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I once read a concise, printed description of a science fiction short story or novel. I never read this short story or novel.

The story's central idea: a future civilization in which humans lived in presumably windowless apartments, never left said apartments, and communicated with each other via closed-circuit two-way television. Within this society, the word "McCloo" was spoken. The people did not say "McLuhan." My guess is that the short story was written after 1964.

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    Except for "McCloo", this sounds like "The Machine Stops". Do you happen to remember what the relevance of "McCloo" was? It seems like a very unique identifier, but it baffles me. – FuzzyBoots Jul 11 at 17:23
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    It is my possibly imperfect recollection that the inhabitants of the electronic human beehive said the word "McCloo" precisely because, in the distant past, Marshall McLuhan--a real-world writer--wrote about the purported effects of television. It may even be that the inhabitants worshiped "McCloo" just as religious people today worship a specific deity. Clearly, within the reality of the science fiction story, set in the future, the word "McLuhan" had mutated over the decades or centuries and the original last name was, as a practical matter, irreversibly distorted. – Duane Renaud Jul 11 at 17:59
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Posting a partially matching answer, "The Machine Stops" by E.M. Forster matches other than being too old (1909) and not mentioning "McCloo".

The story describes a world in which most of the human population has lost the ability to live on the surface of the Earth. Each individual now lives in isolation below ground in a standard room, with all bodily and spiritual needs met by the omnipotent, global Machine. Travel is permitted, but is unpopular and rarely necessary. Communication is made via a kind of instant messaging/video conferencing machine with which people conduct their only activity: the sharing of ideas and what passes for knowledge.

The two main characters, Vashti and her son Kuno, live on opposite sides of the world. Vashti is content with her life, which, like most inhabitants of the world, she spends producing and endlessly discussing secondhand 'ideas'. Kuno, however, is a sensualist and a rebel. He persuades a reluctant Vashti to endure the journey (and the resultant unwelcome personal interaction) to his room. There, he tells her of his disenchantment with the sanitised, mechanical world.

He confides to her that he has visited the surface of the Earth without permission, and that he saw other humans living outside the world of the Machine. However, the Machine recaptures him, and he is threatened with 'Homelessness': expulsion from the underground environment and presumed death. Vashti, however, dismisses her son's concerns as dangerous madness and returns to her part of the world.

As time passes, and Vashti continues the routine of her daily life, there are two important developments. First, the life support apparatus required to visit the outer world is abolished. Most welcome this development, as they are skeptical and fearful of first-hand experience and of those who desire it. Secondly, "Technopoly", a kind of religion, is re-established, in which the Machine is the object of worship. People forget that humans created the Machine, and treat it as a mystical entity whose needs supersede their own.

Those who do not accept the deity of the Machine are viewed as 'unmechanical' and threatened with Homelessness. The Mending Apparatus—the system charged with repairing defects that appear in the Machine proper—has also failed by this time, but concerns about this are dismissed in the context of the supposed omnipotence of the Machine itself.

During this time, Kuno is transferred to a room near Vashti's. He comes to believe that the Machine is breaking down, and tells her cryptically "The Machine stops." Vashti continues with her life, but eventually defects begin to appear in the Machine. At first, humans accept the deteriorations as the whim of the Machine, to which they are now wholly subservient, but the situation continues to deteriorate, as the knowledge of how to repair the Machine has been lost.

Finally, the Machine collapses, bringing 'civilization' down with it. Kuno comes to Vashti's ruined room. Before they perish, they realise that humanity and its connection to the natural world are what truly matter, and that it will fall to the surface-dwellers who still exist to rebuild the human race and to prevent the mistake of the Machine from being repeated.

  • It has a lot of similarities to City of Ember as well, but is obviously not that old. – MissouriSpartan Jul 11 at 18:13
  • Ballard's "The Intensive Care Unit" is not too old and matches about as well as "The Machine Stops" does (people communicate by video, never meet in person), but no "McCloo" I'm pretty sure. (Leiber's "Coming Attraction", suggested in a deleted answer, doesn't come close to matching.) – user14111 Jul 12 at 8:41

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