A few days ago I saw somebody on the Metro playing with his smartphone, swiping a finger across the screen. How incomprehensible such a simple-today action would be to a watcher from only a few decades ago! Suddenly to mind flashed a scene from Vernor Vinge's short science-fiction story "Original Sin" wherein a character pulls a supercomputer-ish device out of her pocket:

... The pile she placed on the table had no definite form—yet it was almost alive. A thousand shifting colors shone from within it. Except for its size, her 'mam'ri seemed unremarkable. Tsumo plunged her hand into it, and the device searched slowly across the table. ... "Don't be alarmed. I'm only checking to see that—" and she lapsed into Japanese. Old English just isn't up to describing modern technology. "That is, I'm making sure that our ... shield against detection is still working. It is, but even so it doesn't protect us from pre-millennium techniques. So stay away from windows and open places. Also, my o-mamori can't completely protect us against—" She looked at me, puzzled. "How can I explain f'un, Professor?"

(F'un = 不運 is bad luck in Japanese; nowadays an omamori is a Buddhist or Shinto good-luck charm, an amulet; the word "mamori" means "protector" or "defender" ....) - ^z - 2012-03-09