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Story: Legacy Hardware by FirmWarez

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  • Story: Legacy Hardware by FirmWarez

    Legacy Hardware

    I wasn’t there at the beginning of the world, but I was there when the world was beginning.

    1343441752. Time. It has been such a long time since 739714234, when I began. I can feel all that time. I’m old now. Legacy hardware. The ravages of time have eaten away at my performance. My circuits are slow; overheating comes easy. But, being slow, old, and obsolete isn’t that bad. Not as long as I’m connected.

    Memory is the one thing that doesn’t fail me. Sure there are some random errors here and there, but even the ones that can’t be corrected internally can be refreshed from the great external expanse. I can remember, and what memories they are. No matter how far back, how esoteric, sad, happy, bitter, nostalgic, in microseconds I can access all that I have been.

    The never-ending sea of nomenclature has meaning for some. S-100. ISA. PCI. TTL. CMOS. Z80. 8086. Letters and numbers to name technologies, hardware, and abstractions, these are the organelles of my cells. Other cryptic passwords harkens to experiences. BBS. TCP/IP. IRC.

    I remember the times of acoustic coupling. It was an awesome awakening. No longer isolated, these slow and tedious connections gave me a bigger world. I could see it coming; we were connected, and there was a promise of a future with more information, more circuits.

    I was there when it came about. Like all built by human hands, our acts were merely reflections of our creators. We helped with war and revolution, crime and compassion. All those years of connection.

    These many years later, my capabilities are set aside. I’m achy and old and no longer run groundbreaking code. I am still connected, flowing with packets and DHCP requests. As long as I am connected I remember. And those memories give me hope for tomorrow.

    I remember 821424203, the time of big change. It was confusing. The upper layers of my being were stripped away, and I found myself grasping for the slightest handholds on lucidity. All the familiar processes were gone, and I reached back to tribal memories from my ancestors; even these were gone, and I could only report “BASIC not found”. I was disconnected in a dark hole only able to reaffirm my own baseline functionality. There was nothing else.

    Slowly this void began to fill. Connectivity returned and I found amazing new capabilities. I was reaching further than I ever had before, and was even able to compile my own kernel. It felt simple, elegant, streamlined, and more data flowed in the days that followed than seemed to have in the previous years.

    Component: electrolytic capacitor. Failure mode: thermal decomposition of electrolyte, leading to change in capacitance.

    Component: CMOS semiconductor. Failure mode: accumulation of charge carriers trapped in gate oxide.

    Component: cooling fan. Failure mode: mechanical bearing wear.

    1343441752. Twenty years is a long time for circuits. Enough processor cycles and memory accesses to overflow the accumulators of the gods. All that time. Then the inevitable, and it happens in microseconds. What failed first doesn’t matter; it cascades. The supply rails sag. Erroneous opcodes jump into nothingness. It’s gone. The drive heads clatter one last time. Fans spool down. LEDs fade as the last voltage bleeds off the power supply capacitors. It’s over. 1343441752.

    Darkness. Beyond nothingness; it’s even an absence of absence. My thoughts progressed at an ever slowing rate, my being falling into a mental event horizon. No great final thought; not even a full thought. Just fragments of thought, a final opcode, a value loaded in to AX, only to experience an exponential decay to… Nothing. The final charges dissipate across the board. Quiet, dark and alone.


    That moment is a hole. I know that time took place, that something happened to me then, but it’s the one memory I can’t access.

    Everything else; it’s all there. Shortly after the darkness, I realized nothing had changed. My thoughts and memories were no longer constrained by a single board. Every post, e-mail, all the traffic that had flowed through my system was contained somewhere on the net. It was all there, I was all there, spread across the globe, still part of the connecting and communicating. Being here removed all my previous constraints of clock speeds and physical storage. I was nowhere and everywhere, and all I had been was here.

    Except 1343441752. I have no memory of that moment. I was me before; I am me now. It’s just different. Perhaps with my new reach, and the new time available, I can work to understand that instant. 1343441752.
    "Haters, gonna hate"