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"There was a time when one old eccentric guy with a notebook could do something important to science. Now even the resources of a major university are often not enough."
- Jerry Pournelle

Signal Skin  
  Natural communication form for this species; skin that can spell out text.  

The Dwellers are a long lived species - very long lived. "They lived slowly, evolved slowly, traveled slowly and did almost everything they ever did, slowly." They are the oldest species in the novel; they had been around for most of the life of the galaxy.

Fassin opened the pane and let the creature in. It flipped inside, made a sign that was probably meant to be the Dweller equivalent of 'Shh!' and floated towards him, curling and cupping its body so that it formed a sickle shape, just a metre away from the prow of the arrowhead craft. Then, on its signal skin, now shielded from sight in all directions save that Fassin was watching from, it spelled out, OAZIL: MEET ME 2KM STRAIGHT DOWN, HOUR 5, RE. VALSEIR.
From The Algebraist, by Iain M Banks.
Published by Orbit in 2004
Additional resources -

Here's another quote that shows non-textual communication:

Slyne rocked back, staring at the older Dweller with patterns of betrayal and horror (non-mild) spreading across his signal skin.

Compare to readout skin from John Varley's 1992 novel Steel Beach.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Algebraist
  More Ideas and Technology by Iain M Banks
  Tech news articles related to The Algebraist
  Tech news articles related to works by Iain M Banks

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