In 1986 William Gibson published Neuromancer, his masterpiece. In it he coined the term ‘cyberspace’. For many of us it described the world of ‘computers’ at the time. It captured the experience of disappearing into code.
Later ‘cyberspace’ was an uncannily accurate metaphor for getting online and disappearing into, for me, the telephone networks through phone phreaking and later the Internet and the text based online communities like IRC, NNTP, telnet based MUDs and so on.
The term ‘cyber’ is now mocked by those in information security as something uncool. I’m not sure why but I think it’s because the term has been coopted by companies trying to sell products in cyber security.
For me and I think many others, ‘cyber’ and ‘cyberspace’ are precious reminders of the beauty of Gibson’s writing and how he accidentally captured the reality that was to follow in a beautiful metaphor.
This is my favorite passage from Neuromancer as Case is cured and once again is able to access cyberspace. What I love about this passage is that it captures the sense of longing many of us have when we exist in the real world and the sense of belonging when we’re online.
And in the bloodlit dark behind his eyes, silver phosphenes boiling in from the edge of space, hypnagogic images jerking past like film compiled from random frames. Symbols, figures, faces, a blurred, fragmented mandala of visual information. Please, he prayed, _now --_ A gray disk, the color of Chiba sky. _Now --_ Disk beginning to rotate, faster, becoming a sphere of paler gray. Expanding -- And flowed, flowered for him, fluid neon origami trick, the unfolding of his distanceless home, his country, transparent 3D chessboard extending to infinity. Inner eye opening to the stepped scarlet pyramid of the Eastern Seaboard Fission Au- thority burning beyond the green cubes of Mitsubishi Bank of America, and high and very far away he saw the spiral arms of military systems, forever beyond his reach. And somewhere he was laughing, in a white-painted loft, distant fingers caressing the deck, tears of release streaking his face.