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True Names: and the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  1,003 ratings  ·  47 reviews
Once in a great while a science fiction story is so visionary, yet so close to impending scientific developments that it becomes not only an accurate predictor, but itself the locus for new discoveries and development. True Names by Vernor Vinge, first published in 1981, is such a work.

Here is a feast of articles by computer scientists and journalists on the cutting edge o
Paperback, 352 pages
Published December 14th 2001 by Tor Books (first published December 2001)
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Jun 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, scifi, cyberpunk
I skipped over the essays but the title story and the afterword by Minsky are worth the worth the price of admission by themselves.

Like many groundbreaking ideas, the cyberspace envisioned by Vinge seems fairly standard today since films like The Matrix have made the basic concepts common knowledge. The impressive part is that he did it in 1981 when the first home computers were 8 bit affairs and a hard drive was an expensive luxury.

Considering the way Vinge has data shuttling across satellite
Zachary Stewart
Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
The actual Vernor Vinge story is worth 5 stars. The volume as a whole is really brought down though but the 240 pages of prelude in the form of dated mid 90s era essays on cyberspace. Find the story on its own and read that. If this is the only version you can find, make sure you find it deeply discounted.
Michael Scott
~ Difficult to judge a book that includes a brilliant novelette, a good introduction and afterword, and a series of mediocre to bad essays. But, as I do not judge a book by its covers, I decided to judge True Names by its core novelette, which is visionary and smart. Spare yourself of the rest, which includes an anarchist who trades in number of deaths change will take, a mysoginist who talks about something else, and a misplaced engineering chapter softened for the layperson to the point t
Elizabeth Schweinsberg
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
True Names is a prophetic story of what the internet could (and kinda did) become. id picked it be cause the topic of being forced to use your "real name" as opposed to the name people know you by comes up at work. and because it is the inspiration for a lot of cyberpunk.

Turns out that it is more than just a story about being on online and living in a synthetic world. oh and being tracked by the NSA. what happens when AI gets away from us? it was a great read, and I highly recommends the story t
This proto-cyberpunk novella makes for interesting reading after all these years. Some parts (pertaining to the internet) are hopelessly dated, others (related to AI) have remained surprisingly relevant.
5 stars...only for the vinge short story and its historical significance! Rest of the book is sporadic essays that seemed to be cobbled together so some publisher can sell a novel-length book.
Jan 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kaan Akşit
Nov 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I always like reading more about future predictions. This book provides a window from the past, in which a prediction of a future with internet dominated society is described. The book covers a great deal of conflicts and problems that are at the core of our technical methodologies used to make cyberspace happen. A good book to have lots and lots of insights about where such a network mechanism is heading. Almost all of the predictions are accurate enough to match what has happened so far. The b ...more
Rogue Reader
Apr 24, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: digital
Vinge's 1981 prophetic fiction describing a super cyberspace much of which is now a reality. It had a cult following and by 1981, much of what we have now was already envisioned and in the works. Just fascinating to think of the genius, connections and communities that intersected to bring about what we take for granted today.

This reprint of Vinge's novella is accompanied by explanatory essays, essays that give depth and reality to the earlier vision. They're academic though and by comparison, t
May 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Eerily prescient and applicable to modern times. That we choose or chose, ever, to reveal ourselves online, our True Names, is baffling. We've been conditioned to trust, and in such lost a lot of our magical power.
Garett Dworman
Sep 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
The title story, True Names, is the first and, for me, the best cyberspace story. It gets 5 stars.

Other stories in this collection are enjoyable as well, mostly 3 and 4 stars.

So, overall, a 4 star collection.
Margaret Haigh
Mar 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018-challenge
Only two short stories in this compilation, both very good and well ahead of their time, written in the late 90’s. The rest are articles on web security, crypto analysis and future developments. All a bit dry for me.
Apr 20, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Intro was full of dated futurism, many times I asked myself why am I even reading this. “True Names” itself is decent, and while it may be historically significant, it is less and less relevant.
Weiching Liu
Jan 18, 2019 rated it really liked it

Enjoyed Ready Player One more, but still a quick and interesting read.
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Interesting stories of the the internet & cyberspace, some true, some speculation. ...more
Titus Fortner
Apr 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
This novella predates cybperpunk genre and the term "cyberspace" and 30 years later, it still represents one of the most visionary stories of the internet and AI.
Jun 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's Vernor Vinge, so you know it's good.

It does come with a bunch of attached essays. Some of them are good, others are not. You might want to skip some.
Nov 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tazio Bettin
Jan 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing

This book should be approached with caution, especially if you are sensitive to things like freedom and privacy. This book takes your illusion of privacy and tears it to pieces.
There are nine articles, each of which written by experts in the field, preceding the actual short story of True Names. These articles speak about cryptography, privacy and virtual reality in real life. Most of them have been written in the nineties. They show how we have been progressively losing our right to privacy wit
Chris Moriarty
May 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
True Names is more than just another SF story. It's a legendary piece of science speculation that was passed around in samizdat editions in every CS department and AI design lab in the country during the decades it was out of print. True Names was arguably as responsible as Steve Jobs for creating the Graphic User Interface revolution that shaped how we use and think of computers today. This new edition unites Vinge's original novella with essays by major figures in the development of the Intern ...more
Stewart Tame
Dec 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
The idea is an intriguing one: build an anthology around an influential story by including essays by the internet pioneers and scientists it inspired. Vinge's story is, of course, excellent, seeming as fresh and timely as ever despite the more than thirty years since its first appearance. The entire anthology holds up quite well, actually, considering its publication date is 2001. Many of the issues concerning privacy and cryptography are still relevant today, and probably will be in the future. ...more
In 1981, three years before the publication of Neuromancer, Vernor Vinges critically acclaimed novella True Names invented the concept of cyberspace, introducing fictionally the idea of a global network of computers. In forums as diverse as Wired, The Whole Earth Catalog, Artificial Intelligence conferences, and Omni, Vinges concept of cyberspace has been the subject of articles and debate. This book is the first forum to explore, in original articles and never-reprinted magazine pieces, the fro ...more
Apr 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
Vinge is becoming one of my top scifi writers. Despite his almost humorous obsession with tall, thin, red-headed women characters.

This collection is a bit odd, as there are many out of date essays as a prelude to the fiction. Some of the essays are great, and still apply, some of them do not rise above feeling dated.

They don't do much to prep you for the story if you already have some grasp of the security problems that exist due to our perceived online anonymity. True Names is a solid piece of
Ryan McCormack
Jan 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I bought this book ages ago after reading a recommendation (Marc Andreessen?), but somehow it got lost on my self for a decade or so. Yeah, I'm getting old.

In any case, it's clear why this novella received so many accolades. Vinge put forward a lot of ideas that obviously inspired Gibson and others, and he offered a compelling vision for his future (in which we now live, more or less, with many of his predictions now everyday realities). The novella is a fun and interesting read, and the forewor
Jul 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Guy McArthur
Jan 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
In one of the essay's Vinge mentions that the story True Names was set in 2014. While the world of today is not quite as he envisioned it 35 years ago, it is pretty remarkable what he did foresee, as things like botnets, massive online data breaches, digital currency, pervasive surveillance, and hackers exploiting the Cloud make the news. The essays in this book (most written in the late 90's) are likewise quite prescient and remarkable.
A mixed bag. Some of the essays seem dated and/or trivial and a couple of them overlap (those on cryptography), but others are good (in particular Marvin Minsky's Afterword) and of course Vinge's novella itself is excellent. It really is remarkable that the vision he expounded in 1981 has remained as fundamentally accurate and viable in 2008.
Feb 25, 2010 added it
I agree with some of the reviewers that the essays preceding Vinge's novella were a bit dated, but do serve to place "True Names" in a historical context as the birth of cyberpunk. The work itself is quite good. I enjoyed reading it.
Jul 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Prescient and as ahead of it's time as Kraftwerk is to electronic music. If you've any interest in science fiction or computer networking, at the very least you should read Vinge's novella "True Names".
Roberto Chavez
Oct 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
The Vinge story is good. Oddly it is not as dated as other works he has written. The accompanying essays were all over the map. I can't remember a single on written after 2000. The essays are forgettable. The story / novella is not.
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Vernor Steffen Vinge is a retired San Diego State University Professor of Mathematics, computer scientist, and science fiction author. He is best known for his Hugo Award-winning novels A Fire Upon The Deep (1992), A Deepness in the Sky (1999) and Rainbows End (2006), his Hugo Award-winning novellas Fast Times at Fairmont High (2002) and The Cookie Monster (2004), as well as for hi ...more

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