Detail map of London, England, United Kingdom Overview map of London, England, United Kingdom

A: London, England, United Kingdom

An Early Sci-Fi View of the Internet and Virtual Reality


In 1909 English writer E. M. Forster published a short story entitled The Machine Stops.

Describing a world in which people live beneath the surface of the earth, with technology running virtually all aspects of their lives, the story anticipated instant messaging and videoconferencing with a machine called "the speaking apparatus." It also anticipated television with a machine called the "cinematophote."

The only book that the main character in the story uses is an enormous technical manual about "the Machine."

Reacting to H. G. Wells's optimism about science and technology, and fearing that man might be unable to live without the all-encompassing technology that he created, or eventually might not even remember that the technology was man-made, Forster stressed the value of actual or direct experience versus "virtual" experience.

Timeline Themes