Behind Winston’s back the voice from the telescreen was still babbling away about pig-iron and the overfulfilment of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time.
Fair play to Mr Orwell, he was pretty much spot on with the old telescreen concept. Good job he wrote 1984 – whilst there’s precious little reason for me to quote his other books about pot plants and being a tramp, it’s de rigeur for every person writing about tech to mention the original Big Bro at some point.
So telescreens are one step closer – and it’s Apple, who have famously flirted with a bit of 1984 imagery, who are developing it. The screen that watches you as you watch it – it’ll make video chats a lot more natural, and it’s undoubtedly exciting tech – but whereas you can turn off a webcam or even cover it up to make sure nobody catches you picking your nose or plotting the downfall of the government, how will we ever be sure that our screen isn’t sneaking a peek at us?