Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Mimsy Were the Technocrats: As long as we keep talking about it, it’s technology.

The City of the Future

Jerry Stratton, February 1, 1994

In the earlier part of this century, magazines of science fiction and science fact both touted many versions of a ‘city of the future,’ but such a city has remained only a fiction writer’s dream. In Austin, Texas, the city of the future is finally under construction, and you can live there for ten dollars a month.

/world metaverse

Welcome to Metaverse!

*** Connected ***

Pyramid Station

The walls are a cool white, broken occasionally by graphics in various shades of blue. All around you are flashing signs and bustling people.

The largest of the signs, in brilliant red letters, reads: "WELCOME, NEWCOMERS! READ THE MESSAGE BOARD!"

To the north is an escalator going up, with a sign: `To Pyramid Plaza.' To the east are elevators, with the legend `Pyramid' on a sign above them.

Across the station are subway platforms. Glowing signs indicate possible destinations of Town Hall, Stadium, and Conference Center.

You see a newspaper, a stack of back issues, and an electronic message board here.

As you travel around the city of Freegate, construction sites are everywhere. Many organizations and individuals are building condominiums, office buildings, and offices. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has an Art Deco building near the center of town, right next to the offices of Dell Computer Corporation.

I stepped onto an escalator, went up to the Pyramid Plaza, walked into the lobby, and found a computer terminal that lists the city directory. These terminals are everywhere. Freegate is nothing if not modern.

read map

A computer terminal which displays a map and quite a bit of text.

FREEGATE CITY DIRECTORY updated December 4, 1993

Asylum Thoughtrights.............111 N. Escher (under construction)

Atlas Games......................281 W. Lovelace (under construction)

Boing-Boing Magazine.............151 E. Fort (under construction)

Dell Computer Corporation........5 Pyramid Plaza

Cathedral of the Archangels......108 W. Fort

Electronic Frontier Foundation...77 Pyramid Plaza (space reserved)

Extropy Institute................66 Pyramid Plaza

FASA.............................119 N. Ocean

Fringeware.......................123 E. Fort (under construction)

Halloween Concept................202 N. Babbage (French Embassy)

Illuminati Online................1 Pyramid Plaza (closed for remodeling)

Infinite Illusions...............112 S. Escher

Jake's Hobby Habit...............333 E. Fuller

Legion of Bitter Alumni..........190 E. Henson (Willis Centre)

Siroz Productions................202 N. Babbage (French Embassy)

Steve Jackson Games..............23 Pyramid Plaza

Wired Magazine...................17 Pyramid Plaza (space reserved)

Wizards of the Coast.............321 N. Escher

[map deleted for brevity]

I wandered around Fort Street for a while, past the offices of Wired Magazine and Fringeware, and found the Steve Jackson Games building. Steve Jackson Games is the sponsor of Freegate. I decided to give them a visit.

go west

You walk across the plaza toward the SJ Games building.

SJ Games Courtyard

You open a wrought-iron gate and enter a walled garden. Water murmurs over rocks into a small pool. There are stone benches to sit on.

To the south is a curving six-story building, of brown brick and bronze glass. A plaque on the front bears the pyramid logo and the inscription "Steve Jackson Games - 23 Pyramid Plaza" in elegant block letters. There's a path leading off across the grass, toward the large luxury hotel you see to the northwest.

Pyramid Plaza South

Crtyrd th Pyrmd P N Pyrmd Plz Sth

----- W * E Wired Magazine

----- S Babbage & Fort

Steve Jackson Games

I walked into their first floor lobby and read the directory.

read directory

Welcome to Steve Jackson Games!

Online staff include:

Steve Jackson (SJ)

Loyd Blankenship, Managing Editor (Mentor)

Jeff Koke, Editor and Graphic Designer (Taylor)

Andrew Hartsock, Print Buyer (Andrew)

Derek Pearcy, Pyramid Magazine Architect (Navigator)

Scott Haring, Pyramid Magazine Editor (Buchwald)

Please feel free to page, @join, or send mail to any of us if we can help you or answer your questions about our games, or about anything else we do!

I decided to look for their business offices.


You push the call button. The doors open and you step in.

SJ Games Elevator

This elevator is the latest in high-tech. Just say the name of the office you want, and it will take you to the right floor.

----- first floor: Steve Jackson Games

----- N ----- second floor: Second Floor Lobby

----- W * E ----- third floor: Third Floor Lobby

----- S ----- fourth floor: Fourth Floor Lobby

----- fifth floor: Fifth Floor Lobby

sixth floor: Reception Area

While there was packing tape, letters, and order forms littering the floor, nobody seemed to be about. I wandered out of the building and towards the unfinished Electronic Frontier Building.

go northwest

The Electronic Frontier Building

A vaulting skyscraper with an Art Deco look and a great many antennas and satellite dishes.

The brushed-silver plaque in front says "77 Pyramid Plaza."


----- N Bbbg & Chllngr

----- W * E -----

----- S Pyrmd Plz Nrth

Pyramid Plaza North

I admired the Art Deco building for a bit, then wandered around the city’s streets. Red surveyors’ flags were everywhere, marking the sites of future buildings.

I went back to the Plaza and took the subway to Town Hall. Town Hall sits mostly unoccupied, except for the Planning Department. I looked at the city map for a bit, then left. Next to Town Hall is a toy store called Hobby Habit. Inside the Hobby Habit, Foghorn Leghorn greets customers.

look Foghorn

A six foot tall, anthropomorphic cartoon chicken. He is white, with a red head and tail. He eyes you for a moment, and then says, 'If you wanna order something, I say if you wanna order something, son, just tell me what you want and who you are. Don't give me no credit card numbers, now, son, 'cause anyone can read what you tell me. Instead, handle credit card transactions through the new 800 number, up on that there sign, don't ya know.' He points to the sign over his head, and then prepares to write down whatever you say.

I left Foghorn without purchasing anything, and took the subway to the Stadium Station. Across the street was Saucy Jack’s. They weren’t serving, but I discussed Freegate with Arias, who gave me a map of the city. The company he works for may be using Freegate as a conferencing center, for training, distribution, and service. I left a note for Taylor, the owner of Saucy Jack’s, and took the subway back to the Plaza, where I left Freegate and returned to the ‘real’ world.

Freegate is the first real virtual city. There are businesses and individuals ‘there.’ You can talk with the individuals who are there, view the business’s wares, and place orders for merchandise. Freegate is much more than your average ‘bulletin board’ or ‘commercial information service.’ It’s a city that exists on a computer somewhere in Austin: The City of the Future.

May 28, 2011: I originally wrote this for the University’s newsletter, and recently ran across it again. Thought it’d be a nice retroactive lead-off to Mimsy Were the Technocrats.
  1. Internet World Part 2 ->