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"I am not a speed reader. I am a speed understander."
- Isaac Asimov

The Veldt  
  A nursery that comes alive for the viewer.  

George and Lydia were wonderful parents; they had spared no expense in providing their children with what they needed. This short story provides a remarkable preview of today's big screen tv, media-drenched household.

But what about those things that children need from parents that money can't buy?

They stood on the thatched floor of the nursery. It was forty feet across by forty feet long and thirty feet high; it had cost half again as much as the rest of the house. "But nothing's too good for our children," George had said.

The nursery was silent. It was empty as a jungle glade at hot high noon. The walls were blank and two dimensional. Now, as George and Lydia Hadley stood in the center of the room, the walls began to purr and recede into crystalline distance, it seemed, and presently an African veldt appeared, in three dimensions, on all sides, in color reproduced to the final pebble and bit of straw. The ceiling above them became a deep sky with a hot yellow sun.

George Hadley felt the perspiration start on his brow.

From The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury.
Published by Doubleday in 1951
Additional resources -

George and Lydia realize that they have made a mistake in letting the house take care of the children's needs (also see the entry for the Happylife Home from the same story). What will the children do when the grownups decide to shut off their beautiful electronic playground? David, the psychologist, hazards a guess:

"You've let this room and this house replace you and your wife in your children's affections. This room is their mother and father, far more important in their lives than their real parents. And now you come along and want to shut it off. No wonder there's hatred here. You can feel it coming out of the sky. Feel that sun."
Be sure to see the entry for Odorophonics, the technology that makes the Veldt come alive for more discussion of this great short story. Here's how Bradbury describes how The Veldt is achieved:

"Walls, Lydia, remember; crystal walls, that's all they are. Oh, they look real, I must admit - Africa in your parlor - but it's all dimensional, superreactionary, supersensitive color film and mental tape film behind glass screens. It's all odorophonics and sonics, Lydia...

To learn more about how the modern, multimedia home entertainment system has evolved in the minds of great science fiction writers, be sure to see dimensino - alien entertainment center from Time is the Simplest Thing by Clifford Simak (1961) and rifle range - virtual skeet shooting designed by aliens from Way Station also by Simak (1963).

An interesting contrast can be made to The Veldt, which is designed as an immersive environment, but is still outside the person who is using it. Contrast The Veldt with simstim - play back your internal experience from the 1984 novel Neuromancer by William Gibson, and XV wedge - Photoshop for your mind from Mother of Storms by John Barnes (1994). Both of these authors offer purely internal experience as entertainment. Your mind is, after all, the ultimate source of your personal entertainment.

Bradbury actually described this idea a year earlier in There Will Come Soft Rains:


The nursery walls glowed.

Animals took shape: yellow giraffes, blue lions, pink antelopes, lilac panthers cavorting in crystal substance. The walls were glass. They looked out upon color and fantasy. Hidden films clocked though the well-oiled sprockets, and the walls lived. The nursery floor was woven to resemble a crisp cereal meadow. Over this ran aluminum roaches and iron crickets, and in the hot still air butterflies of delicate red tissue wavered among the sharp aroma of animal spoors! There was the sound like a great matted yellow hive of bees within a dark bellows, the lazy bumble of a purring lion. And there was the patter of okapi feet and the murmur of a fresh jungle rain, like other hoofs falling upon the summer-starched grass. Now the walls dissolved into distances of parched weed, mile on mile, and warm endless sky. The animals drew away into thorn brakes and water holes.

It was the children's hour.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Illustrated Man
  More Ideas and Technology by Ray Bradbury
  Tech news articles related to The Illustrated Man
  Tech news articles related to works by Ray Bradbury

The Veldt-related news articles:
  - 'Retina Display' SFnally Perfect (Almost)
  - Basement Holodeck With Playstation Move And EyeToy
  - Take An Infinite Walk In Flexible Spaces
  - Lumo Projector Turns Kids Rooms Into Bradbury's Veldt

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