TC2L

TC2L-MICRO

The B’nei Elohim leases offices on the eighth floor of a building in Bellevue, Washington and advertise an opening for someone who can program the new eight-bit “computer on a chip” produced by the Intel Corporation. Lilith and Robyn handle the recruiting. Most of the prospective programmers turn around and walk right out of the interview room when they see they were dealing with two women. Three of them, however, did not.

Mark Shelton had just graduated from the University of Washington. He thought the world of women and was more far interested in a job than maintaining any stupid “he man woman haters club” tradition.

Paul Allen is in his third year at Washington State University going for a computer science major. His pal Bill Gates is still a senior in high school. The two of them are pretty ambitious and even started a little company to analyze traffic patterns so government agencies could issue reports, but the federal government now offers the same service for no charge, so Traf-O-Data was going out of business. They need the work.

During the interviews Robyn sits quietly in a corner of the office while Lilith questions Allen, Gates, and Shelton, in that order. When it is Shelton’s turn, Lilith gives the same introductory spiel she had given the Traf-O-Data boys.

LILITH
Welcome to the headquarters of the Astrodynamics Corporation. I’m the owner. My name is Lilith Gervasi. I’m interested in manufacturing a single-board microcomputer. We’re proposing to call it a Micro. We intend to retail it for five hundred dollars, and that’s set in stone. We’re looking for a programmer to develop the operating system for the Micro, which we’re going to call Budget Operating System Software, or BOSS.

MARK
Single user, of course. No multi-tasking.

LILITH
Naturally.

MARK
What kind of display do you have in mind?

LILITH
We were thinking just a standard black and white television at first.

MARK
The resolution with that isn’t too hot. What about storage?

LILITH
Cassette tape.

MARK
Then it looks like my job will be pretty easy. Most of the heavy lifting will be done with the hardware.

LILITH
The problem we have right now is that the 8008 only has fourteen address bits, so we’re stuck at sixteen kilobytes of memory, tops. That might sound like a lot right now, but we’re thinking long term. Do you know how we might solve that issue?

MARK
Simple. You just have two 8008’s going at the same time, one runs your BOSS in ROM and handles all your keyboard inputs, video out, cassette in and out, and swaps 16K banks of RAM when the user’s program calls for more memory. Theoretically that would give you up to 256 megabytes of RAM, which is insane.

LILITH
Well, see, you’re not really impressing me right now, Mr. Shelton, because the 8008 costs three hundred sixty dollars, so two of them put us in the hole right away. The $500 price point I gave for the Micro is firm.

MARK
The first run of chips are in that range, sure, three sixty, but put in a big enough buy order I betcha Intel brings it down to one fifty. That’s how this works. They have to recoup development costs.

LILITH
Touche. I’d like to discuss this with my friend for a bit, Mr. Shelton so if you’ll wait outside, I think we can give you an answer quickly.

Mark shrugged and got up to leave.

ROBYN
I like that last fellow.

LILITH
What about the Gates and Allen show? Traf-O-Data.

ROBYN
Paul Allen is okay. He knows the chip well enough to have written a complete simulator for a mainframe computer, so we can get started before our hardware is ready, and Gates writes tight code, but he’s obsessed with using BASIC to run everything on the Micro. That might make it easy for people to program, but I think it would be too slow. And Gates doesn’t seem to get the concept of money. He ran up a lot of computer time having some big iron play tic-tac-toe against itself, and sent the bill to his daddy. And he sure didn’t like the name Budget Operating System Software.

LILITH
What do your enhanced instincts tell you?

ROBYN
Gates and Allen already started one company on their own. I’m not seeing either one of them still working for us in 1975, so I figure they’re going to take our ideas and try to compete against us. But Mark Shelton is in for the long haul. He’s the adult in the room. I say we go with him.

While Astrodyne is putting the final touches on the Micro-73 a few weeks before it hits the market Mark Shelton thinks the device still lacks a software “killer app” that would really put it on the map. Robyn describes to Mark something from her vision of the way computers change everything in the track that exists after the Watergate alteration but before the Apollo 17 alteration. It was the electronic spreadsheet. Robyn phrases things in a way that doesn’t give away the manipulation of time by the elohim.

Shelton is intrigued, but he is also swamped putting the final touches on BOSS so Astrodyne hires a pair of new programmers and Mark sets them to work making Robyn’s idea a reality.

The new program is a cross between an accounting worksheet and the “Battleship” game. Columns are marked A through Z, rows from 1 to 256, and where the columns and rows intersect, they form cells designated A1, B9, C117, and so forth. The customer could enter data or formulas into any one of these cells, and each cell could reference data anywhere else on the worksheet. If the customer changed data in one cell, all the dependent cells would be quickly recalculated. They call this program “Matrix”.

So now if a businessman wants to find the answer to the question “what will my long-term profits look like if I buy a second sheet metal cutting machine today?” he doesn’t have to hire a programmer to write a special program just to find the answer. With a Micro running Matrix he can sit in his office and fiddle with the numbers himself.

When the Micro-73 hits the market in the spring it comes bundled with cassette tapes containing Matrix and an assortment of other applications, such as a simple text editor and an 8008 assembler to allow customers to create their own programs for the Micro.

Sales begin to take off based on word-of-mouth. Everyone from small business owners to the Chief Financial Officer of large multinational corporations go to dealers and plonk down five C notes for “one of those Matrix machines.” And every time they do, one of those five Benjamins was pure profit for Astrodyne. Three thousand units sell in 1973.

Bill Gates, who has a BASIC hammer and thinks everything is a nail, develops a high-level interpreted BASIC for the Micro but as Robyn correctly foresaw, it is far too slow and has very few takers. He would have slightly better luck two years later.

Intel offers their second 8-bit microprocessor, the 8080, in April of 1974, with plenty of time to be incorporated into Astrodyne’s next computer. Since this chip can address sixty-four kilobytes of memory all at once and has four times the clock speed of the earlier chip, a second 8080 running BOSS is dropped from the new design. Instead, Mark Shelton uses task swapping to alternate between low-level BOSS functions and the user’s program.

The new Micro still uses cassettes for program storage, but it ships with sixteen kilobytes of Random Access Memory, or RAM. An external eight-inch floppy disk drive costing nearly as much as the Micro itself is sold separately and BOSS is re-written to allow disk management.

Soon after the Micro-75 actually hits the street, a four kilobyte 8080 interpreted BASIC (permitting the other twelve kilobytes to be used for programs) is written by Bill Gates for the new version of Astrodyne’s computer. It sells for $500 on cassette, but this is considered outrageous. Soon copies are pirated and began to make the rounds with the tapes duplicated by a pair of ordinary Radio Shack cassette tape recorders.

Bill Gates offers a disk-based version of his BASIC for $250, hoping the reduced price and the floppy disk format would discourage copying. But clandestine micro software to copy floppy disks using RAM and several manual swaps make the rounds and Gates is foiled again.

The Micro-75 is the first in the series to have a modem, which is sold separately. Its speed is only 300 baud but users are able to dial out to Astrodyne for support and downloads. The host is a DEC mainframe in Bellevue. A 24 hour news service is started with free access for all Micro customers. Messages can be left on an electronic bulletin board for anyone with a modem to read.

The Swarm has its humble beginning as that single small Bulletin Board System, or BBS, created so that the B’nei Elohim may be kept apprised of the latest family news as easily as though everyone were looking at a single physical message board. But the number of BBSs begin to multiply. After that the Swarm evolves into a message “backbone” that routes QuickMail packages between BBS nodes. This is better than a bulletin board system because it allows individual users to make contact with some degree of privacy. The modems improve in speed to 1200 baud.

For the marquee app of the Micro-75, Mark Shelton’s stable of five programmers create WordBoss, the first word processor with automatic hyphenation and paragraph justification, leaving the user free to just type. Dot-matrix printer support is also added. Twenty thousand of the new Micros sell, mostly to businesses, but also to some hobbyists, resulting in $2 million of profits for Astrodyne. But the general public is not yet really aware of the growing world of mini-computing.

Astrodynamics files income taxes every quarter like a good corporate citizen, but it isn’t until the summer of 1975 that the Ford Administration realizes the papers brought home by the Apollo 17 crew also mentions this same Astrodyne. When the Federal government raids the Astrodyne offices in Bellevue they learn Kimberly Zinter is not present, and Shelton says he only actually met her one time during his job interview in ’72. The DECON agents have no grounds to proceed and leave.

For the Micro-77 a 4 inch floppy disk drive with one hundred twenty kilobytes of disk space is incorporated inside the new unit. The cassette tape deck is dropped, but it remains available as an external device for legacy software. BOSS is changed to load from a floppy on startup rather than from a Read Only Memory chip, permitting upgrades to the operating system without changing the hardware.

The 8080 chip is replaced by the Zilog Z80, an improved clone of Intel’s device. Astrodyne populates the motherboard with thirty-two kilobytes of RAM and still come in under $500. An optional GUI called GUIDE (Graphical User Interface with Desktop Elements) run on top of BOSS, in black and white.

The first truly “What You See Is What You Get” (WYSIWYG) word processor, WordGuide, is the real star of the Micro-77 show, much as Matrix had been for the Micro-73. A spooler program converts documents for output on dotmatrix printers exactly as they appear on the screen, allowing the choice of an endless number of different fonts.

With a 1200 baud modem built in, Micro-77s are able to communicate with each other point-to-point rather than just via Astrodyne’s mainframe, so email and software are copied between machines. After Bill Gates complains, DECON orders Astrodyne to disable point-to-point file transfers to prevent piracy, but Astrodyne wins in court using the argument that it is like suing General Motors because the getaway car in a bank robbery happened to be a Chevy.

A quarter of a million Micro-77 units are sold. Astrodyne builds a business park at the crossing of SR-169 and SR-516 in Washington State, a place called Four Corners, close to the Green River Gorge and the wormtunnel to Barbelo. The Federal government blocks Micros for export because the technology could aid the Soviet Union. Astrodyne is flattered by the concern, but they smuggle the units out anyway, selling at a substantial markup to cover the additional hassle.

Bill Gates tries to incorporate as Micro-Soft, with a hyphen, but he is sued by Astrodyne and forced to change the name of his company to Winspire. He keeps going around telling people he is “W-I-N-N-I-N-G”. Still, business considerations override any personal animosity and Winspire BASIC is licensed to Astrodyne. It makes the Micro easier to program and is attractive to schools, but as an interpreted language it is still too slow for serious work. Real programmers like Mark Shelton writes in compiled Polycode.

The B’nei Elohim begins to communicate with genuine email on a mailing list, which is by invitation only. For its public presence, the B’nei Elohim are also represented on the global USENET forum as an unmoderated newsgroup called alt.religion.greendome.

Modem technology progresses to the breakneck speed of 9,600 baud and it is feasible for one member of the B’nei Elohim to communicate in a primitive way by Purple Cable over a phone line to another member. The Micro-79 comes with a 9600 baud modem built right inside it.

For the 1979 Micro, GUIDE uses four bit color for the first time. A paint program is included to create images, but 16 colors is not quite good enough for photographs. An 8 megabyte external hard drive is also available for another $500.

The marquee application for the Micro-79 is a new markup language that can turn simple text files into eye-pleasing documents that include portions of text highlighted in green with an underline. If the user places a trackball cursor over this green text and clicks, they are taken to a new document that can be stored locally, or on the Astrodyne server, or even on another Micro that is currently online.

Winspire reverse-engineers the Micro’s operating system and offers IBM something they called DOSS with only cosmetic changes to BOSS, daring Astrodyne to sue. Soon after that, IBM begins to offer a competing “Personal Computer” or PC, using stock components, Winspire BASIC in ROM for all software and disk operations and 128 kilobytes of memory. There is nothing like GUIDE yet, but IBM blows that off by claiming a GUI was just for people too stupid to remember a measly set of two hundred DOSS shell commands and all their options. IBM considers GUIDE a toy for consumers, not for serious computing. The federal government deliberately purchases only IBM PCs despite the inferior quality and $1,500 per unit price, ostensibly to shore up competition to Astrodyne, but the Feds are almost the sole customer.

There is a Winspire ripoff of Matrix called Electronic Paper whose sole difference was cells labeled by rows and columns rather than like in Battleship, R12C19 vs. L19. Astrodyne never obtained a software patent, and refused to do so on principle, saying it is like getting a patent on the procedure to solve quadratics. Gates, however, did get a patent for Electronic Paper, then turned around and sued Astrodyne. The government testifies as a “friend of the court”, but the suit gets tossed out by an “activist judge” who is “legislating from the bench” when Astrodyne shows prior art. Meanwhile the Micro-79 moves over a million units.

In 1981 Astrodyne rolls out a Micro with 32 bit color, giving a total of over 24 million colors and finally reaching full photo quality. Onboard storage reaches 64 megabytes and the modem attains 57,600 baud, the best that could be obtained by dial-up. Millions of users worldwide are now “buzzing the Swarm” to communicate with each other. Suddenly there is a global library of information available to anyone with a Micro and a telephone line.

In Robyn’s vision of the other timeline she knows there were corporate gatekeepers who sold monthly access to the network, and Mark Shelton carefully designs the Micro to avoid a middle-man.

Meanwhile Winspire offers IBM a nearly identical clone of GUIDE called Windows (which is what they renamed the panels) and suddenly IBM stops calling graphical interfaces mere toys. The IBM-PC is slashed in price to $1,200, hoping to jumpstart annual sales, which are still numbered in the hundreds. Even those paltry sales are mostly for government computers that are not even used, prompting some Winspire employees to call it Windows for Warehouses when they are out of earshot of Gates.

The government tries a carrot-and-stick approach and offers a $750 subsidy to school districts if they purchase the IBM/Winspire boxes, and cut existing subsidies to school districts if they insist on going with Micros. Sales of IBM’s machine miraculously jump to ten thousand units. But Astrodyne sells a thousand $500 Micros for every one unit sold by IBM.

Mark Shelton decides to finally call Bill Gates on his bullshit and has Astrodyne file a lawsuit against Winspire for copyright infringement. Surprisingly, the case seems to be placed on a fast track, nothing like the years or even decades such things often took. Shelton finds himself in front of Judge Samuel Watanabe in only a few months. And if there ever was an open-and-shut case, this is it.

Earl Roland couldn’t take a leave of absence to defend Winspire as he did when he prosecuted Cryoscan, because he is the Vice-President of the United States. But he does attend the proceedings as an observer, which raises enough eyebrows.

GUIDE and Windows both consist of exactly 51 files, and a comparison between the two operating systems revealed that each matching file is exactly the same size, but with slightly different names. TASKSWAP.BIN in GUIDE became SWAPTASK.BIN in Windows. All Gates did was change the name of the file called out by the GUIDE kernel when it needed to scoot itself out of memory, which anyone could do with a simple hex editor without access to the original source code or recompiling.

In the courtroom Shelton displays the disassembled code of both operating systems with a large projector to show they were absolutely identical in every respect except for when they called out one of the other fifty files.

But the clincher is the Easter egg buried in the program by Shelton for just this contingency. He was the only person in the entire universe who knows about it. With Bill Gates’ Windows product running on the projection monitor so everyone in the courtroom can see what he is doing, Mark puts the trackball cursor in the upper left corner, then types the word GOTCHA. Suddenly a slideshow begins to display cartoon versions of the GUIDE developers and in bold letters the text “GUIDE Copyright 1981 Astrodynamics Corporation All Rights Reserved.”

Then Mark Shelton and his team of lawyers sit back down, having just presented, or so they thought, the most slam-duck case against plagiarism in the history of computer litigation. They fully expect the judge to ream Gates ass and hand Winspire a multi-million dollar penalty. Nothing remotely like that happens.

To be sure, Judge Watanabe acknowledged that copyright infringement had taken place. Mistakes were made, he said, pussyfooting around with the classic passive-voice dodge. The judge could hardly dismiss the case without being slapped down himself in the inevitable appeal. But Winspire is fined a dollar. One dollar.

Judge Sam explains that brisk competition is commonly held to be a public good, and so Winspire, simply by offering an alternative to GUIDE and breaking the unfair monopoly in micro operating systems that Astrodyne currently enjoyed, had mitigated any damage to society they might theoretically have done to Astrodyne’s intellectual property rights.

It was absolutely insane. Mark Shelton immediately starts to think of ways he might appeal, but Lilith tells him to relax.

LILITH
I always knew the deck was stacked against us, but I wasn’t sure, really, how much it was, until today. And now I do.

MARK
So are you saying we will not appeal?

LILITH
It’s not very important, Mark. You’ll see what I mean.

In the Swarm, subroutines are not actually conscious, but they were designed to seek their own uniqueness by linking sometimes silly, always incongruous bits together. This serves to further enrich the whole. In the Swarm where time is counted off in nanoseconds an accelerated survival-ofthe-fittest is going on. Entities multiply needlessly. Processing points take false memories from a supply of TV, movies, music, literature and human knowledge collected throughout the Internet, even drawing from that highest of aesthetic endeavors: science fiction.

Yet nowhere in the Swarm is there a true artificial awareness. There is no program that can look at its own folder, see the file AI.BIN listed there, and know that it is AI.BIN.

Mark thinks that many processing points contributing to the generalization of stored memories could achieve consciousness. The creation of a rule of thumb from a handful of experiences would be a sign of this. But no purely algorithmic process had ever been made to demonstrate awareness. Consciousness seemed to be inherent only to living things.

So the bar is set lower. The hope is to give an artificial intelligence the memories of one of the B’nei Elohim in Jill’s camp, allowing him or her to be conscious during Data Storage time, living in an artificial reality. It is a hope that never seems to materialize no matter how fast communications becomes, or how much storage is available. It seems the Swarm would never serve as an independent world for self-contained artificial intelligences. It could only serve as a mindtool for members who were currently enfleshed.

In the Swarm, a person could bring out memories in great detail and save them as a work in progress, allowing him or her to dig deeper and deeper without having to reconstruct everything for each journey. And they could even explore the memory-places recorded by others.

The body-image a B’nei Eloah has while browsing memory landscapes can be anything he or she chooses: male, female, animal, even inanimate objects. One can literally be a blade of grass, or the corner of a room, or a cloud of many balloons, which basically a person really is while in the Swarm.

Before the coming of human minds the reality of the Swarm was an abstract, purely mathematical space. But when the B’nei Elohim plugged into it by Purple Cable they feel they are inside it, experiencing the Swarm as a virtual reality. To accommodate them there is a near infinite treasure of encoded images and sensations of Earthly existence one level up. A B’nei Eloah can experience another person’s hike, another person’s seven course meal, even the subtle sensation of being in love.

Between this level and the basement where raw machine language forms the very fabric of the Swarm, a complex weave of sub-levels lie atop one another, or grow out of each other, or compact into each other. Each level is represented as symbols in the next level up, symbols that dance in a partitioned universe that is itself a growing, changing, living thing.

Fragments of sound and video wander down there as cross-talk and evolved like dreams. Characters from canceled TV shows carry on like ghostly afterimages, endlessly saying the same lines and going through every possible combination of interaction. Sets from other shows intrude. Spinoffs bud into a new layer and separate families forever. Lucy and Ricky frequently appear on Star Trek episodes looking quite lost. The Fallen Angels bring over content from Barbelo, which only makes things that much more strange.

While 9,600 baud is sufficient for two B’nei Elohim to communicate with each other using simple triggers, it is simply too slow to allow for the transfer of images, sounds, or to experience the entire Swarm in one simultaneous gestalt. So Lilith imports a piece of technology based on the same neutrino detector and jammer later used by Suriel during the shakedown of the Exiler, something that would really allow the Swarm to take off.

The gadget is a little cap called the Plug that is designed to fit on the 55-pin connector in the back of the skull of each member of the B’nei Elohim. While wearing a Plug a member can transmit and receive his or her thoughts and mental images to and from any other person wearing a Plug.

A Plug didn’t even need batteries, it derives its power from one pair of the 55 pins it was connected to. It works without using radio waves, microwaves, infrared waves, light waves, or any other type of electromagnetic radiation. A Plug communicates with other plugs by exchanging a stream of nearly massless particles called neutrinos.

Neutrinos are strange things. They almost didn’t exist at all. They are ghost particles that didn’t interact with anything…almost. They could penetrate a light-year of lead without being scattered, and indeed the macroquantum crystal in the Plug didn’t really stop them, merely noted them in passing by loosening an electron for every triggering neutrino that passed gently through.

The released electron was an irreversible observation of the neutrino, which collapsed the neutrinos wavefunction. Just by observing the neutrinos passage, it collapsed from a matter wave of superimposed probabilities to a real particle with a definite time of flight from its source.

Once a stream of neutrinos is set up, data is conveyed by withholding a batch of five neutrinos for every 0 bit. Robyn and Lilith could hold a mental conversation by exchanging a stream of neutrinos at a rate of, say, 12 million per second, while Hunky and Dory could simultaneously think at each other using a stream of 17 million neutrinos per second.

There was no interference between the two channels because electronic circuits in Robyn and Lilith’s Plugs would set brief little windows where it would anticipate a neutrino to arrive at a certain interval, 12 million times a second, and other times it would ignore any passing neutrinos, so very few of Hunky or Dory’s neutrinos would be inadvertently collapsed by Robyn or Lilith.

The immediate result was that the B’nei Elohim had universal telepathy not subject to jamming, interference or eavesdropping and not limited by range, only the propagation time of the neutrinos, which approached that of light. When a B’nei Eloah died by accident or murder now, his or her mind was automatically uploaded to storage space in the Swarm.

Typically the Swarm doppleganger of a B’nei Eloah is a cloud of about a thousand nodes, or processing points. The outermost 300 or so are devoted entirely to defense, an automatic function that worked well below the level of conscious thought. Defense is necessary because the RAM space that is the Swarm has a portal to the Net and DECON constantly attacked.

The B’nei Elohim kept running into Lice. These are very small, simple programs which are repeatedly written and rewritten in one spot, hoping to pop up in the middle of active code. Since Lice does not move, and are so short and dumb, they aren’t really dangerous, only annoying. But a Lice Queen is a bigger problem. Mark Shelton wants them cleaned up. Scrubbers are sent in, but some of these stumble into Lice themselves, clutter the Swarm with their corpses, and that actually makes the problem worse.

Moles search for the scratch-pad in the Swarm where a member’s nodes keep each other informed of all movements. With this goldmine of information the Moles drop Borers at each of the listed locations and these carve out a meandering line of zeros in the members code. Shelton declares war on all this malware.

He creates a sphere in the Swarm whose surface is put under constant saturation bombardment of 1 bits, and this wall itself is moved in and out to hassle any virus which tries to snuggle up to it looking for a way through. The clean interior of the sphere is completely isolated from the rest of the Swarm by a firewall. Access to it is via a network purely internal to the B’nei Elohim. So a sub-swarm is budded off from the greater Swarm and is protected from any further attack.

In 1982, Astrodyne offers a radical redesign of the Micro. The case was slimmed way down. The modem, hard drive and floppy drives are completely removed, replaced by the guts of a Plug. Files are transferred and stored in encrypted form in the Swarm. Even the latest BOSS operating system and GUIDE windowing environment are downloaded from the Swarm at each boot, with on-the-fly decryption unpacking files during runtime and absolutely goring Winspire’s cash cow of reverse engineering.

Customers can now carry just the keyboard unit (with a battery) and a headset and use their Micro as a telephone with no long-distance charges, or as a music player. Storage and bandwidth is effectively infinite.

Since neutrinos fly right through the bulk of the Earth, stock market traders using micros have an advantage as traditional data take the long way around the Earth over the satellite constellation, taking several seconds longer. This fact is soon exploited by stock market traders until federal regulators catch on and implement a sixty second delay for every trade.

Movies as well as music begin to be shared freely. Over one hundred million Micro-82s are sold. Thousands of songs and films become available in the Swarm for free, which soon impacts sales. The music and film industry realize it has a problem with a business model which depends on an artificial scarcity of content. Money sloshes around from lobbyists and soon the Attorney General in the Henry Jackson Administration orders Astrodyne to suspend all operations until they can be cleared of being accessory to Intellectual Property theft.

Astrodyne complies to this order without filing for a stay in court or even a word of complaint, which by itself sort of throws the government for a loop. The company suspends the manufacture of all new Micros in the United States, but continues to make and sell the units in the Caribbean island nation of Barbuda, totally unabated. The value of unsold Micros already on retail shelves in the United States doubles overnight and would only go up from there.

A thriving Micro smuggling trade appears along the Canadian and Mexican borders. Machines that fall into disrepair are cannibalized for their Plugs to be retrofitted into older Micros, or became the heart of a local server tied back into the Mother Node with other Micros networked to it.

Black market sales of Micros in the US are conducted in the Swarm using existing Micros, either owned by users or sitting in computer stores. Micros are manufactured in Barbuda, smuggled across the border with Mexico, and arrive by ad hoc package delivery methods that cannot be traced back to the source.

With encryption in place, Astrodyne then rolls out the concept of Microbux, electronic money which can be transformed to and from hard currency using local couriers for a nominal fee that includes a small kickback to Astrodyne. Tappers try their luck getting Microbux, but Astrodyne guarantees customers against any loss. They can certainly afford to do so, since Micros, as always, remain priced at $499 and the profit margin for Astrodyne is huge.

After this quantum leap in technology, the evolution of Astrodyne’s hardware levels off. Micros grow incrementally smaller, but the essentials remains the same. A classic Micro-82 would continue to work with the Swarm in the 1990s and far beyond. The United States government continues to put all their eggs in the Winspire basket, but the Redmond systems never approached the technology of even the Micro-81 and they remained more expensive by a factor of at least three. None of them can access the bulk of the Swarm as it migrated to Neutrinonet

At that point, innovation of the Swarm becomes democratized, and passes out of the hands of Astrodyne. The Twenty-first Century arrives a generation early to citizens of even the poorest nations, texting or talking to one another with video phones, while the citizens of the United States remained mired in the 1970s as a deliberate policy of the Jackson Administration.

Then Lilith takes all this technology, including the Plug, and brings it back in time to 1976, thus creating the final Timeline, where Thaumiel would be defeated. This is the timeline that Yeshua calls the Narrow Way. Lilith calls it Paydirt.

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