This is something I have been doing for more than five years but I have never heard anyone else ever mention it and so I thought I’d write it up here for the rest of the world to enjoy.
The RetroScope is a device that shows you what was happening in the past. Think of a security camera on a time delay. Except, voluntary.
Attach a video camera to your TiVo, put it on a tripod, and point it at the room. Pause your tivo for the desired time delay, and then hit play to watch what used to be.
The effect can be positively hypnotic. It’s great at parties, when people walk in, say hi to their friends, get a drink, and then return to the living room only to see themselves walking in the door….
I usually mute the audio or you get this weird, slow, phantasmagoric echo.
My friend Tom Benson and I once sat on the couch smoking cigarettes and watching the retroscope for four straight hours. The conversation went like this:
Tom: Okay, I remember this part. In a second I’m going to lift my head slightly. > a few seconds pass < Tom: There it goes! Nat: Cool. Tom: In five minutes we have to remember to look for this moment when we saw me moving my head slightly. Nat: That is going to be awesome.
Lately I’ve been having these fantasies about a 3×3 grid of televisions all retroscoping the same video source at different time delays. So you walk up to it and see yourself walk up.. and then see yourself walk up.. and then see yourself walk up… etc. They could be time delayed at powers of four or something like that.
Talking about this at brunch this weekend, Rony had some even more elaborate ideas. You could do a 10×10 grid of screens and set the delays up so that the images flash in patterns across the grid; a smiley face, then a star, then an exclamation point across the grid. A separate video feed could autocalibrate the timings.
At a party, a fun thing to do would be to have screens all over the place showing various pieces of the past… and of the future. How to show the future? Stage it. Have a few prominent people show up the weekend before wearing the same clothes they will wear at the party, and act out the bitter ends of the evening…