Agrippa, a book of the dead

William Gibson
Agrippa, a book of the dead

William Gibson, author of cyberpunk classic Neuromancer (1984), built his scrolling electronic poem Agrippa to delete itself after one viewing. Naturally, hackers took this as a challenge, and the ephemeral text was quickly uploaded to the nascent Internet. However, while it is easy to find a copy of Agrippa’s text, only emulating the original software platform allows the reader to experience the fleeting volatility of this strange rumination on memory and impermanence.

Note from the gallery, rendered quaintly unnecessary by its new website home:

Agrippa runs in an emulating program called Mini vMac. This program attempts to emulate a range of early Macintosh operating systems, with varying levels of success.

Due to some hardware differences (notably, the much faster clock cycles of this computer’s CPU), the Agrippa in today’s exhibit runs very fast and is difficult to read.

We have chosen instead to run a video of a computer emulating the program at the proper speed. We hope you appreciate this irony, and if you wish to see the program in (too-fast) emulation, please ask the gallery attendant.

Poem programmed on System 7.0 for a 1992-era Macintosh computer

Emulated in Mini vMac