Friday, January 16, 2015

The Hello Machine

The Hello Machine is a short, wordless film-poem, in which he chronicles the building of an entire ESS Mainframe. It's one of the best films in the AT&T Archives, a poetic musing on the connections between handwork and the act of communicating. In the film, he chronicles the act of making and building the mainframe with human hands so carefully that it becomes a handcraft, like weaving or sewing. As he elevates the frame-worker to the status of craft person, the mainframe itself becomes an artistic masterpiece, then brought to life by electricity. Ballard's stance is that it takes humans to connect humans, not machines.

There's a little irony in the title: "The Hello Machine" used to be a nickname for the telephone, but Alexander Graham Bell, the machine's inventor, always thought that "Ahoy" would be a better greeting for a phone call than "Hello". "Hello" was more of Thomas Edison's idea, and is, of course, the one that stuck. In fact, the word wasn't quite as popular as a greeting in English UNTIL the telephone became widely used.

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