Home' Technology Review : November December 2007 Contents 76 FICTION
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cal action! Just tell the old man o , clonk the girl on
the head, throw her into the trunk of a car, and drive
o across a state line!
But it took a certain hillbilly lack of savoir faire
to do something so blunt, immediate, helpful, and
misogynistic. That basic course of action had worked
out ne for Yuri, but Preston possessed a gentler and
more re ned sensibility.
The cu s of Preston s pants were badly frayed. This
tiny detail was somehow Yuri s tipping point.
"Okay," he said, straightening, "I tell you what we re
gonna do here. I m gonna re up ClearWorks and
put the program through its paces. When that old
man comes back here from his nap, I ll get him jump-
started on something."
Preston scratched his bald spot. "You really think
you can do that?"
"Yeah. I know I can do it. Because I was his star stu-
dent once. It s pretty simple with François. You just
do something that s very clear and simple and obvious.
Then he gets all excited and he bawls you out. He can t
help taking over the work and redoing it all himself. So:
if this piece of junk runs at all, well, the two of us will
cook up some concept plan. It doesn t have to be the
Taj Mahal for him to show it to his favorite client."
Preston had no better scheme to o er. He left Yuri
in peace with the machine.
Yuri woke the workstation and settled in.
When he rst saw the ClearWorks interface, he
felt a shock of profound nostalgia. Yeah, it really was
ClearWorks running there! No kidding!
ClearWorks was a simple white pane with a pair
of tiny, almost invisible icons in the upper right cor-
ner. ClearWorks was so entirely clear that it looked
starkly absurd. Compared to Yuri s working inter-
faces for the modern construction business, Clear-
Works was alien.
Where was the ri ing host of toolbars, templates,
menus, dynamic panels, auto-updaters, dialog panels,
widgets, dashboards, collision detectors, and tags?
Where was the bustling cloud of counters, winkers,
beepers, and blinkers?
ClearWorks was a void. A glassy, glossy innocence.
ClearWorks was as pearly-white and blank as the
inside of a skull.
The program s mouse, or rather its airbor ne bat,
sat atop Roebel s workstation. When Yuri s ngertips
gripped the familiar ridges of the wand, the look and
feel of the program came back to him as if college
Space and for m. Yuri was peeling through space
and form. Through the torque in that bat he could
actually feel space---the massiness of space, the
shapeliness of space. The orderliness and rightness
of planned spatiality. Geometry sliced through the
white panes of simulation like a white ceramic knife
through pure white cheese.
ClearWorks did just one thing well: it did form.
ClearWorks did nothing but form. ClearWorks was
a world in which there was only form.
Yuri recalled that ClearWorks had been pro-
grammed by just one guy. It was the brainwork of
a single geek, some embittered dissident from the
early CAD business. The name of this lonesome
genius was Greg Something, or Bob Something, or
Jim Something, and he was the type of arrogant,
self-aggrandizing, utterly unworldly, Unix-bearded
software-genius gure who wanted to create a pro-
grammatic universe all by himself.
Greg-Jim-Bob had never managed that feat, but
he d managed to create ClearWorks. That program
had become a legend among its users. All the cogno-
scenti and digerati and designerati vied to praise
ClearWorks. Of course, nobody actually used it. If
you gave people the tools that were perfect for their
jobs, they d have nothing to do but their jobs.
The whole secret of the network revolution was
that it connected everybody, and it therefore caused
everybody to do everybody else s jobs.
It came to Yuri with a shock that ClearWorks did
not interoperate. No. ClearWorks didn t even hook
to the Internet. ClearWorks was a single tool for one
single human mind. There was no crowdsourcing in
it, no open-source collaboration, no "with enough
eyes all bugs are shallow" ... no add-ons, no plug-ins,
no open application programming interfaces.
ClearWorks was a simple bone-white space for
Yuri couldn t believe the program was such a little
sandbox. He could remember tackling ClearWorks as
a student. At the time, he had felt the program was
incredibly advanced: it was cosmic, in nite, awe-
How had ClearWorks become such a tinkertoy?
Yuri shook his head and recalled his purpose.
The task at hand was some conceptual proposal for
a François Roebel temple. The maestro might ramble
in from his nap at any minute, and Yuri had to show
him something sure to snag his interest.
What the heck, any pastiche had to start some-
where: the Golden Rectangle. Always a sound choice:
it never looked awkward no matter how it was used.
Bang, up it came, the good old Golden Rectangle,
and then: boo000000ooom ... that was the oldest,
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