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A Remarkable Invention Linking People an Ocean Apart!

From PCJ Editor Wayne Senville:

Imagine if you could stand next to the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City and wave greetings — in real time — to folks in London, England. Big deal, you might say. We have video teleconferencing, and we can even easily do this with webcams on our laptop computers. But then, why was the Telectroscope so popular last year. Yes, I said Telectroscope. They say it’s a marvelous invention linking two giant telescope-like devices in New York and London via an underwater tube. Take a look at these two short news videos about it, one from the Associated Press, the other from the Wall Street Journal.

OK, so what if the Telectroscopes were just elaborate pieces of temporary public art (installed during May and June 2008) making use of two video cameras linked by a VPN connection transmitting images using MPEG-2 compression? Thousands flocked to the Telectroscopes’ viewing screens to wave and smile at those waving and smiling back at them from across the Atlantic. Why? In part because of the creativity, imagination, spectacle, and plain fun involved. It’s a “public art event” — and events like this help enliven our cities.

You can also see hundreds of photos of the devices — both in New York and London — on the Flickr web site. I have to say, they’re really quite remarkable pieces of interactive art.

If you have a few minutes, you should also read about the history of the Telectroscope. Here’s how it starts:

“This is the story of an extraordinary invention called a Telectroscope. Miraculously, using only a tunnel through the earth and a Telectroscope, people can simultaneously interact with others who are many miles and hours away. … Some years ago an artist by the name of Paul St George opened a battered suitcase. This suitcase had lain unopened on the top of a wardrobe for many years. In the suitcase he found a treasure trove of journals, drawings, diagrams, correspondence, notebooks, scribbled calculations, boxes of papers, an album of press-clippings and even one or two photographs. On further inspection he discovered that they had been the property of his great-grandfather, a little known Victorian engineer, Alexander Stanhope St George. The notebooks were full of intricate drawings and passages of writing describing a strange machine. … Continue, the story on the web site.

For more about the Telectroscope installations, see articles from The New York Times and from the BBC.