Dropping a Dynabook: A comic that turned from Science Fiction to Science Fact

Some time around 1982, I saw an amazing comic on the wall of a Xerox Alto computer room at the MIT AI Lab. Given the subject matter, I assume the comic was originally created at Xerox PARC, possibly as part of the NoteTaker project, but can’t find any trace of it on the web. I have recreated it from memory, below.

The comic is explaining the events that happen when a Dynabook is accidentally dropped off the top of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Note that a free-fall calculator claims that it would take over 12 seconds for the Dynabook to hit the Yosemite Valley floor.

Dropped Dynabook Comic

T+00.000 Dynabook accidentally dropped from top of Half Dome.

T+00.016 Dynabook notices that

  • It can’t sense its user.
  • It is in zero gravity.
  • There is a 200 MPH wind from below.

Dynabook concludes that it is falling.

  • Turns off the display to save memory.
  • Opens a radio connection to El Capitan radio tower.
  • Begins backing up the user’s recent changes.

T+05.000 Dynabook hits a glancing blow to the side of Half Dome, breaking 3 of its 6 CPUs. The Dynabook reconfigures itself to continue working with the 3 remaining CPUs.

T+10.000 User data backup finishes.

T+11.000 Dynabook orders the user a replacement Dynabook.

T+12.000 Dynabook turns on an emergency locator beacon.

T+12.816 Dynabook smashes into the rocks at the bottom of Half Dome.