MS Fnd in a Lbry
From: Report of the Commander, Seventh Expeditionary Force,
Andromedan Paleoanthropological Mission
What puzzled our research teams was the suddenness of collapse
and the speed of reversion to barbarism, in this multigalactic
civilization of the biped race. Obvious causes like war, destruction,
plague, or invasion were speedily eliminated. Now the outlines of the
picture emerge, and the answer makes me apprehensive.
Part of the story is quite similar to ours, according to those who
know our own prehistory well.
On the mother planet there are early traces of *books*. This word
denotes paleoliterary records of knowledge in representational and
macroscopic form. Of course, these disappeared very early, perhaps
175,000 of our yukals ago, when their increase threatened to leave
no place on the planet's surface for anything else.
First they were reduced to *micros*, and then to *supermicros*,
which were read with the primeval electronic microscopes then extant.
But in another yukal the old problem was back, aggravated by colonization
on most of the other planets of the local Solar System, all of which were
producing *books* in torrents. At about this time, too, their cumbersome
alphabet was reduced to mainly consonantal elements (thus: thr cmbrsm alfbt
w rdsd t mnl cnsntl elmnts) but this was done to facilitate quick reading,
and only incidentally did it cut down the mass of Bx (the new spelling)
by a full third. A drop out of the bucket.
Next step was the elimination of the multitude of separate Bx
depositories in favor of a single building for the whole civilization.
Every home on every inhabited planet had a farraginous diffuser which
tuned in on any of the Bx at will. This cut the number to about one
millionth at a stroke, and the wise men of the species congratulated
themselves that the problem was solved.
This building, twenty-five miles square and two miles high, was buried
in one of the oceans to save land surface for parking space, and so our
etymological team is fairly sure that the archaic term liebury (Ibry) dates
from this period. Within no more than twenty-two yukals, story after story
had been added till it extended a hundred miles into the stratosphere.
At this level, cosmic radiation defarraginated the scanning diffusers,
and it was realized that another limit had been reached. Proposals were
made to extend the liebury laterally, but it was calculated that in three
yukals of expansion so much of the ocean would be thus displaced that the
level of the water would rise ten feet and flood the coastal cities.
Another scheme was worked out to burrow deeper into the ocean bottom,
until eventually the liebury would extend right through the planet like
a skewer through a shashlik (a provincial Plutonian delicacy), but it
was realized in time that this would be only a momentary palliative.
The fundamental advance, at least in principle, came when the
representational records were abandoned altogether in favor of *punched
supermicros*, in which the supermicroscopic elements were the punches
themselves. This began the epoch of abstract recs - or Rx, to use the
The great breakthrough came when Mcglcdy finally invented mass-
produced *punched molecules* (of any substance). The mass of Rx
began shrinking instead of expanding. Then Gidbg proved what had
already been suspected; knowledge was not infinite, and the civilization
was asymptotically approaching its limits; the flood was leveling off.
The Rx storage problem was hit another body-blow two generations later
when Kwlsk used the Mcglcdy principle to develop the *notched electron*,
made available for use by the new retinogravitic activators. In the ensuing
ten yukals a series of triumphant developments wiped the problem out for
good, it seemed:
(1) Getting below matter level, Shmt began by notching quanta (an obvious
extension of Kwlsk's work) but found this clumsy. In a brilliant stroke he
invented the *chipped quantum*, with an astronomical number of chips on each
one. The Rx contracted to one building for the whole culture.
(2) Shmt's pupil Qjt, even before the master's death, found the chip
unnecessary. Out of his work, ably supported by Drnt and Lccn, came the
*nudged quanta*, popularly so called because a permanent record was impressed
on each quantum by a simple vectorial pressure, occupying no subspace on the
pseudo-surface itself. A whole treatise could be nudged onto a couple of
quanta, and whole branches of knowledge could for the first time be put
in a nutshell. The Rx dwindled to one room of one building.
(3) Finally - but this took another yukal and was technologically
associated with the expansion of the civilization to intergalactic
proportions - Fx and Sng found that quanta in hyperbolic tensor systems
could be tensed into occupying the same spatial and temporal coordinates,
if properly pizzicated. In no time at all, a quantic pizzicator was
devised to compress the nudged quanta into overlapping spaces, most of
these being arranged in the wide-open areas lying between the outer electrons
and the nucleus of the atom, leaving the latter free for tables of contents,
illustrations, graphs, etc.
All the Rx ever produced could now be packed away in a single drawer, with
plenty of room for additions. A great celebration was held when the Rx drawer
was ceremoniously installed, and glowing speeches pointed out that science
had once more refuted pessimistic croakings of doom. Even so, two speakers
could not refrain from mentioning certain misgivings . . .
To understand the nature of these misgivings, we must now turn to a develop-
ment which we have deliberately ignored so far for the sake of simplicity but
which was in fact going on side by side with the shrinking of the Rx.
First, as we well know, the Rx in the new storage systems could be scanned
only by activating the nudged or pizzicated quanta, etc., by means of a code
number, arranged as an index to the Rx. Clearly the index itself had to be
kept representational and macroscopic, else a code number would become
necessary to activate *it*. Or so it was assumed.
Secondly, a process came into play of which even the ancients had had
presentiments. According to a tradition recorded by Kchv among some
oldsters in the remote Los Angeles swamps, the thing started when an antique
sage produced one of the paleoliterary Bx entitled *An Index to Indexes* (or
*Ix t Ix*), coded as a primitive I2. By the time of the supermicros there were
several Indexes to Indexes to Indexes (I3), and work had already started on
These were the innocent days before the problem became acute. Later,
Index runs were collected in Files, and Files in Catalogs --- so that,
for example, C3F5I4 meant that you wanted an Index to Indexes to Indexes
to Indexes which was to be found in a certain File of Files of Files of
Files of Files, which in turn was contained in a Catalog of Catalogs
of Catalogs. Of course, actual numbers were much greater. This structure
grew exponentially. The process of education consisted solely in learning
how to tap the Rx for knowledge when needed. The position was well put
indeed in a famous speech by Jzbl to the graduates of the Central Saturnian
University, when he said that it was a source of great pride to him that
although hardly anybody knew anything any longer, everybody now knew how
to find out everything.
Another type of Index, the Bibliography, also nourished, side by side with
the C-F-I series of the Ix. This B series was the province of an aristocracy of
scholars who devoted themselves exclusively to Bibliographies of Bibliogra-
phies of... well, at the point in history with which we are next concerned,
the series had reached B437. Furthermore, at every exponential level, some
ambitious scholar branched off to a work on a History of the Bibliographies
of that level. The compilation of the first History of Bibliography (H1)
is lost in the mists of time, but there is an early chronicled account of
a History of Bibliographies of Bibliographies of Bibliographies (H3) and
naturally H436 was itself under way about the time B437 was completed.
On the other hand, the first History of Histories of Bibliographies came
much later, and this H-prime series always lagged behind. It goes without
saying that the B-H-H series (like the C-F-I series) had to have its own
indexes, which in turn normally grew into a C-F-I series ancillary to the
B-H-H series. There were some other but minor developments of the sort.
All these Index records were representational; though proposals were made
at times to reduce the whole thing to pizzicated quanta, reluctance to take
this fateful step long won out. So when the Rx had already shrunk to room size,
the Ix were expanding to fill far more than the space saved. The old liebury
was bursting. One of the asteroids was converted into an annex, called the
Asteroidal Storage Station. In thirteen yukals, all the ASS's were filled in the
original Solar System. Other systems selfishly refused to admit the camel's nose
into their tent.
Under the stress of need, resistance to abstractionizing broke, and with the
aid of the then new process of cospatial nudging, the entire mass of Ix was
nudged into a drawer no bigger than that which contained the Rx themselves.
Now this drawer (D1) itself had to be activated by indexed code numbers.
More and more scholars turned away from research in the thinner and thinner
stream of discoverable knowledge in order to tackle the far more serious
problem: how to thread one's way from the Ix to the Rx. This specialization
led to a whole new branch of knowledge known as Ariadnology. Naturally,
as Ariadnology expanded its Rx, its Ix swelled proportionately, until it
became necessary to set up a subbranch to systematize access from the Ix
to the Rx of Ariadnology itself. This (the Ariadnology of Ariadnology)
was known as A2, and by the time of the Collapse the field of A5 was just
beginning to develop, together with its appropriate Ix, plus the indispensable
B-H-H series, of course.
The inevitable happened in the course of a few yukals: The Ix of the second
code series began to accumulate in the same ASS's that had once been so
joyfully emptied. Soon these Ix were duly abstractionized into a second
Then it was the old familiar story: The liebury filled up, the ASS's filled up.
Around 10,000 yukals ago, the first artificial planet was created, therefore, to
hold the steadily mounting agglomeration of Ix drawers. About 8000 yukals
ago, a number of artificial planets were united into pseudosolar systems
for convenience. By the time of yukal 2738 of our own era (for we are now
getting into modern times), the artificial pseudosolar systems were due to be
amalgamated into a pseudogalaxy of drawers, when - the Catastrophe
struck . . .
This tragic story can be told with some historical detail, thanks to
the work of our research teams.
It began with what seemed a routine breakdown in one of the access lines
from D57x103 to D42x107. A Bibliothecal Mechanic set out to fix it as usual.
It did not fix. He realized that a classification error must have been made
by the ariadnologist who had worked on the last pseudosolar system. Tracing
the misnudged quanta involved, he ran into:
Laboriously tracing through, he found the note:
"This Ix class has been replaced by C32F27I10" for brachygravitic
endoranganathans and C^F64!3 for ailurophenolphthaleinic exoranganathans."
Tracing this through in turn, he found that they led back to the original
At this point he called in the district Bibliothecal Technician, who pointed
out that the misnudged sequence could be restored only by reference to the
original Rx. Through the area Bibliothecal Engineer, an emergency message
was sent to the chief himself, Mlvl Dwy Smith.
Without hesitation, His Bibliothecal Excellency pressed the master button
on his desk and queried the Ix System for: "Knowledge, Universal - All
Rx-Drawers, Location of."
To his stunned surprise, the answer came back: "See also C11F73I15."
Frantically he turned dials, nudged quanta, etc., but it was no use.
Somewhere in the galaxy-size flood of Ix drawers was the one and only
drawer of Rx, the one that had once been installed with great joy. It was
somewhere among the Indexes, Bibliographies, Bibliographies of Bibliographies,
Histories of Bibliographies, Histories of Histories of Bibliographies, etc.
A desperate physical search was started, but it did not get very far,
breaking down when it was found that no communication was possible in the first
place without reference to the knowledge stored in the Rx. As the entire
bibliothecal staff was diverted for the emergency, breakdowns in the access
lines multiplied and tangled, until whole sectors were disabled, rendering
further cooperation even less possible. The fabric of this biped civilization
started falling apart.
The final result you know from my first report. Rehabilitation plans will be
(Handwritten memo) This report received L-43-102. File it under M42A8E39.
(Handwritten memo) You must be mistaken; there is no M42A8E39. Replaced
by *W-M23A72E30 for duodenomattoid reports. - L.N.
(Handwritten memo) You damfool, you bungled again. Now you've got to
refer to the Rx to straighten out the line. Here's the correction number, stupid: