Analysis / True Names

Reading this story 30+ years later, it can be hard to realize just how much of this story was extrapolation—so much of it seems so ordinary and everyday from a modern perspective. The story was published in early 1981; the original IBM PC wasn't released until August of that year, and the most common personal computer was still the eight-bit Commodore 64. There was no public Internet at the time—and, of course, no Internet Service Providers—but unless you're reading carefully, you may never realize that Vinge never uses the term "Internet". The Defense Department's ARPANet did exist, and it is generally considered the primary ancestor of the modern Internet, and Vinge does mention that ancestry, but at the time there was no particular reason to believe that a descendant of ARPANet would become the dominant world network. Home networks were pretty much an imaginary concept at the time, and commercial on-line services were dominated by private dial-up systems like CompuServe, and most of those were still fledgling.

The whole idea of a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game was unknown at the time. The very first online, shared-universe roleplaying games—text-based adventure games—had been introduced in 1980 on University networks and the ARPA Net, and may well have been Vinge's inspiration.