Friday, May 23, 2008

Steampunk writ large

It is said that sometime century-before-last, one Alexander Stanhope St. George had the notion of boring a tunnel from London to New York, affixing rather large lenses to either end and, with the aid of mirrors, allowing passersby in the two cities end to see each other as though they were face to face. It is also said that many of the workers who constructed the tunnel hailed from Liverpool.

And sure enough, if you go to the South Bank in London or the Fulton Ferry Landing in Brooklyn, there it is: an imposing Victorian-looking metal tube angling out of the ground, and sure enough, you can look into the lens and see across the Atlantic. The New York times has the full details; Auntie has a briefer, more bemused take. There's even a web page for making appointments to meet via Telectroscope, as the device is known.

For my money, the brilliant part of the concept is that there's no sound. The creator, Paul St. George, explains that if there were sound, people would likely just line up and use it as a telephone, but without sound, they actually have to move around and interact visually (or at least scrawl messages on a whiteboard.)

I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to decide whether there is actually a purpose-built tunnel connecting the ends of the Telectroscope together.

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