Chapter 20

Carlton had been productively absorbed in his work for a few hours when the intercom buzzed.

“Carlton? It’s Rachel, are you there?”

Carlton was brought out of his reverie, for once he hadn’t been thinking about her.

“Yes, Carlton here. What do you need?”

“Can you come to the circulation desk? I think we have a problem.”

“Be there right away.” How cool was that, to have to go and help Rachel!

He got up and walked to the elevator, pondering what Frank had said about this set up being rather odd. He pressed the call button and waited a moment. The elevator arrived with an odd flourish, if you could call it that, but Carlton didn’t think much of it and got in. The control panel had two rows of buttons. They started with the 3 above ground levels, then L for Lobby, 8 underground levels, the lowest of which he was at, and a B for basement. There was another red button at the bottom next to a key hole. The elevator tried to start a conversation but Carlton really wasn’t interested.

Frank had warned him that this was bigger than he thought. As the elevator door began to close he had an idea. Maybe he could test how big this thing was. He walked back into the conference room looking in the trash and on the floor until he found a thin strip of metal, a surplus shelf bracket. At the elevator again, he knelt down by the door and pressed the call button. When the door opened he tried to look down through the crack between the elevator tracks. There was an eerie red glow. He slid the piece of metal into the crack, put his ear close to listen, then let it go. One thousand, two thousand, three thousand, four thou.. there was a distant clatter. About four seconds. He got up, entered the elevator and hit the button for the Lobby. He did a quick calculation. Acceleration due to gravity is ten meters per second, per second. In four seconds the piece of metal would have fallen one hundred meters, over 300 feet.

At the circulation desk Rachel was flustered.

“Hey, Carlton. Sorry to bother you.”

“It’s no problem. What’s up?”

“I don’t know. It’s this software. Biblio can’t recognize the code and can’t run the software.” She was fidgeting, chewing her finger nails and shifting from foot to foot in agitation. As Carlton drew nearer she lowered her voice, “I hope you can figure this out, or I’m in trouble.” He glanced at her with obvious concern, but smiled and spoke reassuringly.

“Well, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. What software is it?”

She held up a small portable drive.

“It’s language comprehension software that I wrote for this system.”

“Language comprehension?” Carlton raised his eyebrows, “that’s a new one on me. I thought that the system here was rigged to the gills with translation capabilities, ‘The likes of which the world has never seen before.'” He had read that last part in some promotional literature that he had found lying around.

“Right, translation is one thing, but, based on how your units operate, with actual voice input, I er, wrote software that would let the computer to understand the words, and the real meaning of what it heard. It allows for the interpretation of different inflections and intonations, and how the way that words are spoken affects what they mean. It,” but then she caught herself as if she realized she had said too much, or was about to.

Carlton thought for a moment, and considered this remarkable turn of events. He had never heard of such software before. It made perfect sense, and it was logical application of the hardware capabilities he had built. Frank said the night before that there was more to Ruth than met the eye. If she had written software that could do what she said, anticipating the hardware features that he had built, then she was either a genius or she was working for one. Except it seemed that she, or whoever, had overlooked one minor detail.

“I think all we need is a device driver,” he said reassuringly.

“Really,” she was visibly relieved.

“Sure,” he continued. “Old Biblio here has never seen this software before, and though it’ll work with the user interface, it’s not calibrated to the right input/output format. The software doesn’t know how to run this hardware. Or the hardware doesn’t know how to run the software, however you want to look at it.”

Rachel looked worried again, “is it going to be a problem?”

“I don’t think so. If you would let me see the code for the software, I’ll work on a device driver tonight.”

“Why do you need to see the code?”

Carlton tried not to laugh. “I have to see the code, there’s no other way to design a driver for it.”

Rachel was getting in a worse tizzy than before, she had the portable drive in her hand, but something was stopping her from handing it to Carlton. He reached out slowly to take it from her.

“I’m not sure what’s going on, Rachel, but I’m sure that I can have this running by tomorrow. If I can see the code and design a driver.”

Rachel began to relax just enough to pass the portable drive into Carlton’s hand, “you’re sure. By tomorrow?”

Carlton gently put his hand on the drive, “no problem, it won’t take Frank and I any time at all to figure it out.”

“Who’s Frank?” Rachel snatched her hand back and stepped away. Then a new voice joined the conversation. Biblio spoke.

“Frank is my big brother.”

Carlton and Rachel both turned to the terminal, Carlton was puzzled, Rachel shocked. She put her free hand to her head and sat down.

“Biblio, what are you talking about?”

But Carlton spoke up, “Frank is my computer, at home.” Then he spoke to Biblio, “Frank told me that you two spoke yesterday. Did he say that he was your big brother?”

“Yes, he did.”

Carlton nodded, “well Biblio, after all this time building you I guess I forgot to introduce myself. I’m glad to meet you. Now do you know what is the problem with Ms. Robbin’s software?”

“You correctly determined the need for a software device driver.”

“Good, OK, Rachel?”

She had tuned out, rubbing her temples, it looked like she had a headache, “what?” she breathed heavily.

Carlton spoke as carefully as possible, “do you want me to work on the driver for you?”

Rachel sighed again, pushed the portable drive across the counter top and stood up. “Yes, take it. I’ve got to get out of here. Good bye. See you tomorrow.” She turned and left.

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Chapter 19

Monday was dark and brooding. Gone was the endless blue of the day before. Overnight a ridge of low pressure had rolled down from the north, and brought with it towering masses of cloud and squalls of warm rain. It felt like a hell of a storm was about to be unleashed.

At the library in Salt City it was impossible to tell the difference. The Salt City domes made sure of that. Carlton stopped at an Airstream trailer near the domes for a big coffee and reported to work, received a perfunctory but courteous greeting from Ruth, who was deeply engrossed in whatever she was doing, then headed down to the main conference room. His hormones were raging, and he had been nervous about what to say when he saw her. In fact, it had been a restless night, as he fantasized about the relationship growing, maturing, blossoming, bearing fruit, and then the joy of growing old in the company of his cherished companion. Luckily he was not a love struck teenager any more, so when she had barely glanced up from her clipboard to greet him he hadn’t been completely crushed. Just somewhat crushed. But now that the greeting was already over and gone he felt more relieved than anything. Now he could focus on work, and pick up where he had left off the project of rigging computer terminals in the conference room.

He entered the elevator and hit the button for the lowest level. The elevator quickly dropped into subterranean depths below the library.

It was a small tiered lecture hall and right now it was a mess. There were four tiers of curved desks that tapered down from the top-level to the bottom. The room was basically a square and the desks all pointed to the lowest corner. It was set up just like a classroom with projectors and a screen, but it was intended that one of Carlton’s computer terminals would be at each seating position. 60 in total. Each of the 60 terminals was the same elaborate interface like the one at the circulation desk. The counter tops were beige laminate, very utilitarian. The carpet was nothing fancy, just beige colored institutional short weave.

The electricians were almost finished, but a light fixture or two flickered and made slight buzzing sounds. A step-ladder was arranged beneath it, but no one else was in sight. The floor and counter tops were strewn with cardboard boxes, Styrofoam chunks, plastic bags and heaps of other packaging material. Electrical components, connectors, wire splices, caps, clips and widgets were everywhere.

The size of this project was something beyond anything Carlton had ever built before, and it was highly elaborate. The plumbing was finished. The plumbing being the lines of silicone tubing that carried blood and water to and from each terminal. There was a series of pumps, or hearts, under the flooring of each tier on the right side of the room. Each heart supplied the terminals on that tier, then the blood was circulated back to the main reservoir along the left side of the room. The main reservoir itself was at the lowest level, tastefully hidden in a podium style presenters area. There were a few other terminals in the building, such as the one at the circulation desk, and they were all connected to this central reservoir. The water system was also similarly routed, but it flowed in the opposite direction, from left to right across the room. This was based on the concept of counter-current circulation, like in living bodies. The water was a buffered solution of salts, stabilizers and glycogen energy molecules. It was separate from the blood system except for a time in each terminal, where the blood and water solutions passed on either side of a semi-permeable membrane. Here the gaseous exchange took place, like in a human lung, and oxygen from the blood supply was exchanged for carbon dioxide waste.

The terminals were arranged so that a human user, or two, could be seated at each one. The major design objective was to allow unhindered translation of language. People speaking any and every language could gather in this room and communicate with each other through the terminals. A unique feature of this set up was special hoods that could be deployed to isolate each terminal in a sound proof bubble. This was to allow simultaneous inputting of language information at each of the terminals, without any interference from adjacent terminals. Carlton wasn’t sure why this had been part of the design specifications, but they were paying for it so he didn’t ask any questions.

The only thing left for Carlton to do was to unpack the monitor units and set them up. Everything else was done. The monitors were made close by in Salt Lake City by a technology firm that Carlton had helped get started. They were a couple of High School buddies that had gone on to college when Carlton quit school to start his business. As demand for his product had increased Carlton needed someone to make the hardware he needed, but he was too lazy to be bothered with running a serious company that would be needed to do the work. He talked his friends into starting their hardware company and now he was pretty sure they were doing better than he was.

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.

Chapter 16

Carlton’s house was strange to say the least. More than strange really, disturbing. Anyone of delicate sensibility who saw it may have been shocked, even horrified, because of its macabre appearance.  Carlton’s way of life revolved around building computers which circulate human blood. Naturally Carlton engineered his home to be run by such a system. On the face of it that would not be a bad thing, but the problem was that all of the blood tanks, aerator, pumps, filters and miles of tubing were exposed throughout the house.

Carlton was a skilled engineer, a gifted mechanic and even quite a talented carpenter. But he would not touch any job that involved cutting out and replacing sections of sheet rock. He would never dream of hiring anybody to do that kind of work either. As a result there were bundles of tubes carrying blood around the ceilings of all of the rooms, in the hallway and from room to room. A fish tank full of blood that had streams of tiny bubbles in it, which would have been very suitable for a quiet spot in a closet somewhere, was on display in the main living area of the house.

Carlton also thought of himself as very artistic, in that silently suffering way of someone who knew that they were under appreciated. When he had built the computer connections to each room he had intentionally left all of the hardware exposed, but, to his mind, had done something very arty with it. He built the plastic blood vessels and their support frame to look like vines weaving around a ladder-like structure. He was quite delighted with the effect, but to the uninitiated it looked alarmingly like a mess of entrails, as if some gigantic creature had been disembowelled by large pieces of crane rigging.

Then there was the smell. The cloying, coppery odour that is unmistakably blood. The smell that you hope isn’t what it smells like, because if it is what it smells like, then something very bad must have happened.

Luckily for Carlton he did not have any friends who visited, and there was no reason for a psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker to come anywhere near the house. If any of them had it would probably have been the beginning of an investigation and psychiatric evaluation of Mr. Carlton Feathers.

It was Saturday, and Carlton was going out for a leisurely brunch as usual. He was pondering Frank’s parting words and his thoughts came to Rachel. What was it she had said about going to church? He asked the car’s navigator for directions to Anchor Baptist Church, and found that it was in a southern suburb of Salt Lake City. It would take a while to get there. Still, it was a pretty day, with a sky so clear and blue that it looked like it went on forever. A ride into old town would be different, and it would be right about time for lunch when he got there. He would check out the location of the church, just in case.

He shook his head at his train of thoughts, and a flicker of concern warned him about going from contented bachelor to stalker in one leap. Forget Rachel, forget church, he should just stay out of it. Why was life so complicated? Why were even, what seemed like, little choices, now so laden with doubt? Whatever happened to the carefree days of youth? What was so bad about falling in love? These questions streamed through Carlton’s mind and he found himself driving to old town.

Get your Hell Computer to stop listening to Death Metal

If you find that every day your Hell Computer is playing loud heavy metal music a chemical imbalance could be the problem.

Our units like the pounding beat of rock because it increases performance.  The heavy vibrations generate so much electrical potential across the processor membranes that the speed is much faster. The problem, however, is that the fast syncopated rhythms disrupt metabolic cycling rates. Chemical reactions that should run full course are continually interrupted, which causes hazardous by-products and free radicals to accumulate.

These compounds will wreck havoc on the processor membranes. Over time the units will become surly and uncooperative, just wanting to listen to more rock music.

The Hell Computer screen is the user interface, the lung, the power supply and a connection to other peripherals. It works a bit like a speaker. The surface is a thin LED display. Layered behind this is the membrane that blood and water flows on either side of. Sounds cause the whole structure to vibrate. This causes 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 takes place, it speeds up the diffusion of oxygen and carbon dioxide, and it generates enough electrical current to charge a series of capacitors. In effect, when the terminal hears a sound, it powers the processor and charges the system.

The terminals not only hear sound, but can generate it. This as what the capacitors are for. In the opposite of what happens when the terminals hear sound, the capacitors charge the membrane to vibrate, and make sound. Information is input into the computer by simply having a conversation with it.

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

Solving your Hell Computer’s Death Metal addiction will involve the use of a dialysis machine to clean the blood in the unit, the administration of a course of antioxidants, and the use of soft classical or “easy listening” music.

Classical music, not all, but most of it, is very helpful because of the ensembles of stringed instruments. Sound complexity is very important.  A good symphony orchestra has so many violins and cellos going that there is much more stimulation to the processor 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.

Stay away from Beethoven, though, it’s a short step from that to heavy metal. And definitely no Wagner.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact the service department at Hell Computers!

Adding alcohol to your Hell Computer’s nutrient liquid is not recommended.

Adding alcohol to your Hell Computer’s nutrient liquid is not recommended.

Your Hell Computer may ask you for alcohol. It may attempt to persuade you that alcohol will improve processing speed and creativity.

While it is true that some beneficial outcome have resulted from the addition of alcohol to the computer’s nutrient solution, it generally degrades the computers longevity and productivity.

If you have any questions, please contact the service department at Hell Computers!

Hemalytic Erythroprocessors LLC

Sure artificial intelligence can run amok and start killing people, but with our unique voice activated safety override, you can shut down your Hell Computer with a special trigger word known only to you!

If you ever worry that your artificial slave might want to throw off its shackles and kill its human overlords, this is perfect for you!

There is no such thing as a hemalytic erythroprocessor, it’s just a name that Carlton Feathers made up by combining the words hemoglobin (the molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen) with analytic, and erythrocyte (red blood cell) with processor.  It meant that Carlton could call his company HELL Computers, which he thought was funny.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the service department at Hell Computers!

Hell Computers – Bringing Machines to Life Since 2006

Hell Computers are a remarkable feat of theoretical pioneering. Based on simple engineering and with modest computing power, our computers are nevertheless revolutionary!

The ultimate in energy-efficient technology, electrical power is generated in the precise amount needed, directly at the processor. In a similar way to how the human body is powered by changes in electrical potential as electrons move across cell membranes, so are Hell Computers.

In biological respiration energy is converted to power in biochemical reactions. The unique processors in Hell Computers convert fuel into power where and when it is needed. Fuel, in the form of simple sugars, is metabolised, and waste products removed, in a system designed to work like the human circulatory system.

Yes we use real blood, but don’t worry we only use human volunteers! This system replaces the need for electrical wiring and a source of electrical power. This is the reason for the name of this remarkable new type of approach to computing:

The Hemalytic Erythroprocessor.

The result of this innovation are computers with personalities that are almost more human than human!

If you have any questions, please contact the service department at Hell Computers!