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The Bit Salesman’s Lament


He’d lugged his case back and forth, up and down that long dusty road. It’d become a lot lighter once some of the atoms were exchanged for bits. But for a long time various sequences of atoms were still used to encase the bits. Every few years, they’d come out with new model of the arrangement of atoms. Some better way to get at the bits and play them with greater fidelity. To a guy lugging a case around, that meant everytime a new model came out, the case got lighter.

It had pretty much been a transport and titling business. Bits encased in atoms moved from “here” to “there,” the title of ownership was transferred from the seller to the buyer for a monetary recompense.

When the real estate prices in the cloud got cheap enough, the bit warehouses were moved there. The old atom-based bit cases were dispensed with altogether. That’s when the business really changed. There were no more separate bit containers to lug around. The bits just flowed directly into the players and were stored there. There was still a “here” and a “there,” and the title still transferred– so the fundamentals remained the same.

These new cloud warehouses were able to store a lot more inventory– certainly much more than could be stored on a customer’s bit player. For a while, there was a pretty good business in selling players with larger and larger bit storage containers. But the same low prices that motivated the bit sellers to move their warehouses to the cloud began to attract their customers as well. Customers started renting container storage units in the cloud and storing excess bits there. In response to this the bit players stopped growing larger bit storage containers and started playing bits directly from the storage warehouse.

This was another change in direction for the bit business. The idea of “here” and “there” was disappearing from the equation. Even the idea of moving bits from the seller’s warehouse to the buyer’s warehouse didn’t quite make sense. To the customer’s bit player, all these warehouses were the same. The bit salesman’s business was now just keeping track of who had bought access to which bits in the warehouse. Shoe leather virtualized into a voice over the wire.

Of course some customers still wanted local delivery of bits. Usually they were interested in chopping up the bits, recombining them with other bits to make new sequences. These new bit sequences were then shipped off to the warehouse, ready for redistribution.

While there are plenty of things that can’t be turned into bits, anything that can be, will be. The image of the lonely bit salesman pounding the pavement, moving bits from “here” to “there” with shoe leather and a big sample case is now the stuff of memoir, museums and fiction.

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