For a While There, Herbert Marcuse, I Thought You Were Maybe Right About Alienation and Eros

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Wilson, Robin Scott. "For a While There, Herbert Marcuse, I Thought You Were Maybe Right About Alienation and Eros." S&SF, July 1972. Those Who Can: A Science Fiction Reader. RSW, ed. New York: NAL, 1973.

Early computer-hacker story. Harley Jacobs has a kind of mystic experience looking through the holes of a punched IBM card at a now neat, nicely geometrical world. The vision leads to some illegal computer-record manipulation by Harley and a reconciliation between Harley Jacobs, very vulnerable and alienated flesh-and-blood human being, and "IBM card-Harley": Harley Jacobs as he exists on paper and stamped into IBM cards, and in what today we would call the virtual vorld or cyberspace of the computers of the nested bureaucracies encompassing Harley. Only problem is that the lack of alienation destroys Harley's sex drive. So "Slowly," and symbolically, and "not without considerable pain . . . Harley pushes a Venus No. 2 pencil through his favorite pair of IBM card holes. What was square and simple becomes roughly round, enlarged, bordered with irregular torn blue fibers. Thus spindled and violated, subsequently folded and mutilated"—against the instructions on all IBM cards of the period—"the card drops to the . . . floor, and Harley goes out into the night," to a renewed life of alienation and eros (Those Who Can 268-69). (RDE, 01/02/98)