Digimon Tamers 1984
Digimon Tamers 1984 (デジモンテイマーズ１９８４ Dejimon Teimāzu 1984) is a short story written by Chiaki J. Konaka. It is a prequel to the Digimon Tamers anime series, which tells the story of the Wild Bunch's Digimon project in the 1980s.
Tamers 1984 was originally published on September 10, 2002, in the "SF Anime Special Edition" issue of Japanese science fiction literature magazine SF Japan.
In early October 1984 in Palo Alto, California, a doctoral candidate known only by the nickname "Daisy" is approached by Lee Jiang-yu, who wants to recruit her into Professor Rob McCoy's newly-established laboratory, the "McCoy Research Facility," at Palo Alto University. Despite seeing no common ground between her expertise in software and robotics and the research for which McCoy is known, she agrees to visit solely out of personal interest in Lee (which amounts to nothing as he is already married).
The next afternoon, Daisy visits the laboratory to find it still in the process of being set up, and meets most of the other members of the facility, known as the Wild Bunch; she soon realizes that, like herself, they all specialize in non-mainstream disciplines, but none of them share the same discipline. When McCoy—or, as he is known within the group, "Dolphin," arrives, Daisy learns that the group's project is the creation of virtual life-forms, using artificial intelligence, in a world on the computer network. Daisy joins the project and quickly befriends most of the Wild Bunch, although she has difficulty getting along with "SHIBUMI," the last member whom she meets.
As the project progresses, the Wild Bunch has difficulty coming up with what the new life forms ought to look like. Inspired by a comment from SHIBUMI about the creativity of children, Dolphin proposes recruiting his son, Keith, to come up with the creatures' designs for them. Keith designs an extensive number of what the Wild Bunch dub "Digital Monsters," or "Digimon" for short, and even takes to sorting them by various video game-like criteria like Attributes and Levels, which Dolphin sees as fitting given the game-like roots of earlier artificial life experiments. Inspired by the resemblance to different periods in human development that different Digimon designs of Keith's resemble, Lee ("Tao") becomes fixated on developing an algorithm by which the Digimon can evolve; although this is contested by other members of the Wild Bunch as they would rather avoid the evolution of the Digimon being too artificially planned, the discussion ends with confusion when SHIBUMI claims that they need not incorporate it at first, as the Digimon could always find a similar "Entelechy" in "this world."
Throughout the project, Daisy's main focus is on developing what she dubs the "Ark": an interface through which individuals in the real world (children, as she envisions it, inspired by Alan Kay's Dynabook concept) could interact with the Digimon in the network. Meanwhile, she advises Tao on the evolution algorithm.
By the early summer of 1985, significant progress had been made on the project:
- Following Dolphin's development of the Digicore program, the first Digimon had been born within the Wild Bunch's mainframe. They had begun to demonstrate an autonomous survival instinct, and their world had begun to spread across the network.
- Tao had finalized the evolution algorithm, the Entelechy, and had moved on to assisting Daisy with the Ark project, although the necessary breakthrough to enable communication between the two worlds continued to elude them.
- Keith had also coined a scheme to name individual Digimon species: a shortened word describing individual species, plus the suffix "-mon."
- The Wild Bunch had set up two terminals through which people could observe the Digimon in their world: one in the laboratory, frequented by curious students and faculty from the rest of the university, and one illegally set up in Dolphin's own home.
Meanwhile, Daisy hurries to complete the Ark project, so that she can return to focusing on her own doctoral research and move on with her life.
One day, an unfamiliar Digimon appears within the world. This Digimon appears as if it were staring at the observers real world through the terminal screen itself. Keith is the first to notice the mystery Digimon and calls Dolphin's attention to it, but Dolphin is unconcerned.
Daisy stays behind into the night, after the others have left, to work on the Ark project. The mystery Digimon watches her through one of her monitors. Past 10:00 PM, she attempts to make a phone call to her roommate, but discovers that mysteriously, none of the telephones are working. Beginning to be unnerved, she hears a loud scratching noise at the laboratory door, and when she steps outside to investigate, she sees massive claw marks gouged into the door.
As she attempts to contact the main university campus by email, in the hope that someone will come to assist her, Daisy notices that the mystery Digimon is no longer there anywhere in the network world. She does, however, notice a new sight within the world: an L-shaped block that precisely resembles the McCoy Research Facility laboratory; a single pixel situated inside the block, representing Daisy herself; and a dot half the size of the laboratory itself, just outside.
The Digimon shakes the laboratory itself, sending its contents flying everywhere. Terrified, Daisy destroys all of the monitors in the laboratory, including the one displaying the network world, and runs to the basement to cut power to the laboratory's mainframe. Soon after, SHIBUMI arrives and finds her here.
The campus authorities label the damage to the laboratory that night as the result of a hurricane, although none of the Wild Bunch believe that story. They soon identify that some Digimon had also disappeared from their world, but do not attempt to pursue them out of concerns about damaging the network.
The Digimon project continues until 1986, when the Wild Bunch are forced to shut it down due to a loss of funding. The Wild Bunch—sans SHIBUMI, who had already returned to Japan—hold a farewell party, during which Daisy notices a floppy disk in a blue sleeve that had been left on SHIBUMI's former desk.
Six months later, both Daisy and Tao have found employment with rival computing firms, and Tao has moved to Japan with his wife. Motivated by what Daisy had experienced that night, Tao emails her to share his findings about the floppy disk's contents: it contains his own "Entelechy" algorithm, but with some additions to it made by SHIBUMI, who hasn't been heard from in six months. Daisy is reminded of SHIBUMI's enigmatic comments about Digimon evolution and the real world, but wants nothing more to do with the Digimon project.
Eventually, the Digimon data on the network becomes public domain, and a Japanese toy manufacturer produces egg-shaped handheld game devices based on the data. One day, Daisy sees a child playing with one of these Digimon devices at a shopping mall, and reflects that her Ark has come one step closer to reality. This is the last time that Daisy thinks about the Digimon until the year 2001.
In 2002, shortly after the end of Digimon Tamers' original run, SF Japan approached Chiaki J. Konaka and asked him to contribute a short story to the publication's forthcoming "SF Anime Special Edition" issue. Due to the issue's focus on science fiction anime, Konaka opted to write a prequel to Tamers.
In its original publication in said issue of SF Japan, Digimon Tamers 1984 included two illustrations by Watanabe Kenji: the title page, depicting Daisy and a Greymon (pictured at top of page); and an insert of Rob McCoy and his Digimon drawings.
For sixteen years, Tamers 1984 was not republished or made officially available anywhere else. In 2018, Konaka released a "2nd Edition" of the story on his Google Sites Tamers resource page. This edition had undergone minor revisions from the original SF Japan edition, and included annotations. However, it did not include Watanabe's illustrations. The "2nd Edition" is not currently available from said resource page.
- English translation of the SF Japan edition by Megchan