Telescreens And Technology In 1984 Essay

Telescreen 
 Very early use of the idea of using technology to monitor human activity at a distance. 

One of the main themes of 1984 is the control of individuals and information in society by the state. One tool is the Telescreen, an obligatory and dominant item in the homes of the inhabitants of London, capital city of Airstrip One (previously known as England).

Behind Winston's back the voice from the telescreen was still babbling away about pig-iron and the overfulfilment of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live -- did live, from habit that became instinct -- in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.
From 1984, by George Orwell.
Published by Unknown in 1948
Additional resources -

Television surveillance is an now and everyday experience, albeit most often in the form of security cameras and speed cameras; argument rages over the goodness or otherwise of these systems.

This quote has a bit more physical description:

Inside the flat a fruity voice was reading out a list of figures which had something to do with the production of pig-iron. The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface of the right-hand wall. Winston turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely.

It's possible that the idea of a television screen that transmitted as well as received might be present in this quote from Catch That Rabbit, a 1944 story by Isaac Asimov:

"I'm going to install a visiplate right over my desk... Then I'm going to focus it at whatever part of the mine is being worked, and I'm going to watch."

George Orwell did not orginate the word telescreen. An earlier use can be found in a 1938 short story by writer A.J. Burks:

Floods, fires, hold-ups, sports events—nothing escaped the all-seeing powers of the telescreens.

Earlier still (!), Francis Flagg (a pseudonym of George Henry Weiss'), wrote in After Armageddon (1932):

It was on the tele-screen that I viewed the mobs coursing through the streets; via the news-dispenser I listened to the latest tidings from all over the country.

See the entry for the Televisor from Arthur J. Burks' 1938 novella The Challenge of Atlantis for more details. Also, compare to the street membranes from Yevgeny Zamyatin's 1922 We.

(This item was originally contributed by Simon Smith.)

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from 1984
  More Ideas and Technology by George Orwell
  Tech news articles related to 1984
  Tech news articles related to works by George Orwell

Telescreen-related news articles:
  - Accenture Gets US VISIT Biometric Security Contract
  - Computerized Surveillance Devices Open Their Eyes
  - Apple Apparently Working On Orwell's Telescreen
  - Onboard Threat Detection System For Big Brother Airlines
  - Big Brother Test Hall At Penn State
  - Gesture Recognition TV Watches You
  - LCD Panel Fingerprint Scanner
  - Orwell's Telescreen Now Available
  - In-Home Surveillance For 20K Brit Families
  - Emotion Tracking Big Comedy Brother
  - CCTV Camera Watches, Attached LCD Tells You How To Behave
  - Orwell's '1984' Hits Bestseller Lists Thanks To PRISM
  - Stasi Colonel Says Obama Surveillance Is 'Dream Come True'

Articles related to Surveillance

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1984, By George Orwell Essay

It is feasible that in the future machines may be more powerful than man, to such an extent that machines control mankind, mechanizing human life. This is seen in Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano, a post-World War III society in which machines are more powerful than mankind (Ponniah 229).The Technology in 1984, by George Orwell, has a similar influence. 1984 portrays a totalitarian society, powered by the icon of Big Brother. Big Brother and his Party use many methods to keep their citizens suppressed and to give them false hopes, some of which include Thought Police and technology. One such form of technology in 1984 is the telescreen –an instrument used mainly for issuing propaganda and observing citizens. Propaganda is directed at the Party members’ emotions of safety; while the close scrutiny of the telescreen is aimed at the Party members’ sense of fear. In George Orwell’s 1984, citizens are programmed, by the Party, into instinctively subjecting themselves to Big Brother through the different uses of telescreens.
Manipulative propaganda is constantly streamed out of the telescreens to convince the citizens into presuming that the Party is improving their lifestyle. This causes the citizens to obliviously believe any report coming from the telescreen and subsequently subjugate themselves to the Party without any rational reasoning, allowing the citizens to think of Big Brother as their saviour. Propaganda is targeted at the Party members’ sentiments of contentment and security. “The phrase ‘our new, happy life’ recurred several times. [...] Parsons, his attention caught by the trumpet call, sat listening with a sort of gaping solemnity, a sort of edified boredom. He could not follow the figures, but he was aware that they were in some way a cause for satisfaction” (Orwell 58). This event occurs at the canteen in the Ministry of Truth, a department where records are altered to aid Party propaganda. While Winston, Syme and Parsons are eating, an announcement plays on the telescreen reminding citizens of the colossal improvement of life quality because of the Party. The announcement uses large numbers, most likely altered at the Ministry of Truth, to provide proof of the increasing quality of life. The Party targets the citizens’ most basic desire –a happy and prosperous life. This false belief of an improved lifestyle leads Party members into thinking that their benefit lays within the trust of Big Brother. Even those who do not accept this at first are manipulated into believing these inaccurate claims through the repeated display of this information. Parsons, a typical Party member, is seen to be so intrigued yet clueless about what he is being told. He realizes that he should be happy but has no awareness as to why he should. This shows that the telescreens, by issuing emotional propaganda, help the Party to formulate its citizens into absent-mindedly conforming to Big Brother and his ideologies. Propaganda, specifically emotional propaganda,...

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