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Annalee Newitz: How ‘Max Headroom’ Predicted My Job, 20 Years Before It Existed

Max HeadroomVery interesting essay from Annalee Newitz on io9.com. If you grew up watching American television in the ’80s this was one of the weirdest and most interesting shows on network TV, even for kids like myself who didn’t fully grasp the implications of what I was seeing on the screen. (The show obviously baffled many adults as well, since it only lasted fourteen episodes, thankfully the entire series has finally been released on DVD.)

Making sense of it all and putting the show in perspective twenty years later is Annalee Newitz on io9.com:

For those who don’t know the premise of the 1987—88 series, where every episode begins with the tagline “twenty minutes into the future,” here’s a quick recap. Investigative reporter Edison Carter works for Network 23 in an undefined cyberpunk future, where all media is ad-supported and ratings rule all. Reporters carry “rifle cameras,” gun-shaped video cameras, which are wirelessly linked back to a “controller” in the newsroom. Edison’s controller is Theora, who accesses information online — everything from apartment layouts to secret security footage — to help him with investigations.

They’re aided in their investigations by a sarcastic AI named Max Headroom, built by geek character Bryce and based on Edison’s memories. Sometimes producer Murray (Jeffrey Tambor) helps out, as does Reg, a pirate TV broadcaster known as a “blank” because he’s erased his identity from corporate databases.

In the world of Max Headroom, it’s illegal for televisions to have an off switch. Terrorists are reality TV stars. And super-fast subliminal advertisements called blipverts have started to blow people up by overstimulating the nervous systems of people who are sedentary and eat too much fat…

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