Snow Crash

One minor advantage of being laid up for the last couple of days is that I finally finished Snow Crash – the only cybperpunk novel which I’ve managed to finish.

I came across this book when starting to get interested in Avatars for research purposes.  It was recommended through Amazon, and I was fortunate enough to have a friend who had a copy.

Considering it was written in 1992, it was a remarkable piece of science fiction, predicting widespread access to the Internet, Immersive Environments (in particular Second Life), and the graphical representation of people in this environment – Avatars.

In the acknowledgments, Neal Stephenson states –

The word “avatar” (in the sense used here) … are my inventions, which I came up with when I decided that existing words (such  as “virtual reality”) were simply too awkward to use.

Though does add a final note

After the first publication of Snow Crash, I learned that the term ‘avatar’ has actually been use for a number of years as a part of a virtual reality system called Habitat, developed by F. Randall Farmar and Chip Morningstar.  The system runs on Commodore 64 computers… In addition to avatars, Habitat includes many of the basic features of the Metaverse as described in this book.

Could this be the first use of avatars, as opposed to simply text based MMO’s?   I think this may be an over-enthusiastic endorsement, it’s hard to see how the Commodore 64’s graphics and processing could have created an environment that was satisfying – here’s a screen shot from “The Hobbit”, a ‘graphical’ adventure game I remember playing when  I was about twelve.



1 comment so far

  1. alchemygaming on


    the commodore 64 was amazing in those days, we had them at school and i remember this program they used to run called logo, you could give it commands and it would draw.

    and you could draw all sorts of geometric shapes. the graphic and sound were ahead of there time.


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