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"...a market economy is essentially a genetic algorithm for solving resource allocation problems..."
- Charles Stross

Credit Wake  
  The electronic trail of our transactions across the Net.  

This is a great metaphor, for anyone who has sat in the back of a boat and watched the wake of the boat as it extends into the distance.

If our society ever opted for Orwell's Big Brother approach, the instrument of choice for oppression would have to be the credit wake. In a totally noncash economy with only a vestigial barter black market, a person's activities could be tracked in real time by monitoring the credit wake of his or her universal card. There were strict laws protecting card privacy but laws had a bad habit of being ignored or abrogated when societal push came to totalitarian shove.
From Hyperion, by Dan Simmons.
Published by Doubleday in 1989
Additional resources -

Purists may argue that a credit wake is not a gadget of some sort, and therefore not a suitable subject for this site. However, a credit wake is a technological artifact. And we all make long ones, starting when we get our first credit card; sometimes when someone buys a pre-paid card for toys that is in our names.

Although this is an early mention of the term, I don't think Simmons was the first one with the concept, but I can't cite an earlier reference.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Hyperion
  More Ideas and Technology by Dan Simmons
  Tech news articles related to Hyperion
  Tech news articles related to works by Dan Simmons

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