The science-fiction writer who coined the term "cyberspace" reflects on how difficult it is to recapture a world without television or recorded sound. I've always thought of this in the future tense, in that I have no idea how to write a memoir addressed to the future, because I don't know what will have become unfamiliar, but I think he's struck a deeper chord. What exactly was it that I did when there was no ever-present screen to interact with? (Emphases added.)
"It’s harder to imagine the past that went away than it is to imagine the future. What we were prior to our latest batch of technology is, in a way, unknowable. It would be harder to accurately imagine what New York City was like the day before the advent of broadcast television than to imagine what it will be like after life-size broadcast holography comes online. But actually the New York without the television is more mysterious, because we’ve already been there and nobody paid any attention. That world is gone.
"My great-grandfather was born into a world where there was no recorded music. It’s very, very difficult to conceive of a world in which there is no possibility of audio recording at all. Some people were extremely upset by the first Edison recordings. It nauseated them, terrified them. It sounded like the devil, they said, this evil unnatural technology that offered the potential of hearing the dead speak. We don’t think about that when we’re driving somewhere and turn on the radio. We take it for granted."
William Gibson, interviewed by David Wallace-Wells, The Paris Review, Summer 2011