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"We didn't have a telephone and our family until I was about 15, in high school."
- Ray Bradbury

Virtual world metaphor  
  use of fanciful imagery to represent real-world data systems in a virtual world.  

Mr. Slippery followed Erythrina down narrow paths, deeper and deeper into the swamp that represented commercial and government data space. Occasionally he was aware of sprites or simulators watching them with hostile eyes from nests off to the sides of the trail. These were idle creations in many cases – program units designed to infuriate or amuse later visitors to the plane. But many of them guarded information caches, or peepholes into other folks affairs, or meeting places of other SIGs.

Light came up from the water itself, a Pearly luminescence that shown upward on the trunks of the water bound trees and sparkled faintly in the droplets of water in their moss and leaves. That light was the representation of the really huge databases run by the government and the largest companies. It did not correspond to a specific geographical location, but rather to the main east west net that stretches through selected installations from Honolulu to Oxford, taking advantage of the time zones to spread the user load.

From True Names, by Vernor Vinge.
Published by Dell Binary Star in 1981
Additional resources -

Compare this to the use of similar imagery in William Gibson's 1984 novel Neuromancer. Also, compare Vinge's idea to the rifle range from the 1963 novel Way Station by Clifford Simak, the virtual reality from the 1982 novel The Judas Mandala by Damien Broderick and the virtual reality construct from the 1966 novel The Age of the Pussyfoot by Frederik Pohl.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from True Names
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