Think it’s hard keeping track of all the names for new technologies, protocols, and emergent media in the early twenty-first century? Then you have something in common with turn-of-the-last-century viewers trying to figure out what to call the various newfangled media of moving pictures. Here’s a piece from the “Times Topics” section of the January, 28, 1898 edition of the New York Times enumerating the many names for the newfangled medium, the motion picture:
It’s a vibrant lexical bestiary of images, actions, and ideals: time, light, vitality, movement, judgment, change, vision, epiphany, and the animal world. Although the writer of this piece talks about a single machine, these weren’t all names for the same thing; moving pictures emerged in a radiant bouquet of formats, modes of presentation, and proprietary media. The names are evocative of another time—and taken together, they express a condition familiar to us all.