Rise of Glie Chapter 37
Previous: Rise of Glie Chapter 36: Kagami's choice
FHD Remix: The Rise of Glie
Chapter 37: One Box
"So where's the rest of it?" the Toga signs.
"This is the complete unit," Washi responds, "It's probably a little larger than it will be once in production, but it should operate according to your specifications. Please try it out and see if has any bugs, bring it back next week with your report."
The Toga lifts up the metre-square box that's about thirty centimetres deep to feel its weight. It is quite bulky, and Washi can't read his expression. Neither can Bangou, sitting quietly on the cart, watching the exchange. Finally, he sets it back down and looks at it sitting on the cart, "Are you sure you brought the whole thing?"
"Absolutely," Washi answers, "I think the battery has enough charge for a quick demonstration," he pops the lid.
His fingers come to rest on a ten key keyboard, a key for each finger and thumb. He presses several keys at once, following the instructions Bangou gave him to ask the machine for the first four powers of the first twenty prime numbers. The output shows on a series of lights in the Toganese glyph system.
The Toga stares at it.
"This is the cable jack for your printing translation unit," Washi taps on a large round port on the side of the box with a twenty hole socket.
"The printing translation unit is..." the Toga signs with trembling fingers. Finally, he says, "Let me show you the one that's running our wiring machine, come. Ashfeather Number can come too."
She turns off the computer and waits for the Communicator to wave before dismounting the cart and pacing over.
The Toga beckons them into the tent, which wrapped around is a rather well constructed hut made of scaffolding frames and bundled in plastic and drywall, a material almost alien within the wall of Glie.
Pointing to each as he explains his machine, "This of course, is the wiring machine itself. This is the computer's logic core," he gestures to two freestanding crates, each about a metre square and a metre and a half tall, "the memory unit ... drive unit here ... power filter to the generator outside, and this snake ... leads to the two units making up the translator unit in the other tent. The printer sits on top of one of them."
"Seven of those?" Bangou waves breathlessly.
Washi grasps her hand, then turns to the Toga and asks, "Are they all this big?"
"Oh," the Toga signs casually, "You knew that already. Would I be able to look inside?"
Back at the cart, Bangou and Washi open the computer, showing the innards of the machine.
"Integration already," the Toga answers instantly, "Most impressive. Congratulations, young haibane, explain it, please."
Bangou is hesitant.
"You may speak to him," Washi explains with the sign language, "he's given you permission."
"Okay," she signs, then points, "The logic has been reduced to this module here, with nine dice inside it, a total of five hundred transistors, roughly. This is the register memory, made from semiconductor latches, sixty-four bytes. This is the core module you provided us, two thousand forty eight bytes of main memory," it utterly dominates the machine's case. "The battery provided by Ashfeather Buzz, and finally, the input-output translator module here, with eight dice. We're using the metal gate transistor, up to sixty-four integrated on a die, with a minimum channel length of fifty microns. The entire unit uses about seven thousand transistors on a hundred twenty dice."
The Toga claps. A crow caws three times. Suddenly another Toga, which of the four quietly working inside the tent, she can't tell, emerges.
"Kill it," the Toga briskly signs.
The generator soon stops, and the Toga asks Bangou directly, "How much current?"
"Uh," Bangou communicates at first by picking at a cuticle, "Ten amps. Oh, at one hundred ten volts alternating sine. We didn't bother with the two-oh-eight."
"That's it?" the Toga signs.
Bangou extends her right wing.
Apparently, it takes the Toga a moment to remember that her wings really do move, unlike Washi's, "Let's go try it."
Bangou carries her computer inside, where the Toga taps on his mainframe's memory unit, plugs in another module, lifts the lid, plugs in the much smaller generator just outside the back of the tent, and starts it up. He codes in several instructions, the wiring machine comes back to life, automatically soldering leads onto the now-obsolete junction transistors.
Suddenly it stops, launching one of the tiny crystals at Washi in the process. It bounces off his mask right next to the central hole. He doesn't seem the slightest bit annoyed, but his expression is completely unreadable, as usual.
"We haven't quite got all the bugs worked out yet," Bangou confesses, "This is the first prototype ... Well, fourth if you count all the modules we didn't put into a box like this."
"No big deal," the Toga responds, "The machine did that all the time while we were perfecting the program for the big one, and maybe I screwed it up."
"I doubt it," Bangou says, "My memory chip still suffers from a bit fade bug in the position ... Oh, it doesn't matter. It only affects two registers, so if you avoid putting instructions in the memory addresses," she rattles off several numbers, "it'll work well enough that you can tell us about any bugs that we don't know about."
"How many bugs do you know about?" the Toga asks.
"A hundred seventeen," Bangou says, "We've fixed all but two in this unit. The other is something in the division instruction we only found this morning. Because other instructions use the same bunch of transistors in the logic unit, there might be more caused by the same defect. We should have it fixed with the next prototype. Tell us what you find out over the course of the week."
"Will do," the Toga answers, "See you next week, Ashfeather Number. If I had a name, I'd tell you."
He offers his hand for her to shake. She's so timid that it takes almost two minutes to complete the old human gesture.
"I'm two-long, two-short," he says, "as the crows call me."
"How'd it go?" Fushoku asks excitedly as Bangou returns to the table at Old Home, a warm supper of goat and yakisoba waiting for her.
Bangou slumps into her seat at the table, "How big do you think that computer would be if we built it out of your old junction transistors?"
"Oh?" Fushoku shakes his head, "That's impossible. Seven thousand transistors would be a nightmare to wire, and it would be at least the size of that fridge. Why?"
"Because they actually built it," Bangou almost cries, "Complete with their old cruddy logic. Just over thirty five thousand each. Four machines, each the size of seven fridges."
"You're kidding," Fushoku gasps.
"No," she says, "They showed me the one that runs their machine for attaching leads to those transistors. It works just like ours. I couldn't believe it, either."
"Oh, crud," Fushoku groans, leaning back in his chair, "That means they'll easily see every little glitch in ours and nitpick it to smithereens."
"And what's so bad about that?" Bangou laughs, "It means that we'll get our machine to perfection much faster than we ever hoped. Just think. Their computer needs a whole generator like the one that runs Jabez' shop and seven carts to get around. Instead, they get something they can lift with two hands complete with its own battery!"
"They actually want it?" Fushoku asks.
"Washi told me," Aware chimes in, "that they are willing to pay the price of forty thousand transistors for each of those machines, and they were expecting that we were going to make the first ones out of single transistors, much as theirs, only easier on power. What we showed them this morning was quite a surprise," he laughs, "Washi had to explain to them what you meant by <<dice>>, Bangou. Fushoku, this is a miracle to them. They thought it would be over twenty years before we'd have our first microchips ready. It even surprises me what half a dozen haibane can do in just six ... even before you came along," he gets quiet with gratitude at his own second life, "even though I'm one of them."
"Does their version really work?" Fushoku asks, "putting wires on our old transistors?"
"Oh, of course," Bangou snaps, "They were already experiencing our bugs before I even left. Why do you ask?"
"Oh, it's a pet project of mine," Fushoku says just before stuffing his mouth with noodles.
"Hmm?" Bangou prompts as he swallows.
"You remember how I've been bellyaching about how much of a pain it was to cut masks?" Fushoku asks.
"Yeah, and I think you screwed up one of my register latches," she quietly says as she sips her tea.
"How I wanted a computer to do it for me?" he goes on, "So I've been kinda puttering around with their contract, which is like freakin' huge and now that I know they have one of those things working out at the camp, I was thinking..." he trails off.
"They could make masks for us?" Bangou prompts. Both wordlessly turn to the elder haibane.
"Oh," Aware almost laughs, "I'm sure they'd rather help you make more of your magic boxes than the mighty monsters of their own design. You have to remember, they're in this for the money."
"Oh, they care about more than that," Bangou says, "I can tell."
"But I'll need your help with the programming," Fushoku humbly intones.
Bangou sighs deeply, then says, "The Toga know how to run these things better than I do. Aware, can we have Janice deck me out in a Washi uniform? Maybe I can take some lessons."
"We can't hide the wings," Aware groans.
"Please?" she prompts with widened eyes.
Aware says quietly, "No promises, but I'll see what I can do."
Next: Rise of Glie Chapter 38: Eternity