October 12, 4096
CHICO, CA World-renowned archeologist Richard Leaking announced today his discovery of an ancient device. He believes our ancestors used this to memorize moving pictures and sound. “This discovery substantiates my theory of an Amnesiac middle period in human history,” said Leaking at a press conference.
“Before Homer, bards recited poems as long as the Odyssey from memory. Their listeners clearly saw and heard, in their imaginations, all the events the poets related to them.
“Memory began to fade with the invention of phonetic writing. As people came to record experiences, data and stories in writing, they exercised their memories less. Our capacity to retain information shrank as our libraries grew.
“I have long speculated that our race also must have developed devices for recording pictures and sound. As they employed these for recording images, would their imaginations not wither from lack of use? Such an invention would explain the mysterious lack of creativity in the arts we find dating from the mid-20th Century until the year 3000. Until today, however, I had no proof that such devices actually existed. I have called the long middle period of human history the Amnesiac period, because people then lived so bereft of memory and imagination.
“Only a thousand years ago did we stumble out of our darkness. The human race suffered through a terrifying transitional century I call The Great Withdrawal. A series of historical coincidences separated people from their records and recording tools. Widespread fires incinerated all the libraries while the so- called Tree Hugger Laws made it impossible to make new paper. A sudden reversal in the earth’s magnetic polarity incapacitated all power generators and permanently discharged all batteries. Human memory awakened as “battery memory” became permanent. We again came to use our imaginations.
“Five hundred years later we finally remembered how to transmit our mental impressions directly to one another. We take this ability for granted today, but history would have held more peace had we never lost it. I believe the tumultuous wars at the end of the 20th century were fought between those who made electronic recordings and those who had the means to transmit them. I surmise that the Transmitter faction refused to transmit any recordings in which they did not hold an interest. Seems silly to fight over something like that today, but try to imagine needing permission to use your telepathy.
“In any case, we have finally refreshed the 3,000-year-old battery of the device we unearthed last week. We have hooked it up to the screen we unearthed with it. If it works, we should be able to see pictures of the world as it looked about 3,000 years ago.”
Leaking then unveiled a large glass screen attached to a small black device. He pressed a few buttons; some lines rolled across the screen. A picture came into focus.
We saw children. They were having a party, apparently celebrating the aging process of one of their peers. The walls were covered with colorful rubber spheroids, and some food. Men and women–much like us, though with smaller heads–occasionally walked through the party. They all held before their faces black devices much like the one unearthed by Dr. Leaking. They pointed these devices at one another, and at the children, all with great solemnity. Leaking may be right. Perhaps they couldn’t remember the event without those devices. This went on for about an hour.
The screen then flickered for a second, and the scene changed. Now we saw a pair of feet walking over a wooden floor, through a door, over a slate path, through the door of some kind of vehicle. We didn’t see much of the surroundings, just the feet. Suddenly, the scene lurches away from the feet. We see a gray surface. It might be the back of a seat in the vehicle. We hear the sound of an engine, the voice of a child whining. We continue to see the back of the seat. This also continues for about an hour.
It was a glimpse of a low-resolution world gone by.
Stephen Muratore is Videomaker‘s Editor in Chief.