Saturday, October 4, 2008

Readograph Records Martian History in Yezad: a Romance of the Unknown (1922)

If you read this blog on a regular basis, you’ve probably discovered that one of our areas of interest is how books and libraries are portrayed in science fiction.

Here’s a neat passage from an obscure novel titled Yezad: a Romance of the Unknown (1922), by George Babcock, in which Marcomet, a ten-foot tall Martian, describes how the historical record of Mars is preserved:
Every important fact has been carefully noted in an imperishable record, consisting of certain compositions which will neither burn, break, nor deteriorate by time. Yet, these are so light and thin in substance, that a complete record covering Mars' entire history may be carried with perfect ease under the arm of a child.

By an electro-radium process, the record is transcribed on sheets less than one ten-thousandth of an inch in thickness, and of the average book page size. Upon this records, including all the happenings from day to day, are carefully preserved. Thus the important events covering a period of a hundred years are easily transcribed upon one sheet. Ten thousand of these records reach but one inch in thickness, and contain the history of Mars for a million years. While such a record would weigh but a total of one pound on Earth, they weigh far less, or about four-tenths of a pound, on Mars. Each of these plates is capable of recording about one hundred times the amount of reading matter contained in a complete twenty-nine volume work of Earth's largest encyclopedia. Since no news is ever printed or read on Mars, all important events are recorded on these 'radio- sheets.' Every man, woman and child is supplied with a small instrument, no larger than a coin of Earth, and called a
'Readograph,' which, when placed gently against the 'radio-sheet,' adheres to it, and repeats, by talking aloud, similarly to a phonograph, all that the Readograph touches. It repeats the record as often as the Readograph is applied, with the volume and tone of the original voice.

It is quite easy to find the record of any day, month, or year desired, by moving the Readograph over the face of the radio-sheets.
For a summary of the storyline in Yezad: a Romance of the Unknown, read the entry in Science-fiction, the Early Years: A Full Description of More Than 3,000 Science-fiction Stories from Earliest Times to the Appearance of the Genre Magazines in 1930 (1990), by Everett F. Bleiler and Richard Bleiler.

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