Story Teller

completed 25 August 1999 (ongoing, see text)

updated 9 mar 2020

Story Teller is a self-contained but ever-expanding system for, well, telling stories, which are stored as rows of tiny holes in long spools of paper tape. The stories are on a wide range of subjects, but they are all about text, mediation, representation and deconstruction.

An appropriate example is the story of Alan Turing, written for OUTWEST (Plan B Evolving Arts, Santa Fe NM, 1999). Turing, an extraordinary British homosexual mathematician, transformed the fields of mathematics and logic, developed code-breaking computing machinery that won the battles in the Atlantic in WWII, and defined modern-day computer science, Artificial Intelligence, and a few other handy things along the way. In a 1936 paper he wrote of a hypothetical "universal machine" that read and wrote arbitrary symbols on an infinitely-long tape, which he proved could emulate any other machine.

The logical mechanisms within Story Teller are in fact exactly "Turing Machines", and through no coincidence its symbols are stored on data-storage perforated tape of his era; with only 128 possible symbols on the tape (though any number of them, and in any order) Story Teller tells a story of Turing, in text, speech, and time. The components of the configuration used for the Turing story are the Model 3 Tape Reader, the Model 31 Vocalizer, the Gallery Controller, and a Teletype Corporation Model 28 teletype, suitably modified to work in the Story Teller system. Other configurations, such as for speech setup only, are possible.

Since that time additional components have been completed. The Telegram Printer, an eighty year old retiree from the telegram business which noisily and slowly bangs out ALL UPPER CASE text onto 5/16 inch wide paper strip (which has to be hand-cut in long rolls, no small task, you should value your little fortune cookie); the "Model-423/index.html" Model 423, which includes the WPS Model 7035b Writing Machine and the "Model-423/Victor/index.html" Robot Victor Calculator, for new ways to render communication.

There is a small, but slowly growing, library of ready-made stories. A typical 20 minute story, consisting of speech and printed text, fits on 50 feet of tape, or a nice little spool that fits in your hand. An excruciating all-day utterance for a post-apocalyptic reconstruction of the human genome is (at the moment) 1500 feet, a rather more daunting pile.

You may be interested in a more technical description of Story Teller, its development, other federated components, and the software that produces the tapes.

Mixed media installation of free-standing pieces, 40"h x 72"w x 36"d, approx. 350 lb.

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