Back in college I used to run part of my website from a Linux box in my room. I made it into a speech synthesiser, and people could connect to the machine to talk into my flat.

(Retrospective apologies to my flatmates.)

This is way back in 2000 so before smartphones, and before texting, and before always-on internet (college was an exception), and before camera phones or being able to reliably email photos let alone video. Decent text-to-speech still felt novel. We had a friend who was travelling in Australia at the time and he would visit internet cafes and type in messages to talk to us. Of course there was no way of talking back. It felt impossibly magical.

But what I remember feeling most magical was the idea that there was somebody visiting that server on my desk. There was somebody coming from a long way away and going inside. An electronic homunculus.

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