Quest Into The Unknown


Douglas Crockford

The Introduction

In 1985, I was working at Lucasfilm, where I had the opportunity to work with a new technology called CDAV (Compressed Digital Audio and Video). CDAV (which you may know now as DVI) was being developed at RCA Labs in Princeton. I was looking at it as the underlying technology for a new entertainment medium.

Some of the problems I was exploring in my notebooks are still of interest today, and so I'm sharing them with you. I began looking at the technology as a videogame machine, but pretty quickly stumbled onto the notion that it could be vastly more interesting than that.

To help myself think things through, I bought an 8*10 unruled blank book. I wrote in pen. There was almost no scribbling or cross outs.

The book was not intended to be itself a product. It was just where I went to think. From time to time, some of the people I was working with would look at it to see what I was coming up with.

I don't now agree with everything in it. I probably didn't then. Even so, I think it is still interesting years later because the problems I was rassling with are still largely unsolved. Also, I think the creative process itself contains some clues. And most importantly, some of the funny parts are still funny.

What, in the fullness of hindsight, is the most embarrassing?

I can't believe I used that old chestnut about the Great Train Robbery. I now think the filmed stage play theory of early film is just wrong. Looking back, the first movies were really ugly shorts about irrelevant topics, like sneezing. It wasn't good enough to record staged plays, much like the QuickTime moovies [sic] of today.

The stuff I'm most ashamed of is the Dr. Technical discussion where I propose that crappy video quality might be acceptable. One of my principles then was to deliver in excess of expectations. Here, I was suggesting that instead the audience should be reducing its expectations in order to accommodate the technology. It is an easy trap to fall into, and I jumped in.

A note on trademarks: Lucasfilm wanted to trademark EVERYTHING. The glyph [TM] appeared not only in our advertising, it was in everything we printed and even in our speech.

During the course of a year, I filled three notebooks, which I titled

What you have here is complete and uncensored, except that some of the names were changed to protect the innocent. Dum de dump dum. And none of the drawings are present.

So, crack open a cold hard can of Guy Fruit Punch Drink from Concentrate and join Jason, Jennifer, Robert Young, Bert Convy, Mr. Fun himself, and a host of aliens as they discover the secrets of Crockford's Paradox.

Pleasant...dreams! Ha ha ha ha!