telectroscope to televirtuality

telectroscope to televirtualityThe story begins with Paul St.George rummaging in grandmother’s attic to find papers of his great-grandfather and engineer Alex Stanhope St. George. Paul St. George’s discovery included notebooks, “…full of intricate drawings and passages of writing describing a strange machine. This device looked like an enormous telescope with a strange bee-hive shaped cowl at one end containing a complex configuration of mirrors and lenses. Alexander seemed to be suggesting that this invention, which he called a Telectroscope, would act as a visual amplifier, allowing people to see through a tunnel of immense length… a tunnel, the drawings implied, stretching from one side of the world to the other. The idea of the Telectroscope seemed too outlandish to be possible and yet there was something in the scribbled notes that had the ring of truth about it.

One hundred years later, a NY Times article reports on the 2008 realization of St. George’s dream, the Telectroscope. An art project created by St. George, a professor of animation at London Metro, the wikipedia entry provides an explanation of the back story, “…it used a transatlantic tunnel started by the artist’s fictional great-grandfather, Alexander Stanhope St. George. In reality, the installation used two video cameras linked by a VPN connection to provide a virtual tunnel across the Atlantic. The connection used links of between 8 and 50 Mbps and the images were transmitted using MPEG-2 compression. The producer of this spectacle was the creative company Artichoke, who previously staged The Sultan’s Elephant in London.”

The NY Times article clarifies further, “and some of it is true, sort of. Mr. St George did have a relative named Alexander — his grandfather, a tailor. The extra generation was added, as was the Stanhope; it’s the name of a type of magnifying lens. And the Telectroscope is a real 19th-century creation — sort of. It was written about, Mr. St George said, by a reporter who misheard a story about an electroscope, a device used to measure electrical current.” Mark Twain was fascinated and wrote a science fiction short story, From the ‘London Times’ of 1904.” St. George looks for new projects, now, “I’m hoping people will find other inventions that could’ve been, or were almost, and think about completing those.”

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