The Electronic Labyrinth

Information Server as McDonald's

Just as McDonald's serves the masses somatic nourishment, so will the Xanadu stands of tomorrow provide for our information needs. That is the future as Ted Nelson describes it in Literary Machines--futuristic, silver-toned, part Star Trek and part fast food:

The Xanadu stations, or SilverStands, will be the local outposts of the network, parlors with a homey futuristic atmosphere, staffed by an attentive crew in perky uniforms. (5/6)

It is at these public ports that one will access the docuverse, as easily as inserting a credit card. Transactions will be automatic--a fee for accessing text published by others, a credit for being, in turn, accessed. All will be part of a greater communal database administered, of course, from above. SilverStands are to be run on a franchise basis, and "the licensee must be an individual of suitable character, knowledge and attitude, who presents a certain amount of capital" (5/9).

Though open to anyone who might wander through their pearly gates (or is that golden arches?), the situating of Xanadu venues "in residential neighborhoods, near universities and theme parks" targets the middle class directly (5/7). The nouveau riche of the information age can relax in the geodesic dome, share a cappuccino and a particularly good file ID, and chat with the Hypercorps about the latest rate increase. No dirty money is seen to change hands, for there are no coin slots. "The raucous, brainless atmosphere of the videogame parlor is not here" (5/6). Banished, no doubt, by those perky uniforms, which will be augmented seasonally by "a changing variety of tasteful accessories" (5/7).

© 1993-2000 Christopher Keep, Tim McLaughlin, Robin Parmar.
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