Recently, I had to write a blog post for one of my classes. The assignment was to “find a piece of old communication technology and pretend you are a misguided archaeologist who has discovered this technology from another civilization.” Obviously, I had a bit of fun. And now for my post, recreated in full super 3-D smell-o-vision in Sensurround, the Prayer-Machine:
[Translated into English]
I have recently uncovered a breakthrough find in my old-Earth excavation site. I am still unraveling the mysteries of my most recent find – an object most fascinating. Upon first glance, the device seems related to language. There are a number of buttons located at the front of the device, each one inscribed with a character. Each button corresponds with a hammer on the inside of the device, which springs forth upon the pressing of the button. At the tip of each hammer are two similarly corresponding characters to the ones located on each button-face. As the buttons are pressed, a sliding mechanism at the back of the device slides from right to left. There are a number of adjustable items upon the sliding mechanism for which I can discern no use. Several characters appearing on the front buttons also appear in the same order upon the sliding device, implying to me that there is an order to which these characters should be input. Another curiosity about the device is a small ribbon that is held between the sliding mechanism and the hammers as the buttons are hit. The ribbon is of two colors, perhaps hinting at further delineation of meaning between characters as is implied by the variations upon the hammers. It is interesting to me that variations of a written language should be differentiated not only by shape of character, but by the color of the character. That the color of ribbon struck should be switchable suggests perhaps a secular and non-secular use for each character.
It is for this reason that I have concluded this device to be a prayer-machine. Thoughts can be fed into the machine, which, by its fantastic sliding mechanism, allows thoughts to flow from mind to fingertips like the ebb and tide of our lives. Upon reaching the end of the thought, the machine issues forth a ringing sound from a bell inside of the machine. It is then permissible for the priest or user of the machine to switch the color of the characters, thereby allowing the user to turn his or her thoughts to the divine eye. Without this device, the people of old-Earth would not have been able to commune with their God(s). While today we do not rely on such mysticism, this is a clear sign of dependence on technology. If an error occurred in the machine, then the God(s) would not receive the message. Perhaps civilization on old-Earth fell apart as a result of the multitude of errors produced by this machine (as I noted: if prayers are input too quickly, the hammers of the machine jam). As there is nothing physically produced by pressing the characters on the machine, this mentally-centric interpretation is the only reasonable explanation. The prayer-machine is an oddity of the past that we are pleased to have discovered in the future of today!
Listening to: The New School, The Tough Alliance