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Computers in Fiction
fictional computing in the 20th century

short story

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Zelazny, Roger. For a Breath I Tarry

New worlds, Mar 1966

Topics: supercomputer
Motifs: orbital computer
Themes: man vs machine

People have disappeared from Earth, which is now controlled by Solcom, an orbital computer. Solcom has two machines at its disposal that control the Northern and the Southern hemisphere, Frost and Beta. It has a prolonged discussion with Divcom, a computer that is built to take over in case something happens to Solcom. Frost, the computer that controls the Northern hemisphere, is interested in Man. One day it gets a visit from Mordel, a computer that works for Divcom. Mordel explains to Frost that Man had emotions that aren't measurable, so Frost can never experience them. In exchange for information about Man, Frost promises to serve divcom in the event it cannot experience humanity. It digests ancient libraries, visits places on earth where Man experienced beauty, it tries its hand at art, but still it can't have a human experience. So it develops a plan to become human itself.


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