I was sitting cross-legged on my bed [which I am currently not physically capable of doing] using a laptop [which I currently don't have]. This machine was capable of printing things not only on the screen but on external objects. I would plug the object in the machine and use the mouse to control a program which changed the object's pattern and color.
I had a map of the USA made of something like cardboard. I was using the computer to color different sections of the map, and the paint on the map would rearrange smoothly and seamlessly as I manipulated it with the mouse. Then a glitch developed which caused the map to get squashed together into an unattractive shape, and the colors got mixed up. I tried to reset it by clicking the mouse, but it didn't work. I decided to leave it alone for a few minutes to see if the program would fix itself, and when I looked again the map was back to normal.
I was mystified at how something like this could work. I looked in the back of the room which was set up like an office, with some computer techs working there. I went over to the little office and said, "Is there a geek here? I need to ask some questions." Finally I succeeded in gaining the "geek's" attention. I told him about how the computer could rearrange the colors on the map, and how it got mixed up and then returned to normal. I asked him how the computer could control external objects as if they were mere images. I also had a potted plant which was built by the computer and which could be reconfigured in a manner similar to the map, only it was three-dimensional (and possibly living.)
The "geek" explained that the computer stored the external form of a three-dimensional image in a data structure called a "truplate", and the internal structure was stored in a similar data structure with a slightly different name, something like "tremplate". The computer would then reconstruct the object using a fractal pattern -- for example, it would "grow" the potted plant by attaching smaller branches to larger ones, etc. Each level of structure was stored in a different part of the database. He demonstrated this by taking the plant apart and putting it back together, as if it were made of plastic. The parts separated cleanly and rejoined seamlessly, though it was evidently made of organic material.
Well, what could this possibly be except nanotech? Paint molecules which reorganize themselves to form different patterns and which can be controlled with a computerized device (I'm sure the real model will use something better than a mouse, such as a fully-adjustable electronic paintbrush.) Reconstructible plants with detachable sections, which would be, in some manner, alive. Of course, real plants also have the property of detachability to some extent, since some types of plants can be grown from shoots. This technology would simply develop that property to its logical conclusion, making each part fully modular.