William Gibson says cyberspace was inspired by 8-bit videogames

Illustration for article titled William Gibson says cyberspace was inspired by 8-bit videogames

Over at the Paris Review, William Gibson has finally told the full story of how he invented the term cyberspace — partly by scribbling on notepads, and partly by watching kids playing videogames in early-1980s arcades.


Here's a really fascinating excerpt from a much longer interview with Gibson:


Where did cyberspace come from?


I was painfully aware that I lacked an arena for my science fiction . . . I was walking around Vancouver, aware of that need, and I remember walking past a video arcade, which was a new sort of business at that time, and seeing kids playing those old-fashioned console-style plywood video games. The games had a very primitive graphic representation of space and perspective. Some of them didn't even have perspective but were yearning toward perspective and dimensionality. Even in this very primitive form, the kids who were playing them were so physically involved, it seemed to me that what they wanted was to be inside the games, within the notional space of the machine. The real world had disappeared for them-it had completely lost its importance. They were in that notional space, and the machine in front of them was the brave new world.

The only computers I'd ever seen in those days were things the size of the side of a barn. And then one day, I walked by a bus stop and there was an Apple poster. The poster was a photograph of a businessman's jacketed, neatly cuffed arm holding a life-size representation of a real-life computer that was not much bigger than a laptop is today. Everyone is going to have one of these, I thought, and everyone is going to want to live inside them. And somehow I knew that the notional space behind all of the computer screens would be one single universe . . .


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I've gotta re-read Neuromancer. It's been around 20 years since I read it and all I can remember is the drunk man (woman?) in the alley transforming (visually only via a swarm of micromachines or mirrors or some such) into all kinds of bizarre things, what's-her-name needing to spit when she cries, black ice and brain death, and eating real meat instead of vat grown meat being a huge treat because it was so expensive.