I read a short (in the range of 5-20 pages) science fiction story a while ago, and can't remember the title of the story or its author at the moment.

The basic story is that of a super-savvy computer hacker who got all of his knowledge of computers removed from his brain, temporarily (one year?) for cybercrime, including (IIRC) some form of identity theft, and is released into the public without any jail-time or anything. This is very hard on him, for this future-Earth relies heavily on highly interconnected computers for basic and daily needs.
This is not immediately clear at the start of the story, but it becomes apparent after a little while.

Part of the story includes the main character (I don't remember if he is granted a name in the story) wanders into a cafe or a bar, and is invited to play a game of digital, tridimensional chess. He has to turn down the invite, though, because he doesn't know and is blocked from knowing how to use computers. He also really doesn't want the other characters to know this, because apparently having your computer knowledge removed from your brain for cybercrime is a major stigma in that society.
The character also has difficulty using his (futuristic equivalent of a) credit card, as that also requires some computer knowledge.

Any ideas?

  • I am interested. Please, ping me after getting the answer.. Mar 8, 2015 at 5:31
  • 1
    Appears to be a dupe of this question. The answer isn't accepted, but it definitely seems like the right answer.
    – Trish Ling
    Mar 8, 2015 at 5:33
  • @TrishLing Looks like you're right. Thank you very much!
    – Shokhet
    Mar 8, 2015 at 5:35
  • @SS See above comments.
    – Shokhet
    Mar 8, 2015 at 5:35
  • @TrishLing I believe you're right about the answer, as well. I'll have to check if my library has that anthology (The Winds of Change) so I could reread it. Thanks for finding the dupe!
    – Shokhet
    Mar 8, 2015 at 5:39

1 Answer 1


This is A Perfect Fit by Isaac Asimov.

From http://www.edn.com/electronics-news/4319939/A-perfect-fit (I think this is the full text)

Punishment for cybercrime:

Bradstone leaned forward in his chair and said, intensely, "If you've followed my case, you must know I have been subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. I'm the first person who has received this kind of sentence. The combination of hypnosis and direct neuroconditioning has only been perfected recently. The nature of the punishment to which I have been sentenced could not be understood. It must be lifted."

Gold said, "You underwent due process in great detail, and there was no reasonable doubt that you were guilty—.

"Even so! Look! We live in a computerized world. I can't do a thing anywhere—I can't get information—I can’t be fed—I can’t amuse myself—I can't pay for anything—or check on anything—or just plain do anything—without using a computer. And I have been adjusted, as you surely know, so that I am incapable of looking at a computer without hurting my eyes, or touching one without blistering my fingers. I can't even handle my cash card or even think of using it without nausea."

The chess part:

He turned away bitterly and noted a makeshift setup of eight chess boards balanced on pegs, one above the other.

Ordinary chessboards. Plastic chessmen.

"Hey," he said in explosive surprise.

The young man at the multi-board said, defensively, "We can't get close enough. I set this up myself so we can follow. Careful! Don't knock it down."

Bradstone said, "Is that the position as of now?"

"Yes. The guys have been arguing for 10 minutes."

Bradstone looked eagerly at the position. He said, raptly, "If you move the rook from beta-B-6 to delta-B-6, you get the upper hand."

The young man studied the board. "Are you sure?"

"Certainly I'm sure. No matter what the computer does, it's going to end up losing a move to protect its Queen."

More studying. The young man shouted, "Hey, in there. Guy here says you should bump the rook up two levels."

There was a collective sigh from the inner group. One voice said, "I was thinking that."

Another said, "I get it. It leaves the Queen with the potentiality of vulnerability. I didn't see that." The owner of this second voice turned. "You! The fellow who made the suggestion. Would you do the honor? Would you punch in the move?"

Bradstone backed way, his face contorted in sheer horror. "No—No—I don't play." He turned and hastened away.

Inability to even use a credit/payment card (tries to get a boy to do it for him):

Bradstone made no move to come closer. If he did, the boy would undoubtedly run. He said, "I'll bet you're big enough to do your own ordering. You can order a hamburger or anything else, I'm sure."

Pride overcame suspicion. The boy said "Sure! Any time!"

"But you don't have a card of your own, right? So you can't complete the order. Right?"

The boy started at him warily out of brown eyes. He was neatly dressed and had an alert and intelligent air about him.

Bradstone said, "Tell you what. I have a card and you can use it to order. Get yourself a hamburger or anything else you want. Tell you what else. You can get me something, too. Nice T-bone steak, and a baked potato and some squash and some coffee. And two pieces of apple pie. You have one."

  • Thanks for copying the excerpts; now I'm sure that this is the right story :D
    – Shokhet
    Mar 8, 2015 at 5:44

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