Sure, now we can Zoom or FaceTime or simply just text our elders. But there’s a whole generation of folks who’ve never even heard of long distance. What’s long distance? Who cares how far Grandma lives or what time we call her? I’ll just hit up her DM. But y’all remember. Y’all had folks you only called at certain times of the day. Y’all had folks you weren’t going to waste a long distance call on at all. Those were the ones you called collect. But that’s a subject for a different post.
The two ladies above are listening to the FIRST factory-built radio made for entertainment: a 1921 Westinghouse. Did you know that radios initially required headphones?
A year prior, in 1920, Dr. Frank Conrad, while experimenting in a Pittsburgh barn, discovered that wireless enthusiasts enjoyed listening to the phonograph records that he put on the air, and the rest…is history! Except that we need the actual history to understand.
If he put music on “the air,” did that mean radio stations weren’t already playing music? Well, let’s ask Wikipedia. Conrad began work at Westinghouse Electrical & Manufacturing at 16 in 1900. At 23, he moved up to their test department, where he invented the circular-type watt-hour meter, over 30 million of which were in use by 1937. He would eventually be awarded over 200 patents throughout his life. But it was in 1916 that he installed a radio station in a two-story garage. It used a spark-transmitter, which could only be used to transmit Morse code. So no music.
When the US entered WWI in 1917, all civilian radio stations were silenced. But Conrad, working for Westinghouse, spent his time developing radio technology, using vacuum-tube transmitters, and inventing a wind-driven generator. Two years later, when the radio ban was lifted in October, he resumed his experimental station and was able to entertain other local amateurs by playing phonograph records.
As interest grew, he adopted a schedule of music. In 1920, Pittsburgh’s own Joseph Horne Dept Store began selling radios, aka “wireless receiving stations” to listen to “air concerts.” It didn’t take long for Westinghouse to construct its own broadcast station and sell receivers for this free entertainment.
The first radio station, KDKA, opened on November 2, 1920. Initially a tent on a roof, it soon became the indoor studio you see below (the tent kept insisting on blowing away). Draperies covered the ceiling and walls to prevent reverberation. A disk hanging below the upper end of the slanting bar was called “the enunciator” (which we now call a microphone). Early listeners used crystal detectors in tubeless receiving sets, but the development of the vacuum tube expanded the radio audience significantly.
Soon entertainers were asked to provide music for radio stations.
Young people especially were excited by the new technology, and competitors soon crept in. This Crosley model was advertised at $3.75.
“Oh, boy! There’s London! Last night I had Honolulu, and the night before that Porto [sic] Rico. Here’s where I get Rome. This Crosley sure does bring ’em in. There’s nothing like a Crosley.”
In 1928, Dr. Conrad received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Pittsburgh. Not until age 66 did he retire from Westinghouse, having spent his entire life in radio. He received many awards for his work, including the 1930 Edison Medal “for his contributions to radio broadcasting and short wave radio transmission,” and the 1936 Lamme Medal “for pioneering and basic developments in the fields of electric metering and protective services.” The next time you flick your radio on, pause for a moment and think of Dr. Conrad, shown below.
I love how early ads doled out the facts. The US has 13 phones for every 100 people, and Europe has less than three. You better recognize that Bell Telephone worked its hiney off to get that done. You’re welcome, America.
Mad props to Bell.
While Italian innovator Antonio Meucci is credited with inventing the first basic phone in 1849, and Frenchman Charles Bourseul devised a phone in 1854, Alexander Graham Bell won the first U.S. patent for the device in 1876.
And while this Bell ad states there were 34 million phones in the world in the summer of 1936, today there are 2.71 billion smartphones in use. Per http://www.bankmycell.com, 35% of the world has a smartphone. And most of us are addicted. Perhaps you are even reading this on your phone now, although I wouldn’t recommend it. You need a big monitor to enjoy these pics. 😉
Last night, my husband and I discussed the large long distance phone bills we used to accrue in the 90s, how I would call my mom collect at Christmas once I arrived at my grandparent’s house, finding a pay phone in the mall to call home, or a phone booth outside, complete with yellow pages (which some folks ripped out). All things our son will never understand. And while we still have a landline, we don’t have a rotary, so he won’t experience that either. And frankly, most of his communication is texting, so rare is the time he even speaks on a phone at all. Remember when we looked forward to hearing each other’s voices?
This picture says it all. Get a load of this atrocity. Look at the angles, the depth of product, requiring a solid foot from teensy screen to drywall. Who would bother to keep this dinosaur when new technology arrived? Not me.
Some people still have their old phones (a Nokia that fits in your palm) or their old cameras (I still have my old Nikon) or maybe their old camcorders from the pre-digital world. But I don’t know anyone who kept their personal computer relics from the 80s, 90s, or even the Oughties. Now, I am certain there are plenty of computer peeps who hold on to them (and hoarders who just. can’t. let. go.), but again, I don’t know them. Beige paint on the walls isn’t even acceptable anymore; how could one stare at a beige computer?
In the same 1987 Cactus yearbook, you can see this student studying at what looks to be a computer terminal. You can bet your bippy this was beige as well. No Windows. Was there a prompt screen?
The RTF (radio/tv/film) dept was cutting edge. Back then, it didn’t stand for Residential Treatment Facility. But surely some of the RTF majors I knew are now in one.
You can see how it was a precursor to today’s Communication Dept at the University of New Haven. Much snazzy, as Engrish would say.
Still, at the time, all personal computers seemed pretty rad.
With a little coaching from the Big Boss, even girls could do it.
Speaking of girls, a contestant on Ellen’s show yesterday didn’t know how to identify what she was handed in the game of Millennials vs Boomers. It was a floppy disk. Even once identified, she didn’t believe Ellen. I guess Millennials don’t know a floppy from a hard. Remember the write protection notch?
Let’s all be glad for the death of the beige and the modern ease of use for a world that demands personal computer use daily (even if it’s inside your phone). Cheers to that!
There are times in life when we just have to get up in each other’s personal space. Say, for matching beards.
Or making sure that a hairdo isn’t a hairdon’t.
Ouija board, Ouija board… Look deep into my eyes…
Try to retain a buffer so you’re not actually singing cheek to cheek.
And if you don’t have the courage to get up close, just tell your horse to pass on the news.
You remember how to let your fingers do the walking, don’t you?
One hunches and one cranes as neighbors exchange news in the Viennese Inner City of Griechengasse (Street of the Greeks).