Retrocomputing in SF stories

As @IsaacKuo mentioned retrocomputing in his Postcards from Cutty work, in ROM based home computers since Atari ST?, I thought we could have a thread. (By SF I include Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, and Fantasy.)

It’s possible there will be spoilers ahead.

There’s computing in old SF, there’s old computing in SF, and then there’s SF which a retrocomputist might enjoy.

For example, Diamond Age is a nice book with a sort of steampunk outlook, and mechanical (nano)-computing.

Shockwave Rider “envisaged the emergence of computer viruses”:

The Machine Stops (pdf) is a 1909 short story with dystopian centralised information management, IIRC.

A Logic Named Joe is a classic 1946 short about a room-sized computer. Online here.

Recently on mastodon, I opined:
Vernor Vinge is really good for computer-literate hard SF. Just the prologue to Fire Upon The Deep is excellent in itself. “Archaeologist programmers”! And “Programmer at war”… it’s all about info-war, and layers of ever-older software, and the risks of working with code you don’t fully understand, and the impossibility of fully understanding code which is sufficiently advanced. [I’m now well into a re-read of this book as a consequence of posting about it…]

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Not really SF, but 1984 has some interesting computing/technology bits, and is strikingly relevant today in the age of huge online databases and privacy issues.

I remembered Clarke’s Into the Comet - a short story with a crucial plot point around computer failure and using old technology.

It seems several of Heinlein’s stories mention slide rules and even log tables, but (probably) not as retro-computing.

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SF as in Science Fiction. Not SF as in San Francisco.

A good point… let me tweak the title!

Would the Isaac Asimov stories featuring Multivac be considered retro computing stories? Asimov was definitely aware of home computers, yet he appears to have stuck with the idea of a ‘big-iron’ type computing machine in his stories.

Interesting… I see the Multivac series of stories dates from 1955. We know a later version of Asimov was well aware of home computers - he appeared in Radio Shack adverts - but in 1955 a home computer would have been a very singular thing! LINC dates from the early 60s:


(We see Mary Allen Wilkes using a LINC in her parent’s home in 1965.)

So I’d say Multivac appears as a computer in old stories, rather than an old computer. And therefore a good one to mention in this thread!

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A post was split to a new topic: On the origins of Personal Computing

Personally, I had always wanted one of the computers from the movie “Brazil” that had a real 1930’s look to them. There was a similar computer in one of the stories from “Animatrix.”

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“Working…”
Too bad Majel Barrett died before Alexa, Siri, and all those assistants came about.

If we’re doing computer voices in old TV SF - and we might be - here’s the chap from Blake’s 7: