Hi-Def History: The rise of the Hyper-Real Past”

So far we have no hi-def hyper-real portrait of the past, but this fact is irrevocably going to change really soon.

Prehistory is defined as the period before recorded history”. It’s been long since we’ve have more sophisticated tools than mere writing, but the exponential growth of technology is increasing the quality and quantity of High-definition recording devices that seem to challenge the distinction between reality and copy (realitee & realiter)

The past is a blurry memory

I always remember when I was kid, thinking back about my parents and the stories they told me of their youth. All those memories recreated in my mind were always some black and white image. All the photos my parents had were faded sepia images, all the footage of Spain before Franco died were mostly filmed in black and white.

When I think about the 60s and 70s in San Francisco —where I now live— I always think about those images filmed in 8mm with that unique color, where Peter Berlin strolls silently down Castro St. Event further back in time, the Victorian era in SF brings to my mind images of stiff couples siting still for minutes to get their photo, women with corsets and men in tailored suits and hats.

The past is an image in our mind. It is not an accurate representation but more of a mouth to mouth dream that has been mutated and idealized each time it’s told. Everybody seems to agree: New York was way better in the 70, and so was Ibiza and San Francisco.

In some degree, nowadays we are somehow aware of the inaccuracy of History. One has to wonder how much longer this perception will remain.

The HD revolution

These are the times that will bring affordable HD to our daily lives, and the times when we’ll make effective use of it, recording immense amounts of data. New parents are photographing their kids at 10Mpx, filming them at 720p, creating a hyperreal portrait of their kids. When browsing online photo sites it feels almost like every corner of the world worth of attention has been recorded from every angle.

Welcome the High-Definition Hyper-Real Past where recording devices will let us capture reality” (image, sound, voice, text) in the greatest accuracy. (And still, a question will remain: what it is this so-called reality” and how can we claim that we can record it accurately?)

The Changing concept of Past”

We are making the physical world a smaller place with advances such as the information superhighway”, interconnected societies in the web, cheap airfares, mass marketing of tourism, etc. Similarly we are shortening distances with the past. For better of for worse, years from now, humans won’t have to guess, imagine, fantasize or idealize all of their past, for this present period will be a perfectly sharp rendition of the people and places of our days.

The Past won’t be a legendary territory no more, but a different part of a system (call it web”) where you will want to lurk around but not join in.


Times before our HD devices will still be a nebula of mystery and, therefore, centuries from now we will most likely make another differentiation in human history: HiDef-PreHistory, and HiDef-History. If History is defined as period since recording tools, HiDef-History will be defined as period in history since HD recording devices

Notice the term HiDef-History, not to be confused with HiFi-History. Beware of those who will claim that we have a high-fidelity view of the past when we don’t even have it now of the present.

February 13, 2010 ☼ futurethoughts