Reference STATE OF THE ART Stan Augarten

ISBN 0-89919-195-9

Three Bright Mice;
and More, on the Run!


Thirty-three years back I wrote a story titled "There Will Come Soft Rains," in which a robotic house continued "living" long after its inhabitants had been taken away in a war.

  The house made breakfasts, played music, fixed dinner parties, laid out toys and games, and two or three times an hour, release bright mechanical mice that scurried about seizing and destroying paper scraps, cornflake bits, or cracker crumbs. Then the wondrous intelligent mice vanished back in their wainscot cubbies, to be called forth later when a dog died and needed a "funeral."

  I did not then predict how the house ran itself, or sent my witty mice to their missions. It is obvious now that the house and its devices were transistorized, computerized. But the transistor and computer, at least in its present-day thumbprint snowflake size, had not as yet been dreamed or invented.

  Today, my low-powered, high-speed mice are out of their walls, forever. They will never snap back in their cubbies, but will run free amongst us, snatching data and lardering it for a rainy day, or some bright noon when we once more head for the Moon.

  No one saw these mice coming. No one, that is, in my field, writing science fictions. Oh, a few novels were written about those Big Brains, a few New Yorker cartoons were drawn showing those immense electric craniums that needed whole warehouses to THINK in. But no one in all of future writing foresaw those big brutes dieted down to fingernail earplug size so you could shove Moby Dick in one ear and pull Job and Ecclesiastes out the other.

  Surprise! Which is what makes the future so hard to predict. I saw only the broad strokes and could not in any way tell anyone how to truly run that future house to educate its spark-inhabited rodents.

  Now, thirty-three years on, the innards of my mice lie here in this book, just this side of being microscopic wonders. Eye their circuitries to savor their intricacy and their varied palettes. First cousins to the cloisonné dish, the Persian carpet, the Vatican mosaics; what miniature panoplies live here. And live is the word. For not only do these laboratory-found-objects look vital, they are juiced with creation. All the stuffs and junks and fabulous dreams of once sleepless men are shelved, stashed, and eye-droppered here.

  Once, in a speech, I predicted we would cart along, via microcomputers, every elephant, flea, Cracker Jack box, Mad Comic magazine, every Molière play and Shavian preface in history, all trapped on mind-edible chips to be eaten in cream as we landfall Neptune.

  "Trivia!" cried a professor. "You want to take along all that Trivia!?"

  "Sir," I replied, "the great whales of the sea survive on trivia. Yet, see their size!"

  Well, now, enough. Within these pages - the trivia-collecting devices, blooded with electric pulse, that will toybox our junkyard nightmares, remember our roots, preserve our encyclopedic sciences, speak in poetic tongues, and promise us far futures that we can indeed long for, reach for, and have.

  It's all a rare treat for the eye.

  And where the eye goes, will the mind not follow, and the flesh soon pursue?


©Copyright Stan Augarten
This book is provided for general reference. The National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian Institution make no claims as to the accuracy or completeness of this work.

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