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"I'm a fairly visual thinker. In doing science, I think in terms of pictures of things happening, and then do the mathematics."
- Gregory Benford

Saga  
  You become a part of the great adventures of history.  

This is a very early reference to the idea of a virtual reality experience or adventure.

Of all the thousands of forms of recreation in the city, these were the most popular. When you entered into a saga, you were not merely a passive observer, as in the crude entertainments or primitive times which Alvin had sometimes sampled. You were an active participant and possessed - or seemed to possess - free will. The events and scenes which were the raw material of your adventures mght have been prepared beforehand by forgotten artists, but there was enough flexibility to allow for wide variation. You could go into the excitement that did not exist in Diaspar - and as long as the dream lasted there was no way in which it could be distinguished from reality.

Yet though the sagas seemed to satisfy his companions, they left Alvin with a feeling of incompleteness. For all their color and excitement, their varying locales and themes, there was something missing...

From The City and the Stars, by Arthur C. Clarke.
Published by Unknown in 1956
Additional resources -

Clarke continues

For adventure and exercise of the imagination, the sagas provided all that anyone could desire. They were the inevitable end product of that striving for realism which began when men started to reproduce moving images and to record sounds, and then to use these techniques to enact scenes from real or imaginary life. In the sagas, the illusion was perfect because all the sense impressions involved were fed directly into the mind and any diverting sensations were diverted. The entranced spectator was cut off from reality as long as the adventure lasted; it was as if he lived a dream yet believed he was awake.

Compare to the life chamber from The Chamber of Life (1929) by G. Peyton Wertenbaker and the holodeck from Encounter at Farpoint (1987) by David Gerrold.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The City and the Stars
  More Ideas and Technology by Arthur C. Clarke
  Tech news articles related to The City and the Stars
  Tech news articles related to works by Arthur C. Clarke

Saga-related news articles:
  - 'Virtual Cocoon' Virtual Reality Helmet
  - Datagrid Model Generation Perfect For Eternal Cities Of Science Fiction

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