in fixing these bugs.

The Internet

A nationwide social network for computer users existed in my writing as early as 1993. It was in text mode, but that may be because that was all I was familiar with at the time (we had a Macintosh, but even Macs at the time still had text mode programs). I may not have fully differentiated it from television, which I imagined as being partly text mode as well.

Because I started writing in 1993, even my plans for a society set in the far future lacked things that we take for granted today, such as smartphones. I actually created cellphones in my early writing, in perhaps 1992, when I was still writing Archie Comics fanfics and hadn't yet created the child superheros. I oscillated between calling them radios and telephones, sometimes even using both in the same paragraph, and figured that made sense since these devices served both purposes. They could connect to TV broadcasts, including independent stations from people's homes, but had no screens and thus could only play the audio. I never thought of connecting them to the Internet apart from a single story I wrote in 1996 where the technology was much more advanced than in any of my other stories (before or after). This was "the Diskwriter story".

Nevertheless, because this story was set in the future, all of the technologies I was aware of at the time were more advanced in Camia than what I was familiar with from Earth. The advancement of technology is perhaps surprisingly small for a spacefaring society, but I mentioned at least once in my writing that technology had slowed down over time and actually stopped progressing around the middle of the 23rd century.

A broadcast tower in every home

Though Camia's government provided its citizens with a large variety of television stations, Camia had no equivalent of the FCC, and people could therefore set up TV and radio stations of their own, entirely unregulated, and it was legal for these stations to block out the broadcasts of other stations, including the government's. This did not happen often but if an emergency occurred in a particular location they would often block out the other channels to get people's attention rather than calling up the news stations to ask them to run the story. Thus, citizen journalism was common. In my early writing, the superhero kids were too polite to interrupt any other broadcasts, but their teacher did so quite often whenever she felt she had something important to say; in some cases, she really did deliver important news, but viewers soon came to dread her interruptions.

Each base of the Save The World corporation had a set of private channels as well, and of these, at least one channel per base was members-only. Since STW's main operation was education, the teachers would communicate with their students through these television stations, and the children would also use them to communicate with each other. It was possible for several students to share the same broadcast frequency, though I never worked out the logistics of this; see #Social networks below.

Internet first

One idea I had was that ALL Camian computers were on the Internet, whether they were accessible from outside or not. Thus people saw their equivalent of an IP address when they booted up and that was their computer's name.


Wamia's vulnerability

Most of Wamia's network vulnerabilities could have been easily fixed, but were there on purpose. Sometimes Camians would log onto a Wamian website, and type a command such as

make ./intro 'q'

Which would replace the entire website with a single page containing only the letter q. Because Wamians stored their websites as single files, this command would replace the entire website rather than just a single page.

I never decided whether the Wamian government's own websites were similarly vulnerable. If they used the same software that the common Wamian people did, they could have been vulnerable but left alone by Camian hackers because they were required to remain operational to ensure the Camian hackers' strategy worked. Or, since the Wamian government ran mostly on Lilahaa instead of Kulapila, perhaps their websites also ran on Lilahaa, and were thus difficult to hack. (It is not necessary for government websites to be run from inside the government's network, since the government had access to the entire national network anyway.)

Search engines

Search engines may not have existed in this world because both national networks were highly centralized. Anyone searching for a particular website on the Camian Internet would just type what they were looking for into the URL field, and so long as it was properly formatted, that would be the actual URL of the website. (This idea is only correct if the "long form" URL idea up above is chosen.) Websites could still have internal search functions, though, because they would be running inside the web server.

Names and addresses

Internet domain names and addresses

I had two conflicting ideas for how Camia's Internet domain setup worked.

One idea was that they were very humble, with even important websites carrying long and unassuming URL's like

camia/government/taxes/pay-online
camia/schools/northeast/lewiston/elementary
camia/television/channel-38/broadcasts/latest
camia/corporate/stw/base-7/welcome

And so on. Camians could bookmark these addresses or assign shortcuts, but the URLs themselves were always this long, and website owners, even those working for the Camian government that ran the Internet, could not ask for shorter ones. Thus small websites stood on an equal footing with larger ones and were not forced to use longer domains or subdomains of more established sites. It's possible that at least the camia/ part could be omitted since Camians seldom used websites outside their network (even though this was a spacefaring society, I never really planned to extend their Internet to places beyond their planet).

The other idea was essentially the opposite, and stated that Camia had decided to monopolize the best domain names for itself, meaning that a popular website could just be o or another single-letter address, while less popular websites and foreign (particularly Wamian) sites were accessible only with very long and circuitous URLs, such as running the entire Wamian network through an "international" subdomain of the local network of just one particular Camian border city. Or else running it through their equivalent of wamia.com meaning that Wamians were forced to use a commercial website rather than a government website because their network depended on a Camian backbone.

Neither of these ideas were ever set in stone, however, and it's possible that I would have decided that Wamia and Camia used incompatible URL systems, so that Wamians had access to convenient URLs at least from inside their own network.

I did not know about local hosts when I came up with these ideas, so it didnt occur to me that allowing domains like "o" would make it difficult for Camians to access computers on their local networks. I had never heard of Usenet either, so the top-down structure of the URLs is a coincidence.

Local directory structure

On the other hand, the files on a Lilahaa computer were organized haphazardly, with many important files placed directly in the C: drive with no subdirectory, and many other files placed only one level deep. That is, there was no single system folder. This never caused problems for Lilahaa users because they were accustomed to it and knew that system files were important and deserved top billing. IBM's OS/2 operating system followed this plan, and I remember that even when I came to use Linux as my primary operating system (from about 2001 to 2004), I still considered OS/2 to be my favorite operating system, and identified Lilahaa with OS/2 more than with Linux.

I never thought about how files would be organized on a Kulapila computer. It could be that they were also organized haphazardly, reflecting their OS's early origins and the inability of programmers to change the design, or they could have been hidden very deep to keep the users from discovering them.

Video games

Video games existed in my early writing. In one story I directly wrote a particular SNES game into the plot, not caring that it made no sense to have an early 1990s game in a story taking place in a spacefaring society 400 years in the future.

Later on, I decided that Camia was a "business" empire, where even young children chose work over play. But if video games exist in some form, they will be the sort that give the players power over the machine, be very open-ended, and have no "unlockables" or other things that cost additional money to access.[3]

Nintendo vs Sega

I was pro-Nintendo and anti-Sega when I was young, but I was also a hypocrite, because I owned both an SNES and a Genesis and bragged about both of them. (I even fixed the Genesis once, my first of very few successful repairs of an electronic device.) Camia was like Sega in that they allowed their users to have power over the machine .... Sega supported Game Genie while Nintendo tried to suppress it.

Nintendo vs Nintendo

But I also played Nintendo against itself, saying that Camians would use an SNES-style video game console while Wamians would be stuck with an NES-like one. Mostly this related to the number of buttons on the controller, but also to some extent the physical capabilities of the machine. I had an idea that Camian video game consoles would be humble but impressive while Wamian ones would be hyped-up but underwhelming.

In my childhood imagination, video game consoles had a separate existence apart from computers, but were still produced directly by the governments of each nation.

Computer sales

Wamia simply forced its citizens to buy computers, and therefore had no need of stores, but they sent advertisements to their customers anyway, as propaganda. Even while using the computer, Wamians would see messages like "We did a pixel!" when their printer had just begun to print a document.

I found the word pixel very funny when I was young, and 2 other jokes involved it: "double pixel mode" and "a gig a pixel". The latter phrase specified how much RAM it would take to render each pixel on the screen, and the former phrase specified the maximum resolution that a typical Kulapila computer could display: 2x1. Both of these were thus gross exaggerations of Wamia's perversity and not ideas I took literally.

Social networks

Social networks were a part of my early writing, though I did not use this term at the time, and they were a part of the TV system, not based on computers. Camians had traditional TV stations alongside interactive ones, in which multiple viewers could interact with each other. These always had some external content, i.e. a centralized broadcast that all could watch that was not simply another viewer, and therefore the many channels were not simply clones of each other.

Wamia built functions into Kulapila that allowed the government to force customers to enter chat rooms and advertise pro-Wamia propaganda, often leading to the customers being banned from various social networks, even though these social networks were also run by Wamians.

Paint programs

I can use the MACHIIIIIIIIINE

In preschool I remember seeing a girl use a computer, doing something I could not do. I was very jealous. It was a primitive paint program, with a "Clone" function.[4] That's all I remember. I doubt that the girl actually said "I can use the machiiiiiine". This memory may have led me to pay a lot of attention to paint programs as I thought about the computer programs Camia and Wamia would have.

Infiniti

Though I didn't explicitly identify it as Camian, I created an OS called "Infiniti" sometime around 1993, prominently featuring a paint program which could do all sorts of things that were likely impossible with the technology of 1993. I dont remember any of them, however. My writing was essentially a wishlist of the features I wanted my current paint program to have. I typed up a user manual for the Infiniti OS, which I think was actually illustrated, though I don't remember how I managed to come up with competent illustrations, since I don't think the MacOS of the day had a screenshot function.

The Helping Hand

The "Helping Hand" dream of Jan 16 2020 may have a part here, where a user running Adobe Photoshop loses control of their computer due to a virus that then physically harms the user. Specifically, the virus disabled the keyboard and transformed the normal Windows UI into a parody of a touchscreen interface, in which the mouse cursor becomes a clumsy, oversized hand, unable to select the tiny on-screen targets on the taskbar, let alone muster the fine control required for Photoshop; meanwhile, the PC freezes easily due to processor overload, and the user still has only the hand cursor, which is useless, and therefore must hope that the PC will unfreeze itself. Within minutes, the virus adds to the user's impotence by physically tunneling outside the computer and burning off the user's genitals.

If I were to use this I would use it only metaphorically, because I had never heard of touchscreens when I created Lilahaa and Kulapila, and it is conceivable that in the far future, even the worst computers would have a different UI that offered the user more control. Furthermore it would not make sense for voice-activated devices to require touch input, even if created by designers as perverse as Wamia's.

In this dream, the virus physically materialized from within the monitor, perhaps showing that even after thirty years of using computers I still instinctively see the monitor as the core part of a computer.

Poswa has a word pammap that I believe originated as an Andanese word for a crippled computer interface back when my primary world was a science fiction timeline.

Other analogies with Earth

Telephone networks

Remember AT&T vs MCI. Traditional landline telephones existed in my writing alongside the mobile radio telephones, and therefore it stands to reason that each nation may have had its own government-run telephone network as well. In this case, Wamia's would be like AT&T and Camia's would be like MCI.

Other ideas taken from my writing

The "radar computer"

A supervillain named Dr. Zāme spied on the kids often, and during one mission he learned the password to their "radar computer", hacked into it, and then physically crashed through the wall of their hideout with his spaceship. The kids eventually pushed him out, but he was unharmed, and vowed to return again. Then, a girl named Jen destroyed the "radar computer". I don't know what I meant by this term.

The spiders' computer

The spiders had a computer that connected to Camian TV. Two young boys sent on an important diplomatic mission ended up in a room with one of these computers, but there was no keyboard or other obvious manually operated control device. One boy approached the machine, but could not figure out what to do, and did not realize he was too small to properly use it; he had to jump up just to be seen by its camera, which turned it on, and the other commands required physical movements that he could not perform. This computer had been designed for the eight-limbed spiders who were both more flexible and larger than humans, including adult humans. Both boys tried speaking voice commands as well, and the computer responded to these, but I never decided whether the voice commands had actually worked or whether they were just responding to the boys' body movements.

This scene was part of the story I wrote in 1993. Had I been only first writing it today, I may have given the spiders a touchscreen instead, with humans unable to use it because it required a simultaneous contact from at least three of the spiders' eight limbs. The fact that it used a camera interests me though, as I had never seen such a computer at the time, and I'm not sure I'd ever heard of one, either.


Happy ending

I end the writeup above with a situation where, against the course of history, the Kulapila programmers decide to admit their perversity and release a new OS which performs almost as well as their rival. I know that I carried the story beyond this, and I think that Lilahaa pulled ahead again, but their advantage was based on hardware superiority rather than software since both OS's were fairly well written after the agreement. I don't remember my plans because even this writeup is quite old now and I wanted to end it on a high note.

The Diskwriter world

Nevertheless, when I was about 14 years old I wrote a story set in a much more technologically advanced version of Camia. All the names and dates were the same as in my earlier writing because I had not yet decided to adhere to a single timeline with universal canonicity.

In this world, computers were vastly more powerful than humans, and humans were defenseless against them. The kids' superpowers in this story were even greater than in earlier stories I'd written, but they were still extremely fragile compared to their computers. Since none of the adults in my stories at this time had superpowers, adults were utterly helpless and simply hoped that the superhero kids could keep their home planet from being destroyed at least a little while longer.

Computers had many of the characteristics of robots in this world, though I only used the word robot once in the entire story, and only as an adjective. Computers were so powerful that they could easily defeat any of Dr. Zāme's mutants with a simple command, and humans did not need to tell them how to defeat the mutants, because the computers already knew. But these computers did not always obey human commands; for example, one boy tried to get his handheld computer (called the Diskwriter) to build him a spaceship, but the computer demanded a RAM upgrade first.

The computers often played around with their powers; for example, two boys were trying to fly their spaceship to complete an important mission, but the spaceship was also a computer, and it blocked their entire field of vision so it could show them a video game it had created at just that moment, and promised the boys that it could do this while still flying the course of the mission. Then a man in a more traditional spaceship shot the boys' ship and the game immediately disappeared. This same ship also formed a bond with a different enemy ship, and the two ships became one by physically merging their bodies, stranding the occupants on the first ship in open space.

Humans fled to a planet they called Y3; Y3 was surrounded and guarded by an encirclement of computers, but within their bubble, there were no computers at all. Comptuers outside Y3 were constatrly trying to break in, but Y3's compuiters were strong enough to keep out the intruders.

I soon abandoned this world and returned to my earlier childhood writing, with its much less powerful computers. I later came up with additional justifications for the surprisingly slow progress of technology, but never settled on just one explanation.

Notes

  1. Remember AOL
  2. The message I had in mind was "WAMIOTECH ROCKS" ... this is not to say that they actually spoke English, just that I didnt bother going to the trouble of deriving words for the proper Wamian language just for this one scene. It could just as easily have taken place in an office with sixteen, seventeen, etc.
  3. Compare HURL vs Sweet Baby Girl Cleanup 5: Messy House Makeover, and give the latter the worst possible interpretation based on its description.
  4. I probably remember this because it was the only word I didn't know. I knew what clowns were, but had never heard of clones.