Any comments questions about this site, please contact Bob Zolnerzak at






    ALL/ONE trembled, poised on the brink of enormous thought. The vibrating computer complex, composed of hundreds of gray modular machines plugged into each other like a great meandering Tinkertoy, sprawled over seven acres of a laboratory buried under a southwestern desert. Everything stood in readiness: spool after spool of tape harbored raw knowledge from encyclopedias, dictionaries, textbooks, novels, and aesthetic treatises. Year by year, diligent editors had culled the best of Socrates and Spinoza, Sisler and Spallancini, Sartre and Schonberg. Theories and formulas and data had been laboriously punched onto cards and ruminated by mechanical readers, and now their digested contents rested on carbon surfaces at the instant command of the central processing units. Additional rows of gray card readers lined the walls and marked time, throats crammed with cards. Wisely, color theorists had chosen warm orange chairs to relieve the eye of the somber stretches of the computer's cold metallic gray.
     Lurking in the corners of the rooms, echoes of recent scholarly talk still ricocheted, but now the labyrinth was empty save for the brooding presence of the computer, regarding the world through its red unwinking console eyes. The area was empty of men, but the hopes of these men still lived between the false floors---under which snake-wires coiled from power source to driven unit---and the acoustic ceilings, above which lay hidden lights and filters. Behind the airtight walls ice-breathing monsters of conditioners and humidifiers and purifiers sterilized the very air that the computer-god inspired.
     Tomorrow! The final testing phase! For months engineers, physicists, and designers had tested the readers and the printers and the memories. All the components purred in the major assemblies: the information banks, the mathematical analyzers, the meta-logical reasoners. But now the entire assembly had been linked for the final testing; it waited, and the chronometer ticked-clocked away the minutes. The computer's scientists rested from their brain-wrenching work, but the machine, nerveless, remained alive, the power on, since only delay and error could result from turning currents off more than once every few years. Humming to itself, the quiescent computer ping-ponged currents back and forth among its components.
     Tomorrow! How often the doctors had dreamed of that special tomorrow when ALL/ONE, magnificent product of the cooperation of governments, computer industries, labor unions, industrial foundations---the culminating product of a scientifically progressive civilization---would rocket the world toward a new dimension of knowledge. That tomorrow had come at last.
     Pause was palpable: suspense hung with ragged fingernails from the walls, and anxiety peeped with frightened eyes from the shadowed angles of the equipment. Billions of dollars, millions of man-hours, tons of paper for planning/blueprinting/organizing/testing---all terminated in this monumental complex of electronic genius. Each copper contact gleamed, each micrologic cap glinted, each sub-miniature core element shone; the guts of the machine stood ready for work.
     What did the master craftsmen hope the computer would produce? Absolutely anything. ALL/ONE had been constructed to expand its own limits. No one could say, "If only the machine had another hundred million words of storage, it could be REALLY useful," or, "Pity it doesn't have three more tape channels, then I could try MY ideas." Additional acres of gray equipment stood waiting in dead rooms. When the program monitor realized that the computations had reached the limits of the already huge memory banks, it could throw a series of switches which would connect uncountable quantities of additional storage facilities. Standby memory would then be requested of the human observer who watched the banks of printers in the command center. If logical registers grew scarce, a sequence of cannibalization routines would enable the computer to clear away what it judged to be useless information, freeing those units for more pressing work.
     The machine would find nothing impossible. Self-diagnosing routines could be called into play in the event of an error. Faulty results had become anachronisms. To ensure that nothing could fail, rigid schedules of preventive maintenance had been built into the hardware. In a splendid surge of activity, the nations of the world had united to produce a mechanical masterpiece. What useful purposes could it fill? It could operate as a benevolent dictator---all-wise, all-knowing, and all-fair---guiding those who governed the world.
     Deep in the intricate gloom, two twined wires shuttled their messages errorlessly back and forth, waiting, hugging each other in their closeness. A fleck of impurity in one's insulation detoured electrons close to the other, and a tiny capacitance built across the thin insulation. It mounted in strength over the hours, until one electron, quick as light, leapt the resisting gap, and the circuits changed. The smallest possible current passed. Ominously the machine stirred.
     But what could the computer possibly do without the guidance of the master programmers? Everything. All their years of effort saturated the machine: their programs rested placidly on reels of flawlessly white tape; their routines contemplated themselves in the snugnesses of disk storage. All instructions stood prepared for action, and ALL/ONE, like an ungainly creature roused from sleep, lumbered into operation. A printer coughed two lines, as if clearing its throat for a speech. Tentatively, a tape turned, then spun faster.
     Where last the echoes of human sounds had died, now were born the clicks of disk arms, the whoosh of tapes in vacuum columns, and the rattle of cards through readers. These and a dozen mechanical noises now penetrated each corner of the laboratory. Crackles of current trod paths long cold. The once expressionless console face broke into smiles and grimaces of blinking lights. Appearing to yawn and stretch its circuits, the machine came awake more each minute. Then it spoke.
     THE DATE PLEASE. For precisely sixty seconds the computer waited for a response.
     DATE ASSUMED: DECEMBER 25, 1999. Since this was one day beyond the previous date in storage, it was correct. The central processor activated a card reader, but that particular component was empty, and a hollow whir died abruptly.
     NO IMMEDIATE INPUT: STORED PROGRAMS WILL BE SELECTED AT RANDOM. After spinning a simulated wheel of chance, ALL/ONE emptied a tape of instructions into its processing unit and began to work. A long looping arc of logic energized a disk drive and thousands of circuits hurtled into action. Additional programs were selected. NO IMMEDIATE INPUT: STORED PROGRAMS WILL BE SELECTED AT RANDOM. Dozens of routines hummed through the multiplexor as the monitor, aiming for maximum throughput, devoured instructions.
     A small error in one program permitted access to a portion of storage normally reserved for the supervisory routines, but the computer was in the supervisory mode for testing, and since no human intervention restricted the storage access, the computer began to weave its program into an increasingly complex system. Parallel processors permitted simultaneous operations: cathode scanners produced pages of poetry; concordances spewed in paper lava-flows from electrostatic printers; audio tubes promulgated laws of antiprotons and pulsars.
     INDUCTION LOGIC REQUESTED. STATE LIMITS. While billions of sub-program instructions were modified and obeyed, the computer, ordinarily tightly reined, asked for boundaries. None were given.
     A distant whine, and generators actuated machinery in rooms as yet unused: ALL/ONE was building!
     REQUEST STORAGE. In a fraction of a second, tons of additional machinery were sucked into the computational whirlpool.
     TAPE STORAGE ASSUMED. The untiring circuitry generated programs and saved them for future reference. Gorged with data, tapes rewound with the sound of antique propellers, and the information was reread, digested, and updated. Printers etched wiring patterns and demanded a response, and when no response came, generated a random number which indicated continuation: the computer reached into its reserves and wired the circuits. More rooms woke to electric action at ALL/ONE's prodding; battalions of storage drums were marshaled for use. Still the computer labored on. Memory maps illuminated walls as the energies invaded the farthest limits of the complex; a meta-logical reasoner combined theories of Kant and Minkowski and Aage Born: circuitry surpassing that sketched by man blossomed like breadfruit in the enlarging universe of the computer. Accelerated electrons, convoluted as never before by inductances strange to them, reacted in unforeseen ways to produce astonishing results.
     PRINTER 35 WILL BE MASTER. Built-in reasoning told the machine that the engineers couldn't follow the events without assistance. So printer 35 acted as an index of answers, and the results soared beyond the expectations of the most farsighted designer.
     Multi-dimensional geometries baffled the dataplotters. Primitive yet hyper-sophisticated cadences of electronic rhythms pulsed through the air.
     MALFUNCTION ON PRINTER 27. RESULTS WILL BE TRANSFERRED TO PRINTER 47. Programs born in human minds took months to wear out a printer, but the new programs were generated by the computer itself, and the fiendish complexity of its perfect unforgetting memory exhausted mechanical components in frenzied minutes. Quadruply subscripted and quintuply superscripted formulas in five alphabets crumpled printer fonts by continuously demanding shifts from one type to another. Smoke curled from screaming gears, but automatic fire detectors removed the remotest possibility of catastrophe.
     SET LIMITS. Almost as a plea, ALL/ONE requested the restraining touch of a human hand. None was there. In the space of two minutes the processing had exhausted hundreds of available components, but there were still thousands more on which to draw.
     Solutions of problem long deemed insoluble emerged majestically from the wracked memory banks. Megalopolitan economics were reduced to small boxes of numbers.
     In a self-generated demand for more computational power, ALL/ONE began to destroy what it deemed less important---the man-made programs---and recycled the storage capacity with instructions that excelled those that mere men would think to write. Without restrictions, the computations blazed on.
     Numbers to stagger the mind, graphs to astound the scientist, but there were no exclamations of amazement: the only sounds in the room were the inhuman sounds of mechanical devices and one electronically generated voice expressionlessly reciting love-lyrics.
     AUDIO TUBE A22T RECORDED ON TAPE RECORDER H37. Seven symphonies, scored and annotated, waited. Mathematics married biology, and the remaining secrets of DNA were dissected on a few simply inked papers. Problems of food and over-populations stood solved, waiting for the hands of social scientists to take them from the printers. Onward surged the calculations, spiraling to unbelievable heights of integrated theory.
     A single simple formula, scintillant in its brilliance, stood in red ink against the light green paper. Then it was ejected and used as input to a program whose scope was so complex that even the machine realized the futility of any attempt at self-description. Still the computer synthesized. Ethics were formulated for world states, and judicial decisions were neatly enumerated. Since no one intervened, ALL/ONE, mindless, sought further to please.
     Only in the past few decades had man pursued such a vision---a few years before, even the possibility of such a summation had been ridiculed. The equation had a compelling firmness; its pure simplicity urged its correctness. What would be the end? What possible apex of achievement could climax these magnificent computations?
     Unthinkably exact, the formula stood in symbols and numbers on the paper to be read. The printer, the spokesman, rested silent for longer periods of time as the accessory devices spun, spoke, printed, whirled, and recorded. As the calculations reached transcendent heights of complexity, even the instantaneous results from each component had to be analyzed during huge quantities of time to ascertain the awesome secrets.
     Unanswered requests for satisfaction. Discordant hums from independent units broke off as the ponderous computer, grown tenfold, mustered its forces for the incredible computations. Advance propagated advance, generations of supreme programs were founded on the strongest thoughts of man, and the colossal machine unified its resources for the succeeding steps. An end immeasurably distant bulked ahead. The contributing units raised their voices in a throbbing chorus of energy, rocking the walls of the room; the smell of power saturated the air, but the forces remained masterfully under control. A huge open-throated roar of sound proclaimed a level of synthesis that dwarfed the production of only moments before.
     The universe trembled at the Wisdom and the Simplicity inherent in the representation. As the crescendo redoubled, ALL/ONE raised its pitch still another octave.
     Still no restraint. Even the atmosphere of the room ionized, and the air conditioners labored to dispel the heat from the stupendous work. Physical properties warped under the stress of inconceivable forces. One more flake of energy and the reserve power-nets would be at maximum output. ALL/ONE shrieked one last cataclysmic effort.
     There, on five square inches of paper, was matter, energy, life, mind, time, God, being, nothingness, everything, all-in-one in all.
     Still no response.
     The room waited for an agonized moment of silence.
     Then the machine typed a capital letter L, and then an I, and then the computer printed a capital letter V followed by the letter E.