‘Max Headroom’ anticipated the head-exploding information overload of today

“Each day, it seems, brings a bewildering flood of news stories: impeachment hearings, the mess in Syria, another mass shooting, corporate malfeasance, the details of each development quickly surpassed by some new outrage powered by algorithm,” Jonathan Weiler writes for Slate:

This unrelenting drumbeat leaves many people feeling as though their heads are going to explode. But that feeling—of cascading content literally occupying more space in your brain than is available—isn’t so new. The same sentiment was behind a largely forgotten TV character: Max Headroom.

Max Headroom was an animatronic TV icon in the 1980s, a sort of computer-generated, wise-cracking talking head and pitchman. He was an early avatar of the knowing, cynical, and irony-laden sensibility that dominates the media landscape today… In a dystopian future, the world is dominated by media conglomerates. Execs meet behind closed doors to discuss how best to manipulate the dupes and rubes who consume what advertisers are selling. A distracted, alienated, and largely powerless citizenry has been consigned to mindless consumption of whatever is on their screens.

And those screens are sometimes literally killing them. In the TV pilot an enterprising journalist, Edison Carter, stumbles on a dark secret. Channel 23, where he works, has developed something called the blipvert, which compresses 30 seconds of commercial content into three seconds before anyone has the chance to change the channel. There’s one small problem: The blipverts can cause people to spontaneously combust from having too much information packed into their heads.

MacDailyNews Take: Max Headroom also anticipated video buffering issues rather nicely.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]


  1. MDN: “ Max Headroom also anticipated video buffering issues rather nicely.“ You got that right! I Loved that show. It was different and pretty creative – it didn’t follow the typical Hollywood dreck formula. And don’t forget Art of Noise’s Paranoimia!

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