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It all started, the story goes, when The Crasher (because that is what we call him, his real identity never coming to light, perhaps to prevent heroification, or alternatively, to prevent his hometown from being burnt in vengenance) found a little old red barn out down some back road that was being used as a flea market, and in that flea market he found boxes and boxes full of cards. Tens of thousands of them. Now, by that point in the 70s, the world economy had reached the point where people had more serious things to think about than collecting curios. But even in the most dreadful of times, people had to have their hobbies, and people were still eking out a living trading mementos and keepsakes, and someone out in a little red barn down a country lane had accumulated, over the years and decades, a big collection of old cards, some over a hundred years old. Sports cards, yes, but also promotion cards for movies, cards from card games, trading cards inserted with toys, and even weird circular pogs. The owner of them let them go cheap, because there wasn't a liquid market for the lot. But the Crasher had a buyer in mind. Someone who would buy trade for these seemingly purposeless cards.

And what The Trader would trade was something almost as worthless: collision detection layer for Avatars. Unlike the cards, the CDL's were a virtual good. Little pieces of software. They had been used in the beginning of the Concourse when people wanted to make their 2D avatar a little fleshier. A layer would slightly repel other avatars in virtual space. The trend was quickly outdated, as collision detection in virtual reality was either put into place by the owners of the virtual space that someone was entering, or that people just went into phantom mode, passing through the millions of avatars that would be in the Concourse, and in the entryway, the Grand Concourse, at any one time. So, the little pieces of software that fleshed someone out and let them bump people out of the way became a footnote to history.

Until The Crasher realized something. The CDL's were still scanned by people's avatars, before being ignored. Avatars had to know that CDLs were there before they ignored them. So they scanned, made a record, and moved on. Unless there was another CDL present, then they would scan that, move on, and etcétera. Even a virtual deck made way back in 2050 could do it quickly. What the Crasher realized, however, was that the buffer that the scan went into was a 16 bit binary integer, and that if this limit was exceeded, the scan would overflow the buffer--- and recommence at zero. Using a 16 bit integer itself was ridiculously high, because even the most ostentatious user of the Grand Concourse would have at most a dozen CDLs. But with so many CDLs lying around, in little shops on the internet, the Crasher decided to gather them together and see what would happen.

Was it a prank? An experiment? A act of terrorism? No one knows, still.

So the minute they stepped into the Grand Concourse, that glittering chamber where millions or billions of people passed each other as ghosts as they went to business and society in the hundreds of thousands of shops in the great arcade, they were immediately frozen in place, as their scanners reset when trying to parse 65,536 CDLs. Within a few minutes the system itself started to work: it transported people to their intended destinations, but the system wasn't meant to transport that many people at once. The buffers for relocating people were themselves overrun, and the merchant stores and social spaces along the arcade were quickly overrun trying to parse which wandering avatars were trying to enter. This further led to the payment services that processes the micropayments of visitors being jammed. Within a few hours, worldwide commerce and socialization was grinding to a halt. Meanwhile, The Crasher was sitting on the edge of the fountain at the center of the Grand Concourse, twiddling his virtual thumbs at the thousands or millions of frozen avatars around him, some visible, struck in mid-virtual stride, others in phantom mode, invisible but still frozen. He got up and walked around from time to time, pushing frozen avatars against marbled walls, stuck in 2D patinas against virtual walls. The lights went off, and a while later, the walls and floors disappeared as the entire virtual projection system gave up, servers in a server farm somewhere with good hydroelectricity physically overheating as they tried to parse out the madness in the Grand Concourse. (It is supposed, but again, never proved, that this was why The Dalles, Oregon burnt down). At some point, Police Avatars, software immune to CDLs, and able to function in the zero gravity and even zero reality environment of a Grand Concourse that had become a type of kill screen of flickering vector lines moved in, and presumably, so did real world police into whatever home, somewhere, the Crasher was staying in.

The next day, after the global economy had had a gigantic hiccup, the Grand Concourse, and all of the shops and social spaces along the arcade were up and running. But something had been burst. The Grand Concourse had been a system of unity in a world where many people were just scraping by, and the sudden suspension of its safe and predictable mechanisms caused everyone to blink and look outside. It was the changing of an epoch, as we all know now. A few boxes of old collectibles and a flaw in coding had turned into an event that turned the world upside down. (If, of course, the entire story about the cards and The Crasher are true). After that day, All The Kings Horses and All The Kings Men couldn't quite restore the faith that people had in The Grand Concourse and the long arcade.

Any questions?

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