For whom, it suddenly occurred to him to wonder, was he writing this diary?
For the future, for the unborn?
How could you communicate with the future? It was of its nature impossible.
Either the future would resemble the present, in which case it would not listen to him:
or it would be different from it, and his predicament would be meaningless.

1. Winston's Diary

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of VICTORY MANSIONS, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.... The hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag mats. The flat was seven flights up. On each landing, opposite the lift shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.

Winston, who was thirty-nine and had a varicose ulcer above his right ankle, went slowly, resting several times on the way. He was a smallish, frail figure, the meagereness of his body merely emphasized by the blue overalls which were the uniform of the Party. His hair was very fair, his face naturally sanquine, his skin roughened by coarse soap and blunt razor blades and the cold of the winter that had just ended.

By leaving the Ministry at this time of day he had sacrificed his lunch in the canteen. Inside the flat a fruity voice was reading out a list of figures which had something to do with the production of pig-iron. The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface of the right-hand wall. Winston turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument (thetelescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely. The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously.

He went into the living room and sat down at a small table that stood to the left of the telescreen. From the table drawer he took out a penholder, a bottle of ink, and a thick, quarto-sized blank book with a red back and a marbled cover. For some reason the telescreen in the living room was in an unusual position. Instead of being placed, as was normal, in the end wall, where it could command the whole room, it was in the longer wall, opposite the window. To one side of it there was a shallow alcove in which Winston was now sitting, and which, when the flats were built, had probably been intended to hold bookshelves. By sitting in the alcove, and keeping well back, Winston was able to remain outside the range of the telescreen, so far as sight went. He could be heard, of course, but so long as he stayed in his present position he could not be seen. It was partly the unusual geography of the room that had suggested to him the thing that he was now about to do.

But it had also been suggested by the book that he had just taken out of the drawer. It was a peculiarly beautiful book. Its smooth creamy paper, a little yellowed by age, was of a kind that had not been manufactured for at least forty years past. He could guess, however, that the book was much older than that. He had seen it lying in the window of a frowsy little junk-shop in a slummy quarter of the town and had been stricken immediately by an overwhelming desire to possess it. At the time he was not conscious of wanting it for any particular purpose. He had carried it guiltily home in his brief-case. Even with nothing written in it, it was a compromising possession.

The thing that he was about to do was open a diary. This was not illegal (nothing was illegal, since there were no longer any laws), but if detected it was reasonably certain that it would be punished by death, or at least by twenty-five years in a forced-labour camp. Winston fitted a nib into the penholder and sucked it to get the grease off. The pen was an archaic instrument, seldom used even for signatures, and he had procured one, furtively and with some difficulty, simply because of a feeling that the beautiful creamy paper deserved to be written on with a real nib instead of being scratched with an ink-pencil. Actually he was not used to writing by hand. Apart from very short notes, it was usual to dictate everything into the speak-write, which was of course impossible for his present purpose. He dipped the pen into the ink and then faltered for just a second. A tremor had gone through his bowels. To mark the paper was the decisive act. In small clumsy letters he wrote:

April 4th, 1984

He sat back. A sense of complete helplessness had descended upon him. To begin with, he did not know with any certainty that this was 1984. It must be round about that date, since he was fairly sure that his age was thirty-nine, and he believed that he had been born in 1944 or 1945; but it was never possible nowadays to pin down any date within a year or two.

For whom, it suddenly occurred to him to wonder, was he writing this diary? For the future, for the unborn? For the first time the magnitude of what he had undertaken came home to him. How could you communicate with the future? It was of its nature impossible. Either the future would resemble the present, in which case it would not listen to him: or it would be different from it, and his predicament would be meaningless.

For some time he sat gazing stupidly at the paper. It seemed curious that he seemed not merely to have lost the power of expressing himself, but even to have forgotten what it was that he had originally intended to say. For weeks past he had been making ready for this moment, and it had never crossed his mind that anything would be needed except courage. The actual writing would be easy. All he had to do was to transfer to paper the interminable restless monologue that had been running inside his head, literally for years. At this moment, however, even the monologue had dried up. Moreover his varicose ulcer had begun itching unbearably. He dared not scratch it, because if he did so it always became inflamed. The seconds were ticking by.

His eyes re-focused on the page. He discovered that while he sat helplessly musing he had also been writing, as though by automatic action. And it was no longer the same cramped, awkward handwriting as before. His pen had slid voluptuously over the smooth paper, printing in large neat capitals-


He could not help feeling a twinge of panic. It was absurd, since the writing of those particular words was not more dangerous than the initial act of opening the diary; but for a moment he was tempted to tear out the spoiled pages and abandon the enterprise altogether. He did not do so, however, because he knew that it was useless. Whether he wrote DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER, or whether he refrained from writing it, made no difference. Whether he went on with the diary, or whether he refrained from writing it, made no difference. The Thought Police would get him just the same. He had committed - would still have committed, even if he had never set pen to paper - the essential crime that contained all others in itself, Thoughtcrime.

For a moment he was seized by a kind of hysteria. He began writing in a hurried untidy scrawl:

theyll shoot me I dont care theyll shoot me in the back of the neck I dont care down with big brother they always shoot you in the back of the neck I dont care down with big brother --

He was already dead, he reflected. The consequences of every act are included in the act itself. He wrote:

Thought crime does not entail death: thoughtcrime IS death.

He wondered again for whom he was writing the diary. For the future, for the past - for an age that might be imaginary. And in front of him there lay not death but annihilation. The diary would be reduced to ashes and himself to vapour. Only the Thought Police would read what he had written, before they wiped it out of existence and out of memory. How could you make appeal to the future when not a trace of you, not even an anonymous word scribbled on a piece of paper, could physically survive?

He was a lonely ghost uttering a truth that nobody would ever hear. But so long as he uttered it, in some obscure way the continuity was not broken. It was not by making yourself heard but by staying sane that you carried on the human heritage. He went back to the table, dipped his pen, and wrote:

To the future or to the past, to a time when thought is free,
when men are different from one another and do not live alone
- to a time when truth exists and what is done cannot be undone:
From the age of uniformity, from the age of solitude,
from the age of BIG BROTHER, from the age of doublethink
- greetings!

Why Apple's 1984 ad ran only once (Apple's commercial in the 1984 Super Bowl is one of the most famous of all time. Not bad for a commercial that only ran one time. It's a take off on George Orwell's 1984 and features a jogger (okay, maybe that part's not so Orwellian) smashing a screen displaying a Big Brother like figure who is supposed to represent Windows. It was directed by Ridley Scott, who had recently made Blade Runner and it had that same dystopian vibe...)

1984 TELESCREENS & MICROPHONES Following are a selection of passages from "1984" describing how Big Brother's thought police used the telescreen (TV and computer screens with a camera and microphone imbedded) to watch and listen to everything Winston Smith, and all other citizens of England and the rest of the world, said or did. ~ Jackie Jura




2 + 2 = 1984 EXPOSURE





Big Brother watching Orwell's house (UK has 4.2 million CCTV cameras; each person caught 300x a day). ThisIsLondon, Mar 31, 2007. Go to ORWELL'S CANONBURY HOME & ORWELL'S LOCAL PUB


Reader inspires explanation about: ORWELL ANTI-LEFT & RIGHT. Jun 17, 2005



TV to be completely digitalized (We need to get everybody with the program). Globe & Mail, Nov 11, 2003 & 'Black Box' Big Brother in cars (motorists monitored by own vehicles). Netscape, Nov 11, 2003 & RFID chips track everything we buy (size of grain of sand emits a radio signal) & ID cards for all Britons (or no benefits, NHS or job). BBC, Nov 11, 2003 & Home Office defends 'stop & search' (7,500 drivers & pedestrians pulled over). ThisIsLondon, Nov 11, 2003

Wireless cameras for everyone (can be hidden everywhere & images seen everywhere). New Scientist, May 19, 2003. Go to 3.Surveillance & BEYOND ORWELL

Surveillance cameras installed in homes of quarantined. Drudge Report, Apr 10, 2003. Go to 3.Surveillance & HEALTH CRUSADERS

Consumers flocking to DVD players (biting 'home theater' bait). National Post, Jan 30, 2003

Big Brother wrist-watching you (TVs will be in everything). Sydney Herald, Jan 10, 2003 & Gov't can turn on TV (take control of phone etc). Wash Times, Jan 10, 2003. Go to 3.Surveillance

Will your TV become a spy? (Yes, once everyone goes digital). Business Week, Jan 3, 2003. Go to 3.Surveillance

Police want cameras in homes (hidden in objects around house). Telegraph, Dec 17, 2002

Keyboard wrote on neighbor's computer (developed life of its own). Aftenposten, Nov 3, 2002

BBC forces viewers to record sitcom (digital TiVos switched on remotely). Telegraph, May 30, 2002

Interactive TV (telescreen) spies on viewers (from inside your digital set-top box). White Dot Org, Apr 2002

In crisis, they'll turn on your TV (Orwellian telescreen promoted as smart receiver). Austin Statesman, Apr 10, 2002

Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~