The Poem Running in Emulation

William Gibson’s poem played from a 3½-inch diskette on a 1992-era Mac computer running the System 7 operating system. When the diskette ran, the text of the poem scrolled up the screen (accompanied by infrequent sound effects: a camera shutter click, a gun going off) while an encryption program on the diskette encoded each line and made the poem “disappear” after its first reading.
      On December 9, 2008—the sixteenth anniversary of the original “Transmission” event debuting AgrippaThe Agrippa Files was aided by the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities and the Digital Forensics Lab at University of Maryland, College Park, in unveiling an emulated run of the poem based on a bit-level copy of an original diskette loaned by collector Allan Chasanoff. The copy was played on a computer with software emulating the functions of a 1992-era Mac. For a discussion of the forensic process by which the code was accessed and emulated, see Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, with Doug Reside and Alan Liu, “No Round Trip: Two New Primary Sources for Agrippa.”

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.

Disk Image (Bit-level Copy) of Agrippa Diskette Created from Original 1992 diskette

Screenshots, audio files, and binary files from François Grieu’s technical analysis of the disk image
Disk info

“Agrippa” disk info
'Desktop' info file

Hidden "Desktop" info file
Picture included on disk

Agrippa label (picture included on disk)
Picture included on disk

Agrippa credits screen (picture included on disk)
Sounds included on "Agrippa" disk: camera click and gunshot
Exploration of

Exploration of resource fork of "Agrippa" disk with ResEdit program
Sector 2

            Sector 2
Sector 2 (interpreted)

Sector 2 (interpreted)
Sector 2878

Sector 2878
sectors1708-1712.dat

Scavenged vestigial data on these sectors of the disk image

agrippa.bin

Flat lossless archive of data fork, resource fork and file info of the "Agrippa" file, made using BinHex5

Download disk-image file (fd0_agrippa.dmg)

 
Item #D50. Disk image (bit-level copy) created from collector Allan Chasanoff’s original 1992 Agrippa diskette.

 

Download disk image file in .dmg format

Download disk-image file (fd0_agrippa.dmg)

 

This disk image was created by the Digital Forensics Lab and the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) at the University of Maryland, College Park. For more information, see Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, with Doug Reside and Alan Liu, “No Round Trip: Two New Primary Sources for Agrippa.”

See also an independent technical analysis of the disk image performed by François Grieu, an engineer based in Paris (who also provided the screenshots, audio files, and other resources from his analysis at the left).

Original 1992 Agrippa Diskette Used to Make Emulated Run of William Gibson’s Poem

Front (in wrapper)
Front (in wrapper)

Front
Front

Back
Back

 
 
Item #D52. Original 1992 Agrippa 3½”, 1.4 Mb diskette belonging to collector Allan Chasanoff used to make the disk-image copy and emulated run of the William Gibson poem featured on this site.

This was the diskette used to create The Agrippa File’s disk-image (bit-level) copy of William Gibson’s poem and its accompanying software, as well as the emulated run of the whole package. In the Digital Forensics Lab at the University of Maryland, College Park, multiple copies were spawned from the original diskette and run through a computer emulating the platform of a 1992-vintage Mac. Multiple instances of Gibson’s poem thus came back to life, ran, and died (disappeared at the hands of the disk’s included encryption program) in the effort to capture the experience of reading the original poem—the experience, that is, minus the sense of one-time-only uniqueness that was part of the core work.

The diskette was loaned by Allan Chasanoff from his copy of Agrippa (editioned “10/95″). Chasanoff’s copy of the book is part of a collection of “book art” he began aggregating in 1990 that has grown to 275 works. The theme of his collection is “the artist and the new ‘disrespect’ he had in opposition to the older cultural devotion to the integrity of the book” (email from Chasanoff to Alan Liu, 5 December 2008).

The creation date of the software on Chasanoff’s diskette is “Wed., Sept. 23, 1992, at 1:13 pm; Modified Wed., Oct. 7, 1992, 10:50 pm.” The Post-It note on the wrapper of the diskette is Chasanoff’s original note (apparently dating from the time of acquisition). For discussion of the digital forensics used to recover and run the software from this disk, see Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, with Doug Reside and Alan Liu, “No Round Trip: Two New Primary Sources for Agrippa.”