Study Guide

Thomas Parker in Rainbows End

By Vernor Vinge

Thomas Parker

Thomas (Tommie) Parker is that saddest form of techie: a guy who still thinks his old way is best. ("No, really, man, that Blu-Ray isn't as good as my awesome Laser Disc.") Tommie Parker used to be a "computer-science jock" at UCSD before there was even a computer science course there (12.54). Robert remembers him as a "young squirt," "the little guy who couldn't wait for the future" (12.54).

So now how is he holding up now that the future is here? Not so well. He's still using his old laptop, which used to be "the cutting edge of power and miniaturization" but which now even Robert recognizes as "a ponderous behemoth" (12.63). Any chance he can get, Tommie will look down on some new computer stuff as "junk" (12.63) or new medical technology as "diddling medical miracles" (26.101). Everything with Tommie is all about how he looks back at the "good old days" (18.17) or how we'll stick with the "proven solutions" (12.63). Like the other oldsters, Tommie wants to get back to the way things used to be.

Which works fine, until, you know, his pacemaker gets fried and suddenly those "diddling medical miracles" start to look less diddling. In some ways, not even that near-death experience changes Tommie much. When we see him last, he's still carrying around that old laptop (34.35) and talking about "Back when I was young…" (34.41). As Xiu explains, Tommie is old and there's not much modern medicine can do for him right now (34.46).

But even so, there's at least some indication that Tommie might be opening up to the present. At least, there's the fact that he's dating Xiu Xiang, a woman he might've considered an enemy before. He may not be cutting edge anymore, but he's growing to accept certain changes. And, even if they were being used by Rabbit to break into the UCSD labs, Tommie might be the only one of the Elder Cabal who gets what he wants—since all he wants is to mess up Huertas's operation.

So he's old-fashioned, but he doesn't leave the party empty-handed.