I remember a story (author forgotten) predating Star Trek & cell phones, where citizens all had personal communication devices which allowed all interactions with society. Work, food, everything. Those who were fringe or otherwise unable to own this device would carry fake ones as without the device you were not considered a member of society and could be hunted for sport.

Anyone know of this story & author?


1 Answer 1


This description is a 'Joymaker' from Frederik Pohl's novel The Age of the Pussyfoot:

This is a remarkable (and early) description of a wirelessly networked personal digital assistant. The device is only part of the story; the networked computers that ran these devices had a high degree of artificial intelligence.

The principle of it was clear enough. It was a remote input-output station for a shared-time computer program, with certain attachments that functioned as pocket flask, first-aid kit, cosmetics bag, and so on. It looked something like a mace or a jester's scepter. The remote-access computer transponder called the "joymaker" is your most valuable single possession in your new life. If you can imagine a combination of telephone, credit card, alarm clock, pocket bar, reference library, and full-time secretary, you will have sketched some of the functions provided by your joymaker. Essentially, it is a transponder connecting you with the central computing facilities of the city in which you reside on a shared-time, self-programming basis. "Shared-time" means that many other joymakers use the same central computer - in Shoggo, something like ten million of them. If you go to another city your joymaker will continue to serve you, but it must be reset to a new frequency and pulse-code. This will be done automatically when you travel by public transportation. However, if you use private means, or if for any reason you spend any time in the agricultural areas, you must notify the joymaker of your intentions. It will inform you of any steps you must take. If you have no phone you become a homeless person. If you run out of money on your account your phone will stop working, and you will become a homeless person, and there is no safety net.There is a huge error, and all his funds are taken in fines. He is reduced to nothing, and forced to live with all the other bums on Skid Row.

The existence is actually quite comfortable. Nobody can afford a Joymaker, but rich people pass through doling out money to 26th century panhandlers, and there are cash-only eating places with coin-operated Joymakers at the tables. However, there are also people looking for thrills on the cheap, wanting to kill someone

  • Also the "Those who were fringe or otherwise unable to own this device would carry fake ones as without the device you were not considered a member of society" part of the description matches Age of Pussyfoot where the protagonist loses his job through a hasty act and ends up unhoused and bereft of joymaker and is attacked for sport. Later he is hunted for sport under another twist of the legal code of the era. Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 18:45
  • Edited my answer. Thanks
    – Danny Mc G
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 21:05

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.