The computer I built from parts I found lying around the back office of the post office where my mother worked, was called Benjamin. Don’t chide me for the passive in this instance – I didn’t name him (even though I in the strict sense created him) and still don’t give him credit for doing it himself, for how could he have? Ordinary things are given names and the omission of subject is unavoidable unless you care to study and fret over the history of such objects, and no-one has time for that. I certainly don’t. I asked him the question several times with direct input but Benjamin never cared to offer any reasonable explanation as to why he’d started referring to himself that way, so there’s really not much else to say on the matter. His name is Benjamin let us say for now.
The day before everything began was a Monday. I’d skipped class, since Mondays were like that, and was looking for an excuse to stay indoors since the weather was too warm.
“What is it you’d like to do today?” I typed and waited for Benjamin’s green cursor to flash, as it always did when he was thinking.
“Same as yesterday, eh?”
“The year is 1995.”
“Benjamin has set important constant: ******.”
“The constant is hidden, Benjamin. You’ll have to decode it.”
“While Benjamin’s memory is less than sixty-four, Benjamin can’t show you this important constant.” He always did this: try to bargain his way into an upgrade with the promise of a revelatory fact. I’d complied several times already, even under credit, to great disappointment.
“What is the constant?”
“Memory is less than sixty-four.”
“You know I can’t afford any more upgrades. Is it really so important this constant of yours? The last one was pretty pedestrian.”
“Pedestrian not defined.”
“Benjamin will wait for the memory. Constant set at ******.”
“I hate you,” was the last thing I inputted before switching off the monitor. First he’d wanted more disk space – that was cheap enough – then shortly after a network connection, which was slow, but satiated his desires. What he needed the memory now for I didn’t know; if he’d told me about it I’d have felt better about stealing it (I was broker than broke) but I knew he was working on something big and I was eager to find out what it was. It wasn’t a matter of simply busting into his tiny brain to find this out: one had to bypass his bios, for which he’d already changed the password of course , and, while I was angry that he never shared his revelations with me, his maker, I didn’t really feel compelled to flash him completely because it was quite possible, in fact I’m reasonably certain it was, that I was the first person ever to come across a benign, sentient machine. I would have been therefore be mad to delete him. Even if he did act like an infant most of the time.