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Encyclopedia > Clacks (Discworld)

The clacks in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels is a network of semaphore towers stretching along the Sto Plains, into the Ramtops and across the Unnamed Continent to Genua. It was introduced in The Fifth Elephant, and has become the Discworld's first telecommunications network. While the system structure is that of a telegraph, elements of it are often described as similar to the Internet; for example, it threatens to make the Post Office obsolete in Going Postal and is sometimes described as 'c-mail' (a clear reference to e-mail). Terence David John Pratchett OBE (born April 28, 1948, in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England[1]) is an English fantasy author, best known for his Discworld series. ... // This article is about the novels. ... A Chappe semaphore tower near Saverne, France // The semaphore or optical telegraph is an apparatus for conveying information by means of visual signals, with towers with pivoting blades or paddles, shutters, in a matrix, or hand-held flags etc. ... In Terry Pratchetts Discworld, Sto Plains is a rich country, full of silt and cabbage fields. ... The Ramtops are a fictional mountain range appearing in Terry Pratchetts Discworld series. ... Genua is a fictional city from Terry Pratchetts Discworld novels. ... The Fifth Elephant is the 24th Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett. ... This article or section may need to be cleaned up and rewritten because it describes a work of fiction in a primarily in-universe style. ... A telecommunications network is a network of telecommunications links arranged so that messages may be passed from one part of the network to another over multiple links. ... Telegraphy (from the Greek words tele = far away and grapho = write) is the long distance transmission of written messages without physical transport of letters, originally over wire. ... Memorial of the 1986 post office incident in Edmond, Oklahoma. ... Wikipedia does not yet have an article with this exact name. ...


A possible influence for the clacks system is the similar semaphore network in the Keith Roberts novel Pavane. Both are based on the real-world optical telegraphs used in the early 19th century before electrical telegraphy made them obsolete. The name itself may have been inspired by 'clackers', the term for operators of mechanical computers in William Gibson and Bruce Sterling's steampunk novel, The Difference Engine. A Chappe semaphore tower near Saverne, France // The semaphore or optical telegraph is an apparatus for conveying information by means of visual signals, with towers with pivoting blades or paddles, shutters, in a matrix, or hand-held flags etc. ... For the former head of the Grenadian security forces, see Keith Roberts (Grenada). ... Pavane by Keith Roberts is an alternate history science fiction novel first published by Rupert Hart-Davis Ltd in 1968. ... The optical telegraph preceded the electrical telegraph. ... Alternative meaning: Nineteenth Century (periodical) (18th century — 19th century — 20th century — more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 19th century was that century which lasted from 1801-1900 in the sense of the Gregorian calendar. ... Telegraphy (from the Greek words tele = far away and grapho = write) is the long distance transmission of written messages without physical transport of letters, originally over wire. ... William Ford Gibson (born March 17, 1948, Conway, South Carolina) is an American-born science fiction author resident in Canada since 1968. ... Bruce Sterling at the Ars Electronica Festival Michael Bruce Sterling (born April 14, 1954) is an American science fiction author, best known for his novels and his seminal work on the Mirrorshades anthology, which defined the cyberpunk genre. ... A rocket lands on the moon in Le Voyage dans la Lune, the film adaptation of Jules Vernes From the Earth to the Moon. ... The Difference Engine is an alternate history novel by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. ...

Contents

A typical clacks tower

A typical clacks tower is three stories tall, made of wood, and probably looks like it was put together in a hurry, because it was. They tend to be eight miles apart.


The ground floor is a storeroom. The second contains an office, a kitchen and, in out-of-the-way towers, a bunkroom. The top floor contains the controls. Two chairs face identical control boards on either side, each connected to the panels on the opposite side. There is a keyboard, and levers and pedals. Sometimes entering a code will alter the configuration of the system, probably beneficially (but see Smoking GNU, below.) This article contains brief biographies for characters from Terry Pratchetts Discworld series. ...


History

The history of the clacks network was detailed in Going Postal. The invention was originally made by an artificer called Robert Dearheart, conducting experiments in an abandoned wizard's tower halfway between Ankh-Morpork and Sto Lat. The basic mechanism he came up with was a two-by-three array of wooden panels, with pulleys that could drop shutters over them, creating a code. A series of high towers, with one of these mechanisms on each side and someone ready to relay the codes, could send messages across at the speed of light.[1] The panel also had a recess for a lamp, meaning messages could be sent at night. Memorial of the 1986 post office incident in Edmond, Oklahoma. ... Ankh-Morpork is a fictional city-state which prominently features in Terry Pratchetts Discworld series of fantasy novels. ...


Based on this he founded the Grand Trunk Company, which began creating a network of towers that would stretch across the continent. "High traffic" towers have more than six panels. The largest is the one on the huge hill in Ankh-Morpork called The Tump, which is the main junction between the city's clacks network (various city institutions, including the Guilds, and the Watch had installed small clacks towers on their buildings) and the chain of towers that leads past Sto Lat, into Überwald, and from there to Genua. In the less civilised areas in the heart of the continent, they ran into problems, and most clacks towers in the Überwald area had fortified stone bases and, often, armed guards. The problem was particularly acute in Borogravia, where the towers were seen as an Abomination unto Nuggan, on the grounds that if messages were being sent through the air, prayers would get tangled up in them. In Terry Pratchetts Discworld series of fantasy novels, there are almost 300 Guilds in the city of Ankh-Morpork. ... Coat of arms of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. ... In Terry Pratchetts fictional Discworld universe, Ãœberwald is a region located in near the foot of the Ramtops, farther from Ankh-Morpork than Lancre is. ... Borogravia is a fictional country in Terry Pratchetts Discworld series of novels. ... See also: Discworld magic The Discworld gods are the fictional deities from Terry Pratchetts Discworld series of fantasy novels. ...


Because so much of the material being sent was confidential, the senders would put it in their own code before being given to the clacks operators. The operators were, therefore, often surprised if they received a message they understood, outside the Overhead (the messages from and about the network itself).


The Grand Trunk employed a lot of gargoyles, as they were exceptionally good at sitting and watching without getting bored. Trolls in Terry Pratchetts Discworld novels, unlike the monstrous trolls of folklore and J.R.R. Tolkien, have been subverted into a moderately civilised race. ...


The success of the clacks network resulted in a fad for semaphore of all types, and fashionable Morporkians began carrying signal flags with them, to send messages to friends on the other side of the room. This appears to have died out, although the City Watch has its own semaphore network, with a relay station on the roof of the Old Lemonade Factory (the Watch training school).


Dearheart, and his employees, continued to improve the network. As the network grew larger, activating the shutters directly became too complicated, so methods of automating the process were introduced. Punch cards, nicknamed jacquards, were designed that would send certain messages automatically, and clockwork machinery was added to regulate the mechanisms. Outgoing messages were stored on rolls of punched paper called "drum rolls" (presumably after the differential drum, which seems to be the centre of the clockwork). They even worked out a way of coding pictures. Punched cards (or Hollerith cards, or IBM cards), are pieces of stiff paper that contain digital information represented by the presence or absence of holes in predefined positions. ... Jacquard loom on display at Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, England The Jacquard loom is a mechanical loom, invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1801, which used the holes punched in pasteboard punch cards to control the weaving of patterns in fabric. ... In an automobile and other four-wheeled vehicles, a differential is a device, usually consisting of gears, for allowing each of the driving wheels to rotate at different speeds, while supplying equal torque to each of them. ...


Reacher Gilt

Unfortunately, Dearheart and those like him were brilliant at engineering, but not finances. A consortium of financiers had been embezzling from the company since it was set up. When it reached the point of collapse, they bought Dearheart and the others out with their own money. Under the new management, the clacks network became more profitable, but less reliable. As the new owners didn't really understand the clacks the way the previous management had, they worked it until it broke.


The head of the new consortium was a man named Reacher Gilt. A ruthless businessman with a piratical appearance, including an eyepatch and a parrot (actually a cockatoo that, instead of repeatedly saying "pieces of eight", repeatedly said "twelve and a half percent"), he was a shameless con-artist and fraudster whose business style was described as "three-card Monte with entire banks". He maintained his monopoly by killing anyone attempting to set up another network, including Dearheart's son, John, and employed the banshee Mr. Gryle to do just that. Subfamily Microglossinae Calyptorhynchinae Cacatuinae A cockatoo is any of the 21 bird species belonging to the family Cacatuidae. ... Three-card Monte, also known as the Three-card trick, Follow the lady or Find the lady, is a confidence game in which the victim, or mark, is tricked into betting a sum of money that he can find the money card, for example the queen of spades, among three... In economics, a monopoly (from the Latin word monopolium - Greek language monos, one + polein, to sell) is defined as a persistent market situation where there is only one provider of a product or service. ...


The Smoking GNU

Clacks operators, therefore, could either keep working for a company that didn't really care about the clacks, or give up. Since the clacks tended to attract obsessive personalities (a parallel to computer geeks), this was more than they could stand. One group (a trio comprising "Mad Al, Sane Alex, and Adrian who says he's not mad but can't prove it"), who had been working with John Dearheart before his death, set up an illegal clacks tower and used their knowledge of the system to send unauthorised messages in the Overhead, in a manner akin to computer hackers, crackers, or phreakers. They worked out a way to deliver killer pokes into the system, putting the towers out of commission (the explanation given is that if two specific shutters are moved in opposite directions at the top of a tower, it would rock dangerously. Appending a U to the clacks code would mean the message would turn around at each end as part of the overhead, creating a line of constantly swaying towers). They called themselves the Smoking GNU, from the clacks-jargon term for a really fast unlogged message (the name is a reference to "the smoking gun" in many conspiracy theories; it's unknown whether this is a reference to the GNU Project or its related licences). It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Geek. ... Hacker is a term used to describe people who use computers. ... A black hat (also called a cracker or Darkside hacker) is a person who uses their skills with computers and other technological items in a malicious or criminal manner. ... Phreaking is a slang term coined to describe the activity of a subculture of people who study, experiment with, or exploit telephones, the telephone company, and systems connected to or composing the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) for the purposes of hobby or utility. ... In computer jargon, a killer poke is a method of inducing hardware damage (i. ... The term smoking gun is a reference to an object or fact that serves as conclusive evidence or proof of a crime or similar act. ... A conspiracy theory is a theory that defies common historical or current understanding of events, under the claim that those events are the result of manipulations by two or more individuals or various secretive powers or conspiracies. ... The GNU logo, drawn by Etienne Suvasa The GNU Project was announced in 1983 by Richard Stallman. ...


Alex Carlton and Al Winton are clacks engineers. Despite Alex's nickname, it is Al's opinion that he's mad as well, because nobody normal would organise screws by size (Jeremy Clockson had the same kind of "sanity", and many Discworld villains have similar afflictions). Adrian Emery is an alchemist, and has a number of ideas for improving the clacks with chemicals that change colour (and hardly explode at all). His eyes are constantly looking in different directions. Jeremy Clockson is a character from the Discworld novel, Thief of Time. ...


The clacks system has also been cracked by Hex, after Ponder Stibbons connected it to the Unseen University's tower [thereby making Hex the equivalent of a computer with an internet connection.] Whether or not this is actually legal is a question the faculty is carefully not asking. Hex is an elaborate, Heath Robinson/Rube Goldberg-esque, magic-powered computer housed at the Unseen University in the Discworld series by author Terry Pratchett. ... In the fictional universe of Terry Pratchetts Discworld series of books, Ponder Stibbons is a wizard in Unseen University. ... Unseen University (UU) is a school of wizardry in the fictional Discworld city of Ankh-Morpork, staffed by a faculty composed of mostly insane and inane old wizards. ...


Restoration

In Going Postal, the consortium was exposed, and Havelock Vetinari proposed that the Ankh-Morpork Post Office take over the running of the system, most likely a reference to when the GPO (General Post Office) formerly ran the telephone network in the UK. However, the Postmaster, Moist von Lipwig has expressed his intention to return the Grand Trunk Company to the Dearheart family. Reacher Gilt was presumed dead, after being given a life or death choice by Lord Vetinari, of which he chose the latter. Lord Havelock Vetinari is the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, the head of the fictional city state of Ankh-Morpork in Terry Pratchetts Discworld series. ... The Ankh-Morpork Post Office is featured in the book Going Postal, the most recent addition to British fantasy author Terry Pratchetts Discworld series of books. ... GPO can refer to: General Post Office General Post Office (Dublin) General Post Office, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia Generalplan Ost Green Party of Ontario Group Policy Object, a mechanism in Microsofts Active Directory used to apply policies to directory objects. ... Moist von Lipwig is a character in Terry Pratchetts Discworld series. ...


c-mail

While the system structure of the clacks is similar to that of the telegraph system, elements of it are often described as similar to the Internet; for example, it threatens to make the Post Office obsolete in Going Postal and is sometimes described as 'c-mail' (a clear reference to e-mail). Telegraphy (from the Greek words tele = far away and grapho = write) is the long distance transmission of written messages without physical transport of letters, originally over wire. ... Memorial of the 1986 post office incident in Edmond, Oklahoma. ... Wikipedia does not yet have an article with this exact name. ...


Some c-mails include:


•William de Worde: WDW@Times.AM


•We R Igors: Yethmarthter Uberwald


Footnotes

  1. ^ About 600 miles per hour, or about the speed of sound, due to the effects of magical fields on electromagnetic radiation.

See also

The Victorian Internet is a term coined in the late 20th century to describe advanced 19th century telecommunications technologies such as the telegraph and pneumatic tubes. ...

External links

  • Discworld & Pratchett Wiki

  Results from FactBites:
 
Clacks (Discworld) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1192 words)
The clacks in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels is a network of semaphore towers stretching along the Sto Plains, into the Ramtops and across the Unnamed Continent to Genua.
A possible influence for the clacks system is the similar semaphore network in the Keith Roberts novel Pavane.
Since the clacks tended to attract obsessive personalities (a parallel to computer geeks), this was more than they could stand.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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