C y b e r s p a c e
is the "place" [...]
between the phones.
Bruce Sterling (1992)
"I knew every chip in Bobby's simulator by heart; it looked like your workaday Ono-Sendai VII, the "Cyberspace Seven," but I'd rebuilt it so many time that you'd have had a hard time finding a square millimeter of factory circuitry in all that silicon."
(Gibson 1987 : 168)
[the first time, the term "cyberspace" appeared in print.]
the taming of the boomslang
a case study in cultural appropriation of peripheral computer hardware
In 19?? the PC-peripherals manufacturer Terratec christened one of its products after the Dispholidus typus, a venonomous snake decidedly dangerous to humans. This snake of the sub-Saharan african savannas is commonly known as 'boomslang' ... The 'Mystify Razer Boomslang' is a futuristically designed PC-mouse especially constructed in respect to the special needs of hardcore-gamers -- according to Terratec. And indeed, the looks, ergonomics, and preciseness of the Boomslang have a certain appeal which made it some kind of legend in the gamers' realm. This at first glance is all the more astounding, as the core of the Boomslang is a technology which seems somewhat backwards. Instead of a photo-sensor there is an old-fashioned rubber-ball at the beginning of the information-chain from material to digital desktop.
When I first saw a picture of the Boomslang in an advertisement, I immediately fell for its aesthetics. But I didn't go for buying one and sooner or later forgot about the matter. But some weeks ago I was in a computer-shop, searching for something entirely different, and there it was on display. Ten minutes later I went home to install my newest gadget, unaware that I had started to slip into yet another story of cultural adoption of an industrial artefact. All went well, it looked and felt as I had imagined, I was more than impressed by its sensitivity, but didn't get to grips with it. "You have to get used to it first," I said to myself and took the digital snake along to a LAN-party. After an hour of gaming I was so frustrated (which is not completely to blame on the Boomslang, I have to confess) that I threw it into my rucksack and used my old purely-optical mouse instead.
The following week I tried systematically to get used to this so-called hard-core gamer item. I absolutely do not consider myself a hardcore-gamer, in fact I do fairly poor in 'Quake III Arena' (Q3A) and downright horrible in 'Counter Strike' (CS). The latter of which is a great game for sure, but bores yours truly to death, btw. Accordingly, at the beginning I quickly came to the conclusion that I simply do not belong to the elect circle of people who are able to cope with elite-tools like this. It was just too venomous, to wild a beast for me to handle. But then I discovered that there had to be some manufacturing fault in my issue of the precision-brute. The movement along the x-axis was perfect, smooth and incredibly precise. But along the y-axis the mousepointer sometimes jumped and sometimes completely refused to move at all.
So I dropped the rubber-ball out and scrutinized it's bed. And indeed I found hints that there must be something faulty inside the till then hidden mechanics. 'Naturally' I shyed away fom unscrewing and taking apart the mouse, as this would void the warranty -- chicken me. The manual told me that in case of a suspected manufacturing-fault I should not contact the dealer from whom I bought my device, but communicate with Terratec directly instead. This would be possible by either there website or by phone. I fired up my webbrowser, but did not go directly to the manufacturer's page, but searched for non-company information on the Boomslang first. A little navigation unvoluntarily led me straight into the realm of the Boomslang-tamers, the hi- and lo-sensers ...
[all belonging to the culture of hardcore-gamers and modders]
To be continued.
hi- and lo-sensers
hiteks and loteks (Gibson, Johnny Mnemonic)
In William Gibson's short story "Johnny Mnemonic" (19??) (Which, together with another short story of his, "Burning Chrome" (19??), constitutes the dawn of "Neuromancer" (1982)) there are two rivalling groups, the Hi-Teks and the Lo-Teks.
So finally I opened the mouse, took it apart, made the snake-charmers' modifications and since then the beast works like a charm. The essential step was to ignore the warranty, as I became aware that, hell, it's my property, I can ruin it any time I want.
Recently I found a sticker on the underside of my laptop which reads: "Do not open as this voids the warranty. Reverse engineering prohibited." Maybe there's a little screw hidden beneath the sticker ...?
-- WORK IN PROGRESS, to be continued --