(Roughly) Daily

Kafka at the seaside…


It’s easy to feel, on the heels of the last eight years, just the weensiest bit paranoid about Big Brother and its surreptitious diffusion through our lives… and easy to think that this feeling is unique to the troubled times in which we find ourselves.

But thanks to AMC, we can be reminded in the most entertaining of ways that we’re not the first to wonder who’s manipulating what, and why:  all 17 episodes of The Prisoner are now available online.  For free.

Co-created by and starring Patrick McGoohan, the series centers on “No. 6,” an unnamed British Secret Service agent who, following his resignation, is held captive in a remote and anonymous oceanside village by unidentified forces who are trying to discover his reasons for leaving.

The series was a cult smash, and reverberated through comic books, computer games, films, and other television series (see, for example, this episode of The Simpsons).

AMC is about to broadcast a mini-series remake; to wit, the promotional offer of the originals…  your correspondent has no idea how the reprise will be (though he is hopeful; it does, after all, have Ian McKellen in the cast).  In the meantime, he’s very grateful for the return of television’s most stylish reminder that just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that they’re not after you.

Patrick McGoohan on The Prisoner:

…We all live in a little Village… Your village may be different from other people’s villages but we are all prisoners.

Update:  Sad word from reader RS:  “In an apparently unrelated development, Patrick McGoohan died today at the age of 80.”

As we sweep our houses for bugs, we might turn an ear to the ether, and give a tip of the hat to Lee DeForest.  On this date in 1910, De Forest, the American inventor of the vacuum tube, conducted the first public demonstration of radio as we know it, broadcasting a live performance of Enrico Caruso from the Metropolitan Opera– a broadcast audilble only by the small number of electronics hobbyists who had radio receivers. (He’d tried a “quiet experiment,” broadcasting past of Tosca.)  the prior night, De Forest started regular nightly concerts in 1915, increasing interest in radio receivers, which at the time depended on the vacuum tubes manufactured by De Forest’s company.

While DeForest pioneered the commercialization of radio, Italian electrical engineer and inventor Guglielmo Marconi is traditionally recognized as its creator for his 1896 invention, which transmitted signals over more than a mile. By 1905, ships often used radios to communicate with stations on shore.  Marconi’s work earned him a share of the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics; DeForest got rich… It prefigured, in a metaphorical way the relationship between Philo Farnsworth and David Sarnoff in the development of television.

Indeed, appropriately enough, it was on this same date 18 years later, in 1928, that the first experimental television sets– with 1.5 square inch screens– were installed in three homes in Schenectady, NY.

Lee DeForest

Written by (Roughly) Daily

January 13, 2009 at 1:01 am

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