Thursday, April 5, 2007

"Patent Pending" (short story): Ultimate virtual reality!

Key concept in this little story is a machine that makes your audio system & television obsolete: record your experience, store it in a memory device, sell it as equivalent of a DVD, & someone else can play it back using his playback device.

While speculation on interpreting brainwaves is abundant, this is the first time I have read about recording your experience, & then someone else experiencing it using the playback device. There is an assumption that we are all intrinsically capable of experience that any other human can have - something far from proven. But ignore that, & I have no doubt the far off future will bring something similar about.

Story summary (spoiler).
Story begins with someone having a very good meal in a first class restaurant, recording the experience, & then hoping to sell this experience to poor souls that cannot afford an expensive restaurant!

But it quickly hits the bull's eye - perfect technology for distributing porn. Much of the story is concerned with this.

In the background is something that most Indians can easily identify with: banned "sinful activities" tend to be the most effective publicity medium for sin vendors. We are too used to see banned books, movies, TV channels & programs, sinful foods, ... - and how those bans work!

Some parts are dated - like tape as a recording device, or playback device that is as small as a television set! But key parts are still relevant. And very readable.

Fact sheet.
Patent Pending, short story, review
Author: Arthur C Clarke
Genre: Science fiction
First published: 1954
Rating: A

See also.

  1. "The Ultimate Melody": Another story by Clarke that involves a machine that lets you experience virtual reality. But nothing else is common between these two stories.
  2. "Big Game Hunt": Story with identical idea of recording bran waves & playing them back. But with a different application.
The story appears in the following collections.
  1. "Tales from the White Hart"
  2. "The Collected Stories of Arthur C Clarke"
  3. "More Than One Universe"

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