Chapter 17

Carlton didn’t get far before he remembered that he had an appointment.  He had to make a service call on a unit at the University of Utah. He always enjoyed visiting campus.  Even though he had never been a student there he felt somehow connected to the youthful energy of the place.  That and the fact that from many parts of campus you could see Carlton’s neighborhood.

Every day when the library staff came to work they found that the computer was playing loud heavy metal music. Carlton recommended that his customers let their units listen to music, but rock ‘n’ roll, especially heavy metal, could be a problem. The units liked the pounding beat of rock because it increased performance.  The heavy vibrations generated so much electrical potential across the processor membranes that the speed was much faster. The problem was that the fast syncopated rhythms disrupted metabolic cycling rates. Chemical reactions that should run full course were continually interrupted, which caused hazardous by-products and free radicals to accumulate. These compounds wrought havoc on the membranes. Over time the units would become surly and uncooperative, just wanting to listen to more rock. It was like an addiction, plus unprofessional and embarrassing for Carlton.

This was the crux of Carlton’s innovation. The computer screen was the user interface, the lung, the power supply and a connection to other peripherals. It worked a bit like a speaker. The surface was a thin LED display. Layered behind this was the membrane that blood and water flowed on either side of. Sounds caused the whole structure to vibrate. This caused charged particles, sodium and other metal ions, to criss-cross the membrane, causing a change in electrical potential across it.  A host of other reactions then took place, it sped up the diffusion of oxygen and carbon dioxide, and it generated enough electrical current to charge a series of capacitors. In effect, when the terminal heard a sound, it powered the processor and charged the system.

The terminals not only heard sound, but could generate it. This was what the capacitors were for. In the opposite of what happened when the terminals heard sound, the capacitors charged the membrane to vibrate, and make sound. Information was input into the computer by simply having a conversation with it.

Behind each screen interface was another system, more like the synapses of nerves. This was also a membrane where electrically charged compounds, neurotransmitters, carried impulses from the user interface to a conventional computer and back. This could be any standard computer system connected to whatever hardware, peripherals and the bells and whistles that people needed. The whole structure was only 1/8 inch thick.  It was connected to a tower case which contained the artificial heart, liver and kidneys which kept the blood circulating.

Carlton set up a dialysis machine to clean the blood in the unit, administered a course of antioxidants, set up a music player to play soft classical music, and tried to console the customer.

“Classical music,” he was explaining, “not all, but most of it, is very helpful because of the ensembles of stringed instruments.” The customer was nodding appreciatively.

“Oh yes,” he went on, “sound complexity is very important.  A good symphony orchestra has so many violins and cellos going that there is much more stimulation to the membranes than with the heavy metal. But most importantly, the music is structured better, so you don’t get any build up of free radicals. Waltzes are the best. You know the one, two, three, one, two, three rhythm?  It’s like the beating of a heart.  Just let the unit have about a week of uninterrupted Strauss, and he’ll be good as new. Mendelssohn is pretty good, Fingal’s Cave, that sort of thing.” The customer was beaming.

“I’d stay away from Beethoven, though, it’s a short step from that to heavy metal. And definitely no Wagner. Call me if you need anything at all. I’ll check back in a couple of days.”

When Carlton left it was getting late. He had nothing to do though, so he drove south to check out the location of Rachel’s church.  It wasn’t much to look at, and he found himself instinctively driving to Salt City.  It was fully dark when he got there and checked in at the gate.  He figured on eating at a nice restaurant where he frequently ate lunch.  He would see what their dinner menu was like.  His route took him past the library. The lights on the ground floor were on. Someone was there, working. It bothered him that he didn’t know who it was or what was going on. What if Rachel were there doing something secret? He felt irritated and he knew he wouldn’t be able to enjoy a nice dinner out so he drove home via a fast food drive through.

The next day was bright and clear with an almost endless blue sky. A few clouds were moving in from the south but they were far away and not threatening. Being Sunday Carlton figured on sleeping late, so that he could say he missed church by accident. Instead he woke up early and spent the morning fretting about going or not going. His eagerness to have a chance to spend time with Rachel was equally balanced against his distaste for church. He shaved and tried three different outfits as he tormented himself over it. He dithered and fussed and preened and moped with his eye on the clock, until it was too late to get there on time. Eventually he wasted enough time to be able to say that he didn’t get up early enough. He hated the missed opportunity.

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