blinkenlights = B = blitter

blit /blit/ vt.

1. [common] To copy a large array of bits from one part of a computer's memory to another part, particularly when the memory is being used to determine what is shown on a display screen. "The storage allocator picks through the table and copies the good parts up into high memory, and then blits it all back down again." See bitblt, BLT, dd, cat, blast, snarf. More generally, to perform some operation (such as toggling) on a large array of bits while moving them. 2. [historical, rare] Sometimes all-capitalized as `BLIT': an early experimental bit-mapped terminal designed by Rob Pike at Bell Labs, later commercialized as the AT&T 5620. (The folk etymology from `Bell Labs Intelligent Terminal' is incorrect. Its creators liked to claim that "Blit" stood for the Bacon, Lettuce, and Interactive Tomato.)

--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.

BLIT is a short story by David Langford built around the idea of a basilisk image. The story begins from the perspective of Robbo a young terrorist putting up posters in the part of town frequented by the wrong kinds of people. He's equipped with some crazy goggles that distort the environment into broken, disorganized strips. Far from fashion accessories, the goggles are to protect him from the images on the poster.

The story jumps to a text book style explanation of BLITs. BLIT stands for the Berryman Logical Image Technique, a previously theoretical method of devising images that crash the computational system that is the human brain. The first image was discovered in a Cambridge Artificial Intelligence lab killing many of the researchers. The problem with BLITs is that there's more than one of them and they're derivable from mathematics. Cambridge was the first but not the last. Other labs suffer similar accidents and eventually the phenomena escapes academia when a popular science article describes how to create a fractal that includes BLITs in some of the zoomed in structures killing not only the users but family and first responders. How do you fight an enemy that is lethal on site and undetectable to any other sense?

Robbo runs afoul of the police, killing one of them and earning the ire of the rest. After a rather brutal interrogation he's left to ponder his life and sulk. He knows that the law can't touch him apart from vandalism charges. They can't exactly show a jury what he had put on the walls and the law just hasn't caught up to dealing with this form of terrorism. So why did the police seem so smug?

As a story BLIT is a nice bit of sci-fi horror. Monster and hazards of every variety infest Science Fiction but in most cases it's the things line of sight rather than your own that's of concern. What makes this scary is not so much the BLIT itself as the paranoia it would engender. Imagine TV stations needing security tight as the Pentagon. As a concept kill images are interesting but they rely on the brain is kind a computer analogy which is about as accurate as describing an airplane as a kind of car because it has wheels and an engine. At the same time photosensitive seizures are a very real phenomena even if they only afflict a small portion of the population. If you are interested in reading it the whole story can be found here. News group FAQ here.


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