Future in the Past

The other day, while reading William Gibson no less, I paused to consider the term 'Virtual Reality.' I've encountered this term on both sides of its existence, even though it has never existed, never could. During my undergraduate work, In one of my computer science classes, I had a professor who specialized in virtual reality. I remember having to read and study papers and books on the coming period of ubiquitous virtual reality, the kind most often associated with visors, haptic gloves, visual implants, 3D sound, holodecks. We studied an always future future. I remember throwing that textbook away many years ago during a move, knowing I was not going to need it again.  At some point, I'm not sure when exactly--perhaps when VRML ceased to be talked about--the term 'virtual reality' appears to have stopped being future in the future and become future in the past. When I hear the term now, I am simultaneously aware of both its historic and future connotations, the idea vibrating between the past and present, the real and the virtual. In this sense, I suppose the term has succeeded wildly, in that 'virtual reality' was always, and only, virtual reality.

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