Imagine that, this time remaining 12 months, you’d heard that your circle of relatives’s vacation gatherings in 2020 would occur on the net. Even in case you believed such a long term would in the future come, would you could have credited for a second that roughly imminence? Yet our videoconference toasts this season had been predicted — even rendered in transparent and rather correct element — greater than 120 years in the past. “My spouse is visiting her aunt in Budapest, my older daughter is finding out dentistry in Melbourne, my more youthful daughter is a mining engineer within the Urals, my son raises ostriches in Batavia, my nephew is on his plantations in Batavia,” says the caption of the 1896 cool animated film above. “But this doesn’t save you us from celebrating Christmas at the telephonoscope.” (Translation courtesy of Helen De Cruz.)
This panel ran in Belle Époque humor mag Le rire (available to read at the Internet Archive), drawn by way of the hand and produced by way of the creativeness of Albert Robida. A novelist in addition to an artist, Robida drew acclaim in his day for the collection Le Vingtième Siècle, whose tales introduced visions of the era to come back in that century.
“Next to Zoom Christmas,” tweets philosophy professor Helen de Cruz, Robida additionally imagined a long term through which this “telephonoscope” would “give us training, films, teleconferencing.” As early because the 1860s, says the Public Domain Review, Robida had “revealed a demonstration depicting a guy looking at a ‘televised’ efficiency of Faust from the relief of his own residence.” See symbol above.
Though Robida turns out to have coined the phrase “telephonoscope,” he wasn’t the primary to post the type of thought to which it referred. “The thought of the instrument first gave the impression now not lengthy after the phone used to be patented in 1876,” writes Verity Hunt in a Literature and Science article quoted by way of the Public Domain Review. “The time period ‘telectroscope’ used to be utilized by the French scientist and writer Louis Figuier in L’Année Scientifique et Industrielle in 1878 to popularize the discovery, which he incorrectly interpreted as actual and ascribed to Alexander Graham Bell.” The objective used to be to “do for the attention what the phone had performed for the ear,” despite the fact that it wouldn’t be totally learned for smartly over a century. When you lift a glass to a webcam this week, believe toasting Albert Robida, to whom the 12 months 2021 would have sounded impossibly far-off — however who has confirmed extra prescient about it than many people alive these days.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and proclaims on towns, language, and tradition. His tasks come with the Substack publication Books on Cities, the guide The Stateless City: a Walk via 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video collection The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.