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Sylph Swarm

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Sylph Swarm is a name which is believed to have been coined in LY 914, though there is no consensus on exactly who first used the term (though a popular belief is that it was Tulo Streetrat). The term is derived from a passage in a book called Landian Alchemy, which described a type of mythical creatures which thus far have never existed on The Land. The precise nature of such creatures is unclear, though they are described as being airy, small, possibly transparent or translucent, and prone to flying or floating in large swarms.

The Sylph Swarm is said by some spirits to be reminiscent of the "internet" on Earth, except that that was technological in nature, whereas the Sylph Swarm is magical. (Other spirits have compared it to Earth's "world wide web," which is itself one component of the internet.) The term is used to describe the entire network of bubbles which are used to share various forms of information between people all over The Land.

While some people say that the earliest form of communication which might be included under the label "Sylph Swarm" came in LY 750, with the introduction of t-mail, there are a few other opinions on exactly when a network came to exist which might truly be referred to by this name. Some say not until at least 900, when t-mail and other spell devices became available to non-Sorreters; others put it after the Coming of the Order, when prices began dropping in 904-905, so that lower classes, not just the nobility, could afford such devices. There are also those who claim that it would be more appropriate to suggest that the Sylph Swarm's earliest true form didn't arrive until the 905 creation of bittrickle, which established a network of special t-mail bubbles to be used exclusively by InterGang. It is claimed by some that this spell was later used also by the Protestant ex-Sorreters, who had gone into hiding during the Battle of Triscot in 903. Whether or not there is truth to this, it is understood that separate bittrickle networks may be established, which cannot interact with each other. One is now known to have been used for some time by The Cabal, from an unknown point until they were disbanded in 912. Another network was established by LandOrder earlier in 912, originally as a means for The Chaos and their allies to remain in communication with each other. In fact, it was this network which many point to as a defining change in the nature of bittrickle, and the first to truly resemble what we now know as the Sylph Swarm. The intention of this network was to automatically share calls among anyone and everyone who held one of the specially designed t-mail bubbles. However, others claim this is not significantly different from "open" t-mail conference calls, which have been possible without bittrickle since t-mail was first invented.

Another opinion is that the Sylph Swarm first came into existence with the use of the Public Address system installed in every village in 912, which uses bubble-screens and bubble-speakers, for various purposes. This led to the introduction of bubblecasting, which is used to transmit audio and/or visual presentations to many places around the world, simultaneously, in the form of "movies" and "radio" (two subwords borrowed from Earth, because of the similarity of those technologies to the new magical applications on the Land). Beginning in 913, new types of bubble were developed that people could use in their homes, which served a similar function to radio and movie screens (both of which were until that point only used in public places). These new devices (called "home-PA bubbles") at first served as a sort of combination of radio, television (another Earth term, which essentially refers to movies or other visual bubblecasts when watched in the home instead of a theatre), and t-mail. (The latter became a permanent fixture, similar to Terran "telephones," whereas until that point, t-mail had almost always been used as a temporary device which vanished as soon as a call was completed. However, for some years prior to 913, there had been permanent t-mail bubble screens used by some members of gangs, government, military, etc. It is perhaps interesting to note that on Earth, permanent telephones were created first and portable phones not until much later; just the opposite of how it happened on the Land.)

Once these multimedia devices became more common in people's homes, new uses were frequently thought up. One of the earliest was to attach recording bubbles to home-PA bubbles, to record either audio or visual bubblecasts. Meanwhile, there had at some point in the past been specially designed t-mail bubbles which could use text rather than oral communication. While these were originally quite rare, it became popular to equip home-PA bubbles with this capacity. Once that had been done, people began t-mailing larger and larger amounts of text, which was more convenient on the home device than on mobile bubbles, because of the larger screen. By the end of 913, a new magical device called a typewriter was developed, specifically for use as a component of home-PA bubbles. (This development was greatly appreciated by writers, as it meant such things as newspaper or magazine articles, books, etc., need no longer be written by pen, prior to being sent to printers for publication.) Many consider this to have been the final step in establishing the Sylph Swarm.

However, it wasn't until 914 that some companies began creating enhanced-capacity recording bubbles specifically designed to serve as repositories of data (or "databases"), which utilized a permanent bittrickle network that users could "log on" to from either their homes or public PA booths (most commonly at libraries), to share all kinds of data: audio, visual, and textual. People could now rent space on databases to which to "upload" any content of their choosing, thereby creating their own "sylphsites", which others could view, or in some cases "download" content (such as books, pictures, music, movies, etc.) to their own recording bubbles. It is this global data network which is called the Sylph Swarm.

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