"[Science fiction is] nightmares and visions, always outlined by the barely possible."
- Gregory Benford
||Not just television - this describes what we call 'the idiot box' (technology and media).
|When I was a boy - I'm that old --
I used to read printed books. You'd hardly think it.
Likely you've seen none -- they rot and dust so -- and
the Sanitary Company burns them to make ashlarite.
But they were convenient in their dirty way. Oh I
learnt a lot. These new-fangled Babble Machines --
they don't seem new-fangled to you, eh? -- they're
easy to hear, easy to forget...
Asano touched his arm and gave him a warning
look, and forthwith another of these mechanisms I
screamed deafeningly and gave tongue in a shrill voice.
"Yahaha, Yahah, Yap! Hear a live paper yelp!
Live paper. Yaha! Shocking outrage in Paris.
Yahahah! The Parisians exasperated by the black
police to the pitch of assassination. Dreadful
reprisals. Savage times come again. Blood! Blood!
Yaha!" The nearer Babble Machine hooted stupendously,
"Galloop, Galloop," drowned the end of the
sentence, and proceeded in a rather flatter note than
before with novel comments on the horrors of disorder.
"Law and order must be maintained," said the nearer Babble Machine...
"I did not think," he began and stopped abruptly
He went off at a tangent to ask for information
about these Babble Machines. For the most
part, the crowd present had been shabbily or even
raggedly dressed, and Graham learnt that so far as
the more prosperous classes were concerned, in all
the more comfortable private apartments of the city
were fixed Babble Machines that would speak directly
a lever was pulled. The tenant of the apartment
could connect this with the cables of any of the great
News Syndicates that he preferred. When he learnt
this presently, he demanded the reason of their
absence from his own suite of apartments. Asano
stared. "I never thought," he said. "Ostrog must
have had them removed..."
Thence Graham was taken by Asano along devious
ways to the great gambling and business quarters
where the bulk of the fortunes in the city were lost
and made. It impressed him as a well-nigh interminable
series of very high halls, surrounded by tiers upon
tiers of galleries into which opened thousands of
offices, and traversed by a complicated multitude of
bridges, footways, aerial motor rails, and trapeze and
cable leaps. And here more than anywhere the note
of vehement vitality, of uncontrollable, hasty activity.
rose high. Everywhere was violent advertisement,
until his brain swam at the tumult of light and colour.
And Babble Machines of a peculiarly rancid tone were
abundant and filled the air with strenuous squealing
and an idiotic slang. "Skin your eyes and slide,"
"Gewhoop, Bonanza," "Gollipers come and hark!"
|From When the Sleeper Wakes,
by H.G. Wells.
Published by Unknown in 1899
Additional resources -
(Note: this item was formerly [and incorrectly] attributed to Jules Verne. Sorry about that.)
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