Excerpt from Dream Girl
“I could’ve had the Head Box in production right after graduation,” Frank said. Thanks to the money you guys invested and that of others, I completed my first prototype while we were still in college.”
“So what happened?” Ryan asked. “Why are we sitting here twenty years later if you finished the thing back then?”
“Technology happened,” Frank said. “Technology was improving by leaps and bounds and faster than I could work. It seemed that every time I had a breakthrough, new, improved technology made my work obsolete. Think about it guys, how fast things change.”
Gretchen said, “Consider that the first programmable electronic computer was built in 1945. Its purpose was to calculate artillery ballistics tables for the United States Army. It was really just one big central processing unit. It used vacuum tubes. It was eight feet tall, one hundred feet long and weighed thirty tons. The processor in the computer you have in your home right now is barely larger than a saltine cracker, but its processing power exceeds that of that first Army computer by the tens of thousands.”
Roland watched Gretchen as she spoke. He wondered if Frank hired her for her beauty as much as for her brains. He thought that if he’d been in Frank’s shoes, he would have hired Gretchen even if she couldn’t spell her own name.
“Remember the computers we used in college?” Frank asked. “Remember running the Enable system with that funky word processor with the black screen and green text? Remember being chained to your telephone line if you wanted to get on this thing called the Internet, and not being able to take a phone call at the same time? That wasn’t so long ago, guys, just fifteen years ago. Now we can go online wirelessly from our laptops and tablets in fucking Starbucks, or on our cell phones in our cars.
“That’s what took me so long. Technology kept changing and improving. Components kept getting smaller but more powerful. So I had to adapt and change. I kept working and pushing until instead of playing catch up, I got ahead of the game. That’s where I am now, guys. That’s where we are. That’s why I wanted you here today, to show you the fruit of your investment, and to thank you for believing in me.”
Ansel waved his check and said, “This is the kind of fruit I like, Frank. You must be doing pretty good, building computers, owning your own company. I’m impressed, man. We all are.”
There was a window in the wall behind Frank’s chair. He stood up and stepped to it, and turned his back to them to gaze out at the early afternoon. He said, “Anyone can build a computer, Ansel. Hell, a teenager can do that in his bedroom. We build and sell them here in order to put a face on my company. But selling computers is not what Head Box Industries is really about.”
Greg said, “That sounds kind of cloak and dagger to me, putting a face on your company. What are you doing here Frank – secret projects for the government or something?”
Frank turned from the window, smiling. “Hardly, Greg. In fact, the last thing I want is for the government to be involved in my business, in what we do here. That’s why I asked you not to tell anyone about the money. Only a select few will ever know what the Head Box Project has become.”
Roland had sat quietly as Frank talked. Mostly his mind had been on the check in his shirt pocket, and how that money was going to change his life. He was rich. Fucking rich. He couldn’t wait to get the hell out of here and start living for real. He was getting tired of listening to Frank beat around the bush about a damn Head Box. “Okay Frank, so where’s this thing?” he asked. “Are we going to get a look at your talking head, or what?”
Frank’s smile grew larger. “You always were impatient, Ro. Well, like I said, I’m ahead of the game now. My project has evolved into something truly amazing.”
“Okay, so whip it out. Let us see it.”
“You’ve already seen it,” Frank said. “You’ve been looking at it since you stepped into this conference room this morning.”
The four friends looked around, then at each other, confused. There was nothing that looked like a computer in the conference room.
Gretchen giggled and said, “Frank, perhaps you’ve kept them in the dark long enough.”
Frank looked at Roland. “You want to see it, Ro? You want to see what my Head Box has become?”
Roland said, “Yeah man, bring it.”
Gretchen stood up. Roland thought that she was going to go fetch whatever the thing was Frank had created, but she just stood silently, looking around the table at them and smiling.
“Amazing, isn’t it?” Frank grinned.
Ryan said, “Okay Frankie, you lost me. What’s amazing?”
Frank looked at Gretchen and said, “What my Head Box has become.”
Greg said, “Is this some kind of joke? What are you saying?”
Frank took Gretchen’s hand. She looked at him with adoring eyes.
Frank looked around the table at each of them, still grinning. Then he said, “She’s nice, isn’t she? Want one?”
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