Méliès: A Multimedia Science Fiction

Photographie électrique à distance
R: Georges Méliès. D: Fernande Albany, Georges Méliès. P: Star-Film. Fr 1908

Georges Méliès‘ prediction of television, ‘Long Distance Wireless Photography’ (1908) may have seemed a logical next step following the development of photography in 1839, the telegraph six years later, and the telephone in 1876. Could that notion of TV have been appropriated from the French artist Albert Robida who in 1869, imagined a large oval TV monitor displaying soft-pornographic imagery? In 1879, coinciding with the first Muybridge show, ‘Punch’ published a drawing of a rectangular screen, transmitting ‘light as well as sound’, inaccurately described as ‘Edison’s Telephonoscope’. The image depicts a sports event: gentlemen and ladies engaged in a tennis match. The following year, Alexander Graham Bell announced the filing of a description of a method for ‘seeing by telegraph’. In 1884, only two years before the publication of Arthur Rimbaud‘s ‘Illuminations’, the German engineer Paul Nipkow constructed a mechanical scanning device, a piece of primitive TV technology. In contrast to and in parallel with film’s temporally fragmented retrieval and replay structure, the concept of the ‘televisual’ that replayed the unbroken interactivity of the telephone and the telegraph, seemed to be in the air.”
Joshua & David Levy
Early American Cinema