Archival Documents   »”The Transmission”

Materials related to “Agrippa – The Transmission” (Dec. 9, 1992), which was originally planned as a multi-location “fibre optic and modem line” simulcast of live readings and images of the scrolling text of William Gibson’s poem. Not all the planned sites, events, and technologies of the “Transmission” actually occurred; and some sites, such as the Americas Society in New York City, featured only a local screening of Gibson’s poem.

A “Run” of William Gibson’s “Agrippa” Poem from a Copy of Original 1992 Agrippa Diskette

Rapid access: YouTube
Higher-quality: QuickTime video
20 minutes, 13 seconds.
Agrippa label at start of poem's run

Agrippa "label" at start of poem’s run
Beginning of poem as it scrolls up screen

"I hesitated…"
(Beginning of poem as it scrolls up screen)
The poem continues

"The mechanism…"
(the poem continues)
The poem ends

"laughing, in the mechanism" (the poem ends)
Encrypted text appearing after end of poem
Encrypted text appearing after end of poem
Desktop of Mini vMac emulator

Desktop of Mini vMac emulator with System 7 used to run the poem
Folder on Mini vMac emulator

Folder on Mini vMac emulator with System 7 used to run the poem
Rapid access: YouTube
Higher-quality: QuickTime video
20 minutes, 13 seconds.

 
Item #D51. Video capture of a "run" of William Gibson’s "Agrippa" poem made from playing a disk-image (bit-level) copy of original 1992 Agrippa diskette.

 

Source: original 1992 Agrippa 3.5″ diskette, 1.4 Mb, loaned by collector Allan Chasanoff.

Process: » Disk image (bit-level copy) made using the “dd” copy process. (See Item #D50 on this site: downloadable disk-image file.) » Run of the disk-image copy on a computer using Mini vMac emulator with System 7 book disk (to emulate the functions of the original 1992 Mac platform for which the software on the diskette was created). » Video capture of the resulting run of the poem.

More info: Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, with Doug Reside and Alan Liu, “No Round Trip: Two New Primary Sources for Agrippa.”

     Credits for the “Run”
  • Allan Chassanof (for loan of original diskette)
  • Kevin Begos, Jr.
  • Matthew G. Kirschenbaum and Doug Reside, Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities
  • Alan Liu
  • Robert Maxwell, Digital Forensics Lab and Office of Information Technology, University of Maryland, College Park
  • Bini Tecle and Allan Rough, University of Maryland, College Park.
  • Permissions to copy, run, and reproduce the diskette online received from: Kevin Begos, Jr., Allan Chasanoff, and William Gibson.

Bootleg Video of “Transmission” Event at the Americas Society, With Live Run of the Diskette Containing William Gibson’s “Agrippa” (9 December 1992)

Rapid access: YouTube
Higher-quality: .mp4
60 min.
Karen Benfield interviewing Kevin Begos, Jr.

Karen Benfield interviewing Kevin Begos, Jr.
Laptop used for presentation

Laptop used for presentation
Laptop and projection screen

Laptop and projection screen
Laptop screen open to folder with Agrippa file

Laptop screen open to folder with Agrippa file
Agrippa title page projected from running the diskette
Agrippa title page projected from running the diskette
Agrippa
Agrippa label projected from running the diskette
Go to bootleg video

Based on DVD-format VOB files created from the video tape. 60 min.

Rapid access: YouTube
Higher-quality: .mp4
 
 
 
Item #D48. Bootleg Video of Live Run of the Diskette Containing William Gibson’s “Agrippa” at the Americas Society, New York City (9 Dec. 1992).

This video, approximately one hour long, was made surreptiously by “Templar,” the pseudonym of one member of a graduate-student team known as “Templar, Rosehammer, and Pseudophred” from New York University’s Interactive Television Program. The team had been recruited to shoot the screen of a laptop computer used by Kevin Begos, Jr. (the publisher of Agrippa) for the public unveiling of Agrippa at the Americas Society, New York City, on December 9, 1992 (during the so-called “Transmission” event). Their sanctioned mission was to project on a large screen the laptop’s image of a complete, live “run” of William Gibson’s poem (running from Agrippa’s diskette). Unbeknownst to the event’s organizers, however, Templar had slotted a blank video cassette into the camera used for the live feed. The resulting recording is presented here from a copy of the original videotape (the original has not been found) recovered in 2007 by “Rosehammer” from a ¾ video tape cartridge (in NTSC format) labeled “AGRIPPA—[Templar's] VIEW.” Highlights of the recording include:

  • Interview of Kevin Begos, Jr. by Karen Benfield, producer for the Wall Street Journal Television Report (approx. 20 minutes).
  • The “run” of Gibson’s poem scrolling up the screen of Begos’s laptop, accompanied by a synchronized audio recording of comedian Penn Jilette reading the text (approx. 20 minutes).
  • Question and answer period with Begos, cut off unexpectedly when someone approached Templar and caused him to stop recording to prevent discovery.

For detailed discussion of this video and related events, see on this site Matthew G. Kirschenbaum’s “No Round Trip: Two New Primary Sources for Agrippa (as well as the earlier excerpt from his book, Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination (MIT Press, 2008). Of related interest: Re:Agrippa, an experimental video composition made by Rosehammer and Templar in 1993 that samples and remixes selected footage from the 1992 bootleg video, and adds experimental-video-style montage, sound, and titling effects.

Note: The Agrippa Files had originally wanted to present this video on YouTube because it is the most iconic of the cyberspace, viral video channels now fulfilling the prophecy of Templar, Rosehammer, and Pseudophred’s “hack” of the Americas Society event on December 9, 1992, which led the next day to the viral, plain-text release of Gibson’s poem on the internet. But due to the length of the video, which exceeds YouTube’s constraints, Google Video was chosen.

Video Cartridge with ¾” Tape Copy of Bootleg Video of “Transmission” Event at the Americas Society, New York City (December 9, 1992)

Front
Front label
Video cartridge open
Spine
Back
 
 
Item #D49. Video cartridge containing ¾”-tape copy of the bootleg video of “Transmission” event at the Americas Society, New York Society. (Basis of Item #D48 on this site; original video recorded 9 Dec. 1992; date of this video cartridge and its copy of the original tape unknown)
 
Note that the front cover of the box for the cartridge bears a label for the 1993 Re:Agrippa remix of the tape by the pseudonymous “Rosehammer,” while the label on the cartridge itself refers to his partner “Templar’s” camera view at the original, 1992 Americas Society event.

Re:Agrippa (Experimental Video Based on Footage of Dec. 9, 1992, From One of the Sites of the ‘Transmission’ of Agrippa) (1993)

Screenshot of video

Item #D16. Experimental video Re:Agrippa by “Rosehammer & Templar” (probably specifically Rosehammer) (produced 1993), based originally on bootleg video from a Dec. 9, 1992, public screening of the “Agrippa” poem.

Re:Agrippa is an experimental video composition that samples and remixes (with added material) footage from a bootleg video recorded at the public unveiling of Agrippa at the Americas Society in New York City (one of the sites of the “Transmission”). The footage that Re:Agrippa includes from the original bootleg video (now available in full as Item #D48 on this site) shows the text of William Gibson’s poem in Agrippa scrolling up the screen, accompanied by a soundtrack of Penn Jillette reading from the poem; shots of publisher Kevin Begos, Jr., introducing the work; and added experimental-video-like montage, sound, and titling effects added by Re:Agrippa’s pseudonymous makers. (A transcription of the full bootleg video underlies the so-called “hacking” of the poem and its release to the Internet on Dec. 10, 1992. See “-Templar- Rosehammer & Pseudophred’s” introduction to the text of the poem that appeared on that date on the MindVox BBS; see also Matthew G. Kirschenbaum’s discussion and follow-up discussion of various explanations of “the hack.”)

For Windows Users (WMV9, streaming)
» Excerpt: Gibson’s poem scrolling up screen (.wmv, 20 secs.)
» Full video (.wmv, 5 min., 32Mb)
For Macintosh Users (Quicktime 7, streaming)
» Excerpt: Gibson’s poem scrolling up screen (.mov, 20 secs.)
» Full video (.mov, 5 min., 27Mb)

Note: The Windows Quicktime plug-in for IE and Firefox is flawed and may crash when streaming Quicktime 7 (H.264) content. Windows users are encouraged to view the WMV files above or download the Quicktime files prior to viewing (rather than streaming).

Letter from Kevin Begos to William Gibson (c. Oct. 1992)

Letter from Kevin Begos to William GibsonItem #D27. Letter from Kevin Begos to William Gibson (probably October 1992)

Facsimile Image
Transcription

See also press release and technical specs for “The Transmission” on December 9, 1992.

Press Release for “The Transmission” (1 December 1992)

Press release regarding the December 9, 1992, transmission of Agrippa
Item #D11. Press release from the publisher regarding the December 9, 1992, “transmission” of Agrippa.

Facsmile Image

Transcription

This press release was attached to a faxed letter of Dec. 1, 1992, from Kevin Begos to David Leslie of The Kitchen in NYC. (Excerpt from letter)

Original Hand-Drawn Technical Plan for “the Transmission” (1992)

Agrippa code
Item #D47. Original hand-drawn technical plan and specs for the December 9, 1992, “transmission” of Agrippa.

Facsimile Image

This drawing by Marc Scarpa was the basis for his later, typed technical specs for “the Transmission” (see Item #D12)

Technical Specs for “the Transmission” (15 September 1992)

Agrippa code
Item #D12. Outline and flowchart for the December 9, 1992, “transmission” of Agrippa.

Facsimile Images

These plans and specs were typed by Marc Scarpa based on his original hand-drawn plans (see Item #D47)

The Kitchen’s Press Release for “The Transmission” (16 October 1992)

The Kitchen Press Release
Item #D18. The Kitchen’s press release for the transmission of Agrippa.

Facsimile Image
Transcription

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