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Definition

dead media

In 1995, science-fiction writer Bruce Sterling challenged a conference of computer artists and the world at large to help identify the extinct species in the new media taxonomy and face the fact that, for each new medium or technology that survives, dozens fall by the wayside. Sterling insisted that it's important to recognize, pay homage to, and ponder the "dead media" that seem, once fallen, to pass so quickly from the scene. As a result of Sterling's challenge, fellow enthusiasts have begun to chronicle artifacts of information technology going back to earliest times. Among the inventions cataloged as part of the Dead Media Project are:

  • "Primitive" (but not considered so at the time) stone-carvings, bead and knitted mnemonic and historical recordings, stone formations, drum signals, shouting networks, alpenhorns, whistling networks, and town criers
  • Early postal systems such as Thurn and Taxis and the U.S. Pony Express
  • Many systems of optical telegraphy
  • Giovanni Caselli's facsimile pantelegraph
  • The chronophotographoscope, Cinerama, and Cinemascope
  • Early digital networks, such as Teletext, Viewtron, Viewdata, Prestel, The Source, Qube, Alex (Quebec), Telidon (Canada), Viatel and Discovery 40 (Australia)

...to name a very few. Sterling and his fellow historians have a different perspective than those of us who have just invested in our new cable modem installation.

This was last updated in June 2010

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