Bruce Sterling: Funeral for Analog TV (video)

Above: Funeral for Analog TV, starring the lovely and talented Bruce Sterling. "The service took place at the Berkeley Art Museum Tuesday, February 17, at 7:00 PM." More:

Audiences joined author Bruce Sterling, technology pundit Paul Saffo, and other special guests on the UC Berkeley campus to mourn the loss of our long time acquaintance, the Analog Television Signal. Born in the 1920's in San Francisco, the signal has been an integral part of all our lives, bringing us news of the rich, the famous, the politicians, the wars, the Apollo landings, the thrills of victory, and the agonies of defeat. While Analog Television has not been a good friend to us all, it has been important to each and every one of us. Analog Television is survived by its wife Digital Television, and its second cousin Internet Television.

Visitors brought their Analog TV for display and recycling. We stacked the first 40 in memoriam to our life long friend and the remainder were responsibly recycled. At the ceremony Paul Saffo spelled out the sordid history of the Analog TV Signal's life, the group Author & Punisher performed the funeral dirge, and author Bruce Sterling delivered the eulogy (above) just before the analog signal winked out for the last time and the frequency wasteland was invaded by pirate TV artists. It's rare that the entire nation gets a specific date on which one major medium dies and is replaced by another. This event was a scholarly and artistic reflection on the passing of one of the dominant mediums and cultural influences of the late 20th century.


  1. For the next generations, the opening to William Gibson’s Neuromancer is going to seem meaningless.

    That alone is a just cause for nostalgia.

  2. “It’s rare that the entire nation gets a specific date on which one major medium dies and is replaced by another.”

    Unfortunately not so. The couple years we’ve been bombarded with “public service announcements” as to the date we make the switch, has sort of, been put on hold for 4 months. Instead of setting a firm date, they’ve now confused matters for everyone… leaving many wondering if their station(s) will be making the switch on the first promised date, the second promised date, the next promised date or ever. IMHO, I believe it’s the current administrations desire to “get it’s own way and finally get one in the win column”, regardless of the confusion or cost of the decision. Sure, they state that each station has a choice as to when, but have been pretty forceful when that decision doesn’t fit their plan.

  3. the cathodic tube will have always a place in my house.

    nothing says more “i’m home” than the azure reflection of the TV set. the fancy monitors of today could be TFT,HD,LCD,Plasma,5.1, 4+5, but they will never be a TeleVision.

  4. Is it just me, or does Mr. Sterling look eerily similar to Dick Cheney, right there? (And how did they resurrect Andre the Giant?)

    Also, I love the recording in mono. Nice touch.

    …Oh wow, I’m giggling so hard right now. THEY’RE THE CHAMPAGNE OF THE LUNG.

  5. pirate analog tv in the possible future?

    I don’t own a tv, but am looking for one to watch the night analog goes out. ~blip~ My grandma has a click dial tv, no remote, many angled antennas.

    I wish there was a farewell message. Maybe a quick new years like montage of the years of analog signal to the tune of Blue Danube. Maybe an american flag.

    Instead the switch will silently occur maybe afterm the 6 o’clock news? Seinfeld rerun? Hereos?
    Middle of the night?

    I wonder how many will actually witness it? How many will be all set up with converter to never know the moment in time. How many will suffer for weeks on end until they get a box.

  6. Unfortunately the video projected from a laptop in the theatre at the Berkeley Art Museum suffered from a severely digital problem of frame dropout and poorly set audio. I’m glad I watched some of it here via the Vimeo setup, because now I understand that it wasn’t snarky comment on digital media in process of watching analog go goodbye.

    While watching it at the museum, I thought perhaps it was some art commentary on the dodgy nature of internet video, having been treated to several minutes of watching a static IP address being guessed and missed prior to the show. (Yes, I’m serious. no DHCP, just guesses until they found an IP address, in front of the whole crowd. What happened to showmanship here!?!)

    Even the perplexing and wonderful presentation from NPR via the analog transmitters in the space did not reclaim what television does the best.

    Television shows you what is happening in another space, at the same time. Yes, it can show you pre-recorded stuff, but the only reason people turn to YouTube to see what was on C-SPAN is because it *was* already broadcast and they want to see what they missed. Classic material of the TV era was performed as theatre live for an audience, not recorded, edited and polished prior.

    I hope both Long Now Foundation and Berkeley Art Museum will do something more on the next date to kill analog for good. And maybe more commentary on the politics, companies, and money involved will be evident then.

  7. all due respect to Mr. Sterling, seriously, I totally respect him since I heard of him years ago, but a thirty second intro for an internet video is asking too much from the modern audience – and the bad-angled mono-shot ‘youtube-ness’ of it is creepy and not up to the legacy of his name… I would have thought Mr. Sterling would have some contacts in production? I found it nearly unwatchable. The Onion (and other modern satirists) have set the bar high.

  8. Someone please tell me if other countries are doing this same thing. I assume Canada is, because of the overlapping of television signals (?) , etc, but what about Europe, Asia, etc.?

  9. @Bender

    In europe several countries have changed over to digital only already – Netherlands and Sweden as well as parts of Germany for example.

    In the UK the existing digital TV network (operating since 1998) is being upgraded and switched off area by area. The first transmitters closed last year and the last – London will close in 2012.

  10. Got anything with coax output? VCR? DVD player? Atari 2600? Set top converter box? Then you are able to keep analog channels 3 and 4 alive. Your own personal analog TV shrine.

  11. As a downsized tech worker I have a great appreciation for the coming age of Digital TV. As I live in my vehicle along the back alleys and rest stops in my area I have taken small comfort from my $15 analog battery driven 9 inch black and white TV. I watched the SuperBowl!

    I understand the importance of opening up the bandwidth but I can’t join in the party. At this stage of the game there doesn’t appear to be a market for portable ATSC TV. There seems to be a smattering of devices available but it isn’t like you can walk into a box store and pick one up off the shelves (being a nomad makes parcel post problematical). Sony makes a wonderful unit but it is only available in Japan.

    I am not alone in my plight while we might not number in the millions (yet) There are a lot of us on the fringes who are in this sorry place.

    Converter boxes are not battery powered as I can see, the use of an inverter is possible but I have found it drains current at such a rate I prefer running off DC. I understand I am not entitled to a solution by society, but there will be “victims” in this rush to the future. Perhaps if I turn to religion I won’t need the pitiful solace of OTA TV. Not looking for sympathy, willing to work long enough to buy a solution… just surprised at the paucity of options.

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