Carl Bussjaeger

The office displayed a conservative air; dark wood paneling, deep carpeting, subdued lighting, framed paintings. Although the paintings had a tendency to shift to most unconservative images; movie theater posters for past classics. Erik Tomasun tried to ignore them but the shifting displays kept grabbing his attention.

"Erik, pay attention," demanded the man behind the desk. "Is this the sort of care you're giving our current problem?"

"Sorry, Mr. Jonus," Erik said apologetically, tearing his eyes from the picture behind the executive. It changed from dueling starships to a white haired man ripping a room apart with some sort of raygun. Erik shook his head and blinked. "Frankly, I'm not sure what Engineering can do to help. We can't think of anything. It seems more of a marketing problem, anyway."

"It's everyone's problem, now," Jonus corrected. "Marketing is working on new ad campaigns, but we need something new to push."

"New programming is something you'll have to take up with the production studios," Erik replied. "There's nothing we can do about the quality of the programming... Heck, not much we can do about the quality of the signal, even."

Jonus pounced on that thought. "Why not? A better signal than our competition would be just the thing to push."

"Maybe so," Erik answered. "But it can't be done."

"Nonsense. You're an engineer, Erik;" Jonus insisted. "Don't tell it can't be done; tell me how to do it."

"Well... we can improve the signal," Erik admitted. "But it isn't worth it. We've..."

Jonus interrupted, "I'll decide what 'worth it'. Tell me why you don't think so."

Erik grimaced. "Sure, we can boost resolution; they're trade offs, though. We're up against two separate limits. The cable, and the viewer."

"How so?" asked his boss.

Erik considered. "Umm, cable bandwidth. Laser in fiber has some pretty serious bandwidth; but we're already crowding the limit with nearly 20,000 channels. If we increase resolution, it'll mean increasing per channel bandwidth to handle the extra data." He shrugged. "That's going to mean running fewer channels."

"We can always run another cable, and split the load," suggested Jonus. He looked a bit smug.

"Weelll...," responded Erik, "maybe not. Remember what happened last year when Tempo-Cox tried that? The court ruled that they had to renegotiate right-of-way with each individual property owner." He shook his head. "Maybe we could swing it, but it still wouldn't help."

"Why not?"

"`Cause even if we up the resolution, the viewer is another limit. He won't see it."

Jonus looked puzzled. "I don't under..."

Erik explained. "Our resolution is already pretty good. Between the display resolution and our signal, we've reached the human eye's limit. We've got more dots per millimeter than the eye can resolve." He spread his arms helplessly. "We can't get more lifelike than that. Do you know what our biggest expense in the rougher neighborhoods is?" he asked the executive.

"Service calls, I should imagine," Jonus answered. "Yes; but it's the reason for the calls- people are shooting their displays." Erik grinned.

Jonus was taken aback. "They're what?"

"That's right. Just last night- a guy came home late. Wife had fallen asleep with the picture on, a cop show. Poor guy walked in and saw an armed burglar. So he shot him." Erik looked a little proud. "You can't get a better picture than that."

[ ... ]

At the back of the room, the two engineers stood side by side, grinning. Dave leaned over to Erik and said, "Do you suppose we should tell him?"

Still grinning and looking towards the front of the room, Erik replied, "Not a chance."

Dave considered it, and responded, "At least not until we cash the bonus checks."

The full version of this story, complete with any images and the ability
to post comments and submit feedback, is a subscriber-only feature.

Subscribe to DF! Now!

View all comments on this article
(Only subscribers may post comments and send feedback.)

Copyright © 2003 by Doing Freedom! magazine. All rights reserved.