Orbs of Pondering

An older model Spherecomm™. Note the attachment at its base.

A popular fad of the 2200s and 2300s was the Spherecomm™, a portable communications terminal in the form of a light, hand-held crystal ball. Most of the time, the Spherecomm™ provides the same functionality as any terminal, using a special interface designed to make use of the “infinite, omnidirectional scrolling” provided by its spherical screen, and to allow manipulation with all four fingers and the thumb while the Spherecomm™ is held in the palm of the hand; however, with a quick mode-switch, the Spherecomm™ can instead use its internal volume as a fully functional volumetric display, suitable for both trinet and trivision reception as well as other trigraphic applications.

Early versions of the Spherecomm™ required an attached base (as seen in the picture at right) to house the power supply and associated electronics. While also functional as a stand to hold the Spherecomm™ at rest and prevent it from rolling away, this proved unpopular in use, and interface designers lamented the loss of the ability to treat rotation of the device as a meaningful gesture.

Fortunately, technology was soon to provide alternatives, with the power supply being reduced to a minimal size and located in the center of the Spherecomm™, with light being refracted around it – rendering it invisible – as a function of the device body’s crystalline structure. Meanwhile, the addition of low-power ionic/magnetohydrodynamic thrust to the Spherecomm™ casing allowed it to keep itself upright when set down, and as a small and light device, even suspend itself in mid-air for group viewing, or to follow its owner while in use – the forerunner of today’s commonplace docuspheres and conversation balls.

While the Spherecomm™ fashion eventually came to an end in favor of ring terminals and other jewelry-cased designs, and of free-space volumetric displays, the devices themselves never entirely passed out of use. Is it time for a revival of the form factor?

I think so.

Our Old Inspirations, Your Novel Ideas (1Q 3025 edition)

Trope-a-Day: Holographic Terminal

Holographic Terminal: Or Trigraphic Terminal, rather. As mentioned immediately above, used just about everywhere for their dynamically-reconfigurableness.  They were less ubiquitous in the old days, when the need to wear a pair of haptic gloves with accelerometers, gyroscopes, and force-feedback made them at least a little inconvenient, but in these modern days first of haptic node implants and now of compatible locicyte networks grown right into people’s fingertips, they’re absolutely everywhere.

Trope-a-Day: Computer Voice

Computer Voice: Played straight with house brains and some institutional computers that talk to everyone around.  Played somewhat straight with muses, terminals, and various other more personal machines, with the twist that they’re talking to you inside your own head, on a secondary audio channel that doesn’t interfere with your ability to hear.  And can pick up your surface thoughts in reply, not just your subvocalization.  No-one wants to have the cellphone-conversation social problem made 10,000 times worse by people’s personal computing devices, after all.

And the voices, even the internal ones, are generally completely customizable to the user.  After all, when you have a constant companion inside your own head, you want to enjoy listening to them, right?

Trope-a-Day: Comm Link

Comm Link: In the modern era, the ubiquitous neural lace, which is actually built into your brain, or at least, wrapped around your brain so you can talk with your thoughts.  Earlier than that, the wearable virtual interface, which was worn as fancy glasses and a few other discreet devices, and subvocalization was the order of the day.  Earlier than that, the ubiquitous (and often still carried as a display/collaboration device) terminal, which was basically a fancy smartphone/tablet, only with more computing power and based on mesh networking sending digitally encoded audio in encrypted network packets rather than our cellular system (see Can You Hear Me Now?) – its descendants still use the same back end.

By themselves, they don’t help you accessing alternative communications or if you’re outside of the range of their parent network, but you can add supplemental devices to your personal-area network to interface with alternative systems, or reach the network from out of range via relay, satellite, or even tangle.