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"I think we could solve our problems more easily through strength of character; but that's always been a commodity in extremely short supply."
- Gregory Benford

CIC Virtual Earth  
  A software application that presents detailed information about the Earth.  

In Neal Stephenson's seminal 1992 novel Snow Crash, Hiro Protagonist is given an amazing service - ordinarily available only to the wealthy - for free.

There is something new: A globe about the size of a grapefruit, a perfectly detailed rendition of Planet Earth, hanging in space at arm's length in front of his eyes. Hiro has heard about this but never seen it. It is a piece of CIC software called, simply, Earth. It is the user interface that CIC uses to keep track of every bit of spatial information that it owns - all the maps, weather data, architectural plans, and satellite surveillance stuff.

Hiro has been thinking that in a few years, if he does really well in the intel biz, maybe he will make enough money to subscribe to Earth and get this thing in his office. Now it is suddenly here, free of charge...

From Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson.
Published by Bantam in 1992
Additional resources -

This is a remarkable prediction of several real-world services that are only just now becoming available - Google Earth and VPlanet Explorer. If you want to be as cool as possible while interacting with your display, take a look at Minority Report Glove Interface.

Earlier science fiction writers touched on the subject of real world displays - see the entry for interactive map from Stanislaw Lem's 1961 classic Return from the Stars.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Snow Crash
  More Ideas and Technology by Neal Stephenson
  Tech news articles related to Snow Crash
  Tech news articles related to works by Neal Stephenson

CIC Virtual Earth-related news articles:
  - Google Earth And VPlanet Explorer
  - iEarth From Google, Nasa... Snow Crash?
  - Use Google To Search The Heavens

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