What follows is an excerpt from Stone’s further thoughts on Headroom and the cultural climate in which he was created, from his point of view… The complete text is available as a PDF.
“It’s a word on a page, a word on a list, Max Headroom. There were about forty in all. I imagined television as a landscape. Satellites were flying and suddenly, by looking up the world came in. And cable was beginning to creep along the railways and through the streets. The pain expressed at the time was all about the lousy bandwidth of copper. The pervasiveness of this network was what was interesting. The notion that someone might be able to connect it all is central to the Max story. That someone is Theora. There is a hierarchy that begins with data and ends with knowledge. Currently machines know jack shit. Knowledge is the province of the mind.
We don’t have to understand what we are photographing as long as we have the photograph as evidence.
Echoes from later. The mood mind music in Johnathon Lethem’s Gun with Occasional Music.
What came first was the notion of a fictional TV landscape made up of televangelists, sports jocks, chat show hosts and news anchors interspersed with pop videos. The initial brief from Andy Park at Channel 4 was for a thirteen week series that would provide a context for pop videos.
There’s a book by Jacob J. Epstein called News from Nowhere published in the 80′s which examines the emergence of TV news and the implicit conspiracy between news-gatherers and news makers. The reason the cameras are here is because in a moment or two, that door is going to open and whomsoever will appear and tell us how it is.
In Fahrenheit 451 the Montag family live surrounded by television. Mrs Montag has a role in an interactive soap opera. She is part of the story as it unfolds.
In City and the Stars Arthur C. Clarke shows us an electronic D&D type environment. In Counterfeit World we are taken inside a simulation much like The Matrix.
In The Final Program Jerry Cornelius achieves unity with a machine.
If you get the science right then “predictions” become inevitable. It’s all about thinking through the what-ifs?
Crowther and Woods lit (and extinguished) the torch. Their work made the ends of my fingers tingle. For the first time my actions generated a response in an electronic world made entirely of words.
Words contain meaning, don’t they? And what is meaning built upon? More words. The notion of loops and self-referential systems is explored brilliantly in Godel, Escher, Bach. In the Blue Corner we have the neuron, in the Red the transistor.
I’m outside a pub in North London with Rocky and Anabel. The sun is shining and we’re all laughing. We’re working on what-ifs? “What if Max Headroom was a man? What if he were computer generated? What if we used five minutes of our pop video show each week to tell the story of how he got that way…” ”
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